At the April 5, meeting of the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board a mother and her children, who attend Booth-Fickett Magnet School told of the extreme bullying taking place in their classrooms during the Call to the Audience. The mother began by advising the Board that “it is difficult for the kids to be coming before the Board.”
However, the students were compelled to address the Board due to the “bullying of not only the students, but the teachers has gotten to the point where my children do not feel that they are safe in class or that the teachers are safe in class. There have been a number of times where my eldest has stayed after school because there were teachers in tears and he wanted to make sure that they remained safe. The teachers do not fell that they have the protection they need and that they should be afforded and I realize that a lot of it has to do with resources that are available in order to address however the environment is not conducive to learning.”
“When you have substitutes and teachers that have their cellphones being stolen, and stuff is being thrown at them, students are being hit with books,” the mother stopped mid-speech as her son whispered in her ear. She turned back to the Board, “My son is upset at the language being used. It is very, ummm bad.”
The students then each spoke as President Adelita Grijalva sat stoically. “Well, I am concerned about all of the kids at the school,” the first young man stated. “They are getting bullied, or pushed around and no one can do anything about it.” Signaling to another young man, the student continued, “Me and Robert were getting bullied by some kids – like on St. Patrick’s Day. A huge group came after us. They tried to throw rocks at us and hit us with anything they could find on the ground – and food. Although thankfully, we were able to get to the teachers and to the principal to talk to them and the monitors too.”
Another young man stated, “Many of my teachers have had these problems and they try to solve them and they ask you guys for help and they never get any good response. There are patrol officers that come to my school and they are never able to control the kids. There are too many bad kids in my school to handle all at once. The rules that are set in place have punishments for kids that are good, but these animals – I mean kids are like animals – and it is really upsetting to see my teachers cry in front of me after school because of the vandalism and bullying that is going on.”
Another young man advised the Board, “I actually heard about a fight today that happened because of bullying and teasing and vandalism. One of the kids actually pulled the fire alarm and that upset everybody and everybody started running. So, I think somebody should do something about it.”
The Board quickly moved on to other speakers.
The next day, the Board received notice of the following telephone message regarding a parent at Soleng Tom Elementary School:
Ms. XXXX has filed a complaint with ADE. Her son is continuously being bullied (bloody noses, violently punched, most recent was he was hit in the head that it cracked his forehead – student was suspended for one day and at the end of the day was placed in the same room with her son.) She has met with his teacher and the principal numerous times. The Principal recently told her son to let the other student beat him up two more times so that the student can be expelled. The son’s comment to his mom was “I should just let him beat me up two more times.”
Ms. XXXX has contacted the following people:
Anna Gallegos Office – called yesterday and was told she was not available and would hear from her today. When she called again today, she was told that Ms. Gallegos couldn’t do anything and to call the Superintendent’s Office.
Dr. Sanchez’ Office – called today and was told he was not available and took her information down.
Parent wants the Board members to be aware of what is going and is requesting to hear from at least one Board member.
Board member Michael Hicks says he isn’t surprised by the reports that are pouring out of schools. Teachers are not only bullied by students, but by an administration more focused on creating good publicity than safe learning environments. Hicks points to the various reports of abuse by the group known as the TUSD Whistleblowers. Over and over again, the group of TUSD teachers, administrators, and parents has tried to bring to light the abusive environment, but the majority of the Governing Board refused to listen.
Related article: Secrist Students Speak Truth To Power As TUSD Administrators Spin
In December 2015, parents, teachers and students at Secrist Middle School begged for help. Instead of dealing with the failing discipline code and the resulting chaos, TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez moved Secrist’s principal, David Montaño, to Pueblo Magnet High and assistant principal Lupe Duran to the district’s Science Center.
At the time, a meeting was held at the school. Students pleaded with the adults to protect them and teachers (many who are substitutes) from the abusive environment created by a lack of discipline.
Related article: TUSD’s Sanchez Scores White House Invite To Talk Discipline
Sanchez has taken great pride in the fact that he was invited – with the help of Congressman Raul Grijalva – to “a national convening and conversation on improving school discipline policies and practices, to be hosted at The White House on Wednesday, July 22, 2015. At this meeting, you will join a select group of educational leaders, advocates, researchers, state and community officials, and others to share your experience working to reduce school disciplinary incidents and to foster safe and supportive school climates,” read a letter from Roberto J. Rodríguez, Deputy Assistant to the President for Education.
Sanchez, who first hit the national scene when he called Arizonans “disposable wealth” a bunch of bigots who must be convinced “to educate kids who don’t look like their kids,” was barely coping with the turmoil created with the implementation of “restorative circles” as a method of discipline.
The District operates under a Post-Unitary Status plan which includes “Restorative and Positive Practices.” The plan reads in part: “the District shall hire or designate an employee to serve as the District’s restorative and positive practices coordinator (“RPPC”). The RPPC shall be responsible for working with school sites to assist in the ongoing implementation of Restorative Practices and the implementation of PBIS, including: (a) developing model behavioral assessments and interventions; and (b) assisting school sites in developing systems and structures to use data for self-monitoring practices.”
Since 2013, Board members Dr. Mark Stegeman and Hicks have been concerned about the declining safety for teachers and students as a result of discipline policy. Because they are in the minority on the Board, their concerns have been dismissed.