Bullying and aggressive behavior in the classroom is not being addressed, said two parents of Saugus Union School District kindergartners during the public comment section of Tuesday evening’s regular meeting of the district governing board.
According to Carissa Hyde, one of the parents who spoke, there are multiple students in her daughter’s kindergarten classroom who could, she said, “lead a master class in intimidating their peers.” Hyde said she’s heard about bullying in the classroom from her daughter, and she added that she’s even witnessed it.
“‘See something, say something,’” Hyde read aloud to the board. “That phrase is noted in every weekly school newsletter, repeated ad nauseam to parents, students and staff alike, to higher level admins. But what happens when students and parents reach out for help and are ignored? What happens when even teachers reach out to their principals and superintendent, and are still disregarded?”
Hyde said that what makes the matter so frustrating is that her daughter’s teacher and school administrators are aware of these problems. The teacher, she added, spends a large majority of class time trying to calm down the “out-of-control children.”
“Admin has been aware of this problem since September at the very least,” she continued. “Many parents have complained time and time again, including me, and the principal and Dr. Hawkins (Superintendent Colleen Hawkins) assure us that things are being done behind the scenes. And I realize things take time, but it’s almost April. These issues have been occurring since September. I’ve seen drunken frat boys move quicker than the admin at SUSD.”
Elena Will, the second parent to bring up the issue of bullying and aggressive behavior in the classroom, said she volunteers regularly in her son’s kindergarten class at Mountainview Elementary School, and she’s seen firsthand some discomforting behaviors.
“Since the beginning, I have witnessed a select few children that are having a particularly hard time,” she told the board. “I’ve seen one of these children only cry during class. I’ve witnessed one child throw his pencil box off his desk and have all of the items scattered all over the floor. I’ve witnessed desks being pushed into another or into students by a child. I’ve witnessed a child lie on the floor and tantrum. The other children were to walk around him as this occurred. I’ve witnessed one child yell out, ‘School sucks. I hate learning.’ I have seen another child cover his ears and beg his classmates to please stop.”
Will added that other parent volunteers in the class have experienced the same issues, and said that the teacher’s requests to administration for “additional, consistent, qualified staff in her classroom” had been ignored.
“This has created a chaotic, traumatic and sometimes dangerous environment for our children,” she said. “What is going on in this classroom is disgraceful. This is not an environment conducive for effective teaching and learning.”
Will also said that she informed the principal and vice principal of the school that her son would not be attending school so long as such an environment remains, stating that her son would return “when his needs and the needs of his teacher and his classmates are met.”
In her comments, Hyde told the board that she thought this type of classroom environment breeds more bullying.
“I’ve seen the principal and vice principal handle this situation by temporarily removing the bullies and taking them into their offices to discuss their behavior by removing a child from class and giving them undivided, one-on-one attention,” she said. “Said kid isn’t being punished. They’re being rewarded. Bullies want attention and to feel special, and yet at my child’s school, they are essentially being praised for making other children’s lives a living hell.”
“We see these horrible situations like what happened in the South and are shocked,” she continued. “But if their school district is run like ours — where bullies are catered to and victims are ignored — why wouldn’t we expect victims to retaliate?”
Board members didn’t respond to the speakers at the meeting due to state law that prohibits the board from acting on any matter not listed in the agenda or from discussing any such matter in detail. Hawkins had not responded to a request for comment as of this story’s publication.