A meeting at Jenny Lind Elementary School to address parents' concerns about bullying on campus has been canceled by Calaveras Unified School District (CUSD) administration.
CUSD Superintendent Mark Campbell released the following statement on Aug. 31:
"The original request made to site and district administration was to meet with a few parents who were directly impacted by recent incidents, to directly address their concerns and questions regarding the handling of specific student incidents and disciplinary actions and resulting concerns about student safety. This morphed into misguided efforts by some resulting in a larger scope and and [sic] scale of the meeting, with social media invitations, live streaming and inclusion of local press involved. As such, on the advice of district legal counsel, given the potential, and strong likelihood, of violations of students rights and confidentiality by attendees directly invoking and addressing specific students in a public setting, I am canceling the meeting to protect students in question, and the district overall from liability risks."
Campbell said that he and Jenny Lind Elementary Principal Rich Gorton would instead schedule private meetings with any parents concerned about their children's safety on campus, and that an email would be sent out to parents with information regarding "policies and laws that dictate how we can address student discipline issues."
"What has been done, and is being done, in this area will not necessarily be visible to all parents and students, we understand that," Campbell continued. "We also acknowledge the valid concerns and frustrations being expressed. But do know that JLE, and CUSD, will continue the diligent work being done to effectively address issues of student discipline and student safety and continuously seek to strengthen our ability to communicate and raise awareness and understanding of all involved overall as we move forward."
Original article 08/30/19:
A public meeting will be held at 5 p.m., Sept. 3 at Jenny Lind Elementary School to address parents’ concerns about bullying on campus.
Calaveras County District 5 Supervisor Ben Stopper told the Enterprise on Aug. 30 that he organized the meeting along with Calaveras Unified School District (CUSD) Superintendent Mark Campbell and a CUSD school board member after multiple parents reached out to him regarding a perceived increase in bullying since school started last month.
“Generally, as a supervisor, I wouldn’t involve myself with a school, but my daughter is a student there,” Stopper said. “We put the meeting together so we could get input from the parents and, hopefully, we can come up with a reasonable solution to the issues that have arisen, that are within the confines of the law.”
Stopper continued, “When it comes to our younger ones, I just want to tread very carefully because every one is important to me. And with how we address these issues, we’ve got to be careful because every kid is important when it comes to their education.”
Complaints from parents and school volunteers have included students threatening their peers, physical violence and sexual harassment, ranging from Kindergarten to fifth grade. One grandmother and volunteer, Stacy Brums, claims that she has witnessed violent bullying and students “running around” campus during class.
“The teachers have no support, no help,” Brums said. “You can see the frustration in these teachers.”
According to Jenny Lind Principal Rich Gorton, the school often receives complaints that not enough is being done to combat bullying on campus. However, he said, “nothing is further from the truth,” though student discipline is a confidential matter.
“That’s where we kind of have our hands tied, is that we can’t tell parents what is being done,” Gorton told the Enterprise on Aug. 30. “We’ve done a lot of work over the past year and into this year so far as to providing services and using best practices in order to support students and improve behavior.”
Gorton, who has been at the school for two years, said that he is accessing county and district resources and personnel to address student behavior issues. Recently, the district implemented Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a federally-funded system utilized in schools nationwide that teaches a “multi-tiered approach to social, emotional and behavior support.”
This year, Jenny Lind is implementing Tier 2 of the program, which targets the roughly 10% of students at the school who are displaying behavioral problems, according to Gorton.
“We spent a lot of time at the beginning of this year making sure that students understand schoolwide expectations and that we provide incentives,” Gorton said. “(PBIS) is basically just using what we know about scientific practices to ensure that we have a positive and safe school environment.”