A group of parents of the Saugus Union School District are concerned about the safety of their children and questioned the protocols of the district after a student at North Park Elementary School was reported to have physically assaulted staff, shouted profanity and damaged the front office on Jan. 24.
During the district’s governing board meeting on Jan. 31, Anna Griese, who represents Trustee Area No. 2, read aloud a letter from a group of parents that expressed their concern. The incident had resulted in a “partial lockdown” that lasted about two hours, according to the letter.
District administrators have declined to comment on the incident or the reasons parents were not notified, other than to say they are protecting the privacy rights of the individual student involved. The district also declined to immediately provide a copy of the letter Griese read out loud during the public meeting, indicating that district officials would respond to the request within the 10 days allowed under the California Public Records Act.
The letter read by Griese painted a picture of a two-hour-long disruption in which the student physically struck the principal, destroyed other students’ and campus property, and stole a campus radio and used it to transmit profanities.
After the student calmed down, he was allowed to return to class, the letter said.
“Good evening, I’m writing to you this evening on behalf of concerned parents from North Park Elementary School. It has come to light that our children are not safe,” Griese read from the letter. “Last Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 8:30 a student escaped his classroom for the second time in three days.”
According to the letter, the student ran from multiple aides and screamed profanities while coffee with the principal was happening in the multipurpose room.
The student was reported to continue to yell profanities, physically hit the principal and other staff, and vandalize the hallway he was in for approximately two hours.
“He ripped artwork by the first-grade students off the walls and put them in the drinking fountains where they were destroyed,” Griese said, reading aloud the letter. “The carpet in the school was flooded with water surrounding the drinking fountain.”
Kindergarten and first-grade students had to take a different route to get to their hot snack and lunch, according to the letter. The incident caused fear and confusion among the younger students, the letter said.
The parents, in their letter, questioned why the North Park Elementary School community was not notified.
“Why were the authorities not allowed to be called? Yes. Not allowed,” Griese said, reading the letter. “(After) two hours the child then calmed down enough to get water, a snack, and taken back to his classroom where he spent the rest of the day until pickup time.”
After Griese finished reading the letter and making her comments, there was no additional discussion of the issue during the board meeting.
Saugus district administrators declined Tuesday to comment on the incident, stating in an email that “the district does not comment on situations that are related to student incidents.”
“It is our policy to protect the privacy of students and their families,” read the email from Saugus district Superintendent Colleen Hawkins. “Comment on protocols would also communicate information that is specifically related to an individual student or students.”
Hawkins’ email also provided the following response to The Signal’s request for a copy of the letter Griese read out loud during the public meeting on Jan. 31:
“According to board policy and Administrative Regulation 1340, the district will respond to a request for an allowable public record within 10 days of receiving the request. That response will also indicate the timeline for release of those records. We have acknowledged receipt of the request.”
Griese said Tuesday that, as a representative of the community, who was elected to provide parental feedback and community feedback to the district and the community, she would be using her board reports to do just that.
“My board reports will be reflective of things that are happening. Things that I would like to talk about with my board members,” she said.
Martha Aguilera, a mother of two students attending the William S. Hart Union High School District who attended Saugus district schools, and who has a first grader attending the Newhall School District, said she was deeply concerned when she heard Griese read the letter during the board meeting.
“Over the last few years, I’ve become more and more involved with school boards, school board meetings, curriculum and things about safety,” she said.
According to Aguilera — who posted about the incident on her Facebook account — she was frustrated with how the Saugus district did not inform parents about the incident.
“As a parent of a first grader, if my child came to me and told me that she was locked in the classroom by the teacher because something was going on, and I never heard it from the teacher or from the school, that is a severe problem,” Aguilera said.
She emphasized that parents should have the right to know when their child is exposed to a dangerous or serious situation. Then parents can have a conversation with their child to address how it made them feel and to talk about how their child should act in those situations.
Aguilera added that district officials could also offer parents tools or advice to have those types of conversations with their children. She also noted that details of the incident are not always important right away, but to acknowledge that something occurred, should be.
“It’s the administration’s responsibility to inform the parents about any health or safety concern that was exposed to [students],” she said.