Throwing a book across a classroom, name calling, screaming – these are examples of misbehavior by adults targeted at students in the classroom.
Administrators of the San Diego Unified School District met with parents, educators and city leaders to discuss how to handle accusations made against employees of the district when it comes to adult-on-child bullying.
At issue: how does a parent alert the school or the district if a child was mistreated by school staff?
Thursday’s meeting stemmed from a Grand Jury report that criticized the district for not having an effective policy of investigating complaints against employees who may be bullying children.
Parents say concerns go beyond children being mentally abused and include neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse of children at school. The incidents, they say, go unreported.
“We have a culture of silence and a culture of vilifyng people who come forward with concerns,” said parent Judy Neufeld.
She said the schools have to change that and focus on child safety.
“Teacher bullying is illegal under the mental anguish law, so is neglect of children, so is physical assault on children and so is predation. We’ve seen all these types of concerns not be responded to appropriately in schools,” Neufeld said.
Parents want a clearinghouse, independent of the district, so complaints can be directed to the right agency for investigation.
They also want school staff to have better training so they know when they are mandated to report child abuse.
Representatives from the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, San Diego Unified School Police, San Diego Police Department and agencies involved with child protection discussed how to increase public awareness of the issue.
“We’re trying to be responsive to what we’re hearing and make sure we’re striving always to support student safety,” said Moises Aguirre, Executive Director of District Relations.
Several agencies suggested creating videos on mandated reporting laws and how parents can report child abuse at school.
Superintendent Cindy Marten has also set up a one-stop complaint center with the goal to track complaint and address them.
“We don’t want to say there’s an easy solution because we understand we are dealing with very sensitive issues,” Aguirre said.
“There’s definitely many areas we need to review carefully so we can put together a more focused more comprehensive solution rather than a piecemeal solution.”