San Diego Unified School District has been criticized recently by the County Grand Jury for its handling of adult to student bullying.
Now, parents who have been fighting for change for years say they are seeing positive momentum building under the direction of the new Superintendent of Public Education.
Incidents range from a teacher calling a child stupid to throwing books across the classroom. At issue: is that teacher bullying or is that emotional child abuse? And who should handle the investigation?
"Bullying or child abuse, it's a fine line," said Susan Hopps-Tatum, a parent on the Safe Schools Advisory Committee.
Depending upon what it is, dictates who should investigate – school police or city police. “Right now, parents have a very hard time trying to find the correct path to take,” said Hopps-Tatum.
She says historically, San Diego Unified has encouraged filing complaints internally, only to have those complaints investigated by its own school police, then deemed a personnel issue that cannot be discussed.
“And then if city police get it and don’t think it’s there jurisdiction, they kick it back to the school,” said Hopps-Tatum.
The County Grand Jury agreed the district lacks an effective investigative policy.
“One of the things I’d like to do is reach out to some of our other agencies in San Diego and how we can work together as an entire city to make sure children are safe, ” said Superintendent of Public Education Cindy Marten.
Marten says she is asking San Diego police, the District Attorney’s Office and other agencies to collaborate and to close any gap in the reporting system.
“There might be cases in the district where we need to look at what our policies and procedures are and more importantly the implementation of policies,” said Marten.
“We’re hoping that will be clarified. That the investigation process, the internal process, the process the district has used is going to be revamped and be more specific and if it’s not appropriate of the district to be investigating the police will,” said Hopps-Tatum.
There are instructions about how to report a complaint on the district’s website but parents say it’s not easy to find. They want it put on every school’s website which is where parents go for information. Marten said she will be looking at that request.