Thursday, June 19, 2008

A New Day in SPS? Nah

As my son would say - are you serious? Another alleged assault at a Seattle public school (this time Aki Kurose) and the staff "can't reach" the police because they used the non-emergency call number?

This story appeared in today's PI. From the story:

"During an interview in a school office on June 12, the girl told a police officer that a former classmate she saw in a second floor hallway lifted his shirt and displayed what appeared to be a pistol tucked into his waistband. The 13-year-old boy -- who police said the girl later identified as an Aki Kurose student -- ordered her into the boys' restroom and pushed her into a toilet stall, according to the report.

A teacher who came into the restroom took them both to the office, where the girl told about being sexually assaulted. The staff member told police the girl didn't show emotion.

The teacher told police after learning what was being reported, he returned to the bathroom and found a toy gun -- a revolver with a plastic chrome barrel -- in a trash can next to a sink.

In the report, school staff said there was difficulty getting through on the police nonemergency line.

"They claimed that they tried to contact us, but couldn't get a hold of us," police spokesman Mark Jamieson said. "They called the next day, and we responded as soon as we were made aware of it."

Okay, one, which brain trust said an alleged sexual assault is not worthy of 911? Two, you get the feeling that the administrators didn't believe this girl. Problem is, that's NOT their job. It's the job of the police. I don't care if she lied every day of the week. (Interesting that they did find a weapon - albeit a toy. She didn't make that part up.)

Apparently the boy has since been expelled.

So what's the tally? One pedophile at Rainier View, one at Broadview-Thompson, another teacher at Whitman who had child porn on his computer (he got off easy - probation and no leadership position around children) and now this latest assault.

I had written to Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and the Board a couple of weeks ago about these issues. I said to her:

"There are two things that you should make no mistake about in my request for information.

One, as I have said many times during my years as a district education activist, I try always to get the most complete picture and facts that I can. Many times it has been difficult because of incomplete or confusing information from district staff. So if I blog about this issue and am mistaken, my readers know that it was an error of good faith and not a lack of effort. It is in the district's best interests to give out complete and unambiguous information.

Two, as parents, we have an ABSOLUTE right to know what the administrators, staff and teachers have been told to do in the situation of suspected child molesting or grooming in anticipation of child molestation. Any attempt to say "It's a personnel matter." is going to be met with a lot of skepticism and suspicion. I am not asking for details on any specific case.

Here are my questions:

1) What is the procedure for staff in our schools when they believe they have seen grooming behavior or suspect child abuse by a fellow staff member?
2) Is every report to be documented by a principal?
3) Is every school report sent to the district or does it remain in-house?
4) If it remains in-house, what is the level or number of reports before district staff is alerted?
5) What would happen if staff went to CPS or police before telling a principal or district leadership?
6) It was reported in the Times that a teacher/staff file is destroyed at the end of the year. King 5 TV said it was by teacher request only. Could you please clarify this issue? What happens to school personnel files at the end of each year? Can only some items be deleted and others kept?
7) What training has occurred for teachers and principals over the last 5 years?

Additional I said:

"All parents need to know is that this district has made it clear, in pointed, unequivocal language and training to principals that they must follow district policy to the nth degree. There is no" best" judgment for them because children's lives are at stake. Because of the hugely damning and damaging charge of suspected child abuse, these policies have to be made to protect staff as well. But parents and children have to know and believe that the district has put clear steps in place, with no deviation allowed, for principals to follow.

The teacher and principal contracts should reflect this policy. It should be written into the next teacher contract. Principals should have clear knowledge of what will happen if they do not follow this policy and not just be shuffled off to the next school.

This issue needs clarification. This is not just a personnel matter but goes to the heart of trust between parent and school district. It can't just be waved off with "we're giving training to staff". We, as parents, need to know how these matters are to be handled, If not, then it is clear the teachers and principals get more protection than children do."

I have had no reply from Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.

Apparently, staff is NOT getting the training or the message about sexual abuse or assault. And one of these days, some parent may sue the teacher, the principal and our district for not doing their legal obligation of telling police in a timely manner. These are all just lawsuits waiting to happen.


Charlie Mas said...

It defies understanding.

How could they not have called 9-1-1? How could they have waited a day to report?

Beyond that, how could they not know how to handle the media reports? Don't they know that refusing to talk is the worst move they could make? Saying anything - either an apology or a defense - is better than saying nothing.

Nature hates a vacuum. If the District does fill the space with their version of the story, the space will be filled with everyone else's versions of the story.

Michael said...

The reason that the teachers did not cal 911 is that they do not believe that the police should be involved with disciplining children, even if they break the law (you may want to make some inquiries at Whitman Middle School about criminal activity there by 4 students that was never reported to the police). Heck, the District doesn't call the police automatically even when they discover an employee stealing through false overtime (see the incident in 2006 where a teacher at Nova was released for stealing over $118,000). They only notified the police after they were forced to do so.

The District has a real aversion to involving the police when wrong-doing is committed or discovered.

The staff at Aki-Kurose behaved in a BRUTALLY STUPID manner by not using 911 and claiming that they used a non-emergency number. For non-emergencies you STILL use 911; you just immediately say "Non-emergency" after the operator answers with "911 - what are you reporting."

Reports about this kind of behavior by district staff just makes my blood boil.

Michael said...


In your post you include this:
"6) .......What happens to school personnel files at the end of each year? Can only some items be deleted and others kept?"

I read this stuff about teacher files being destroyed a while ago as well and wanted to see if that violated record retention requirements promulgated by the Secretary of State. I looked up the records retention schedule for school districts and found that teacher files can be destroyed at the end of the school year if there is such a clause in a collective bargaining agreement.

I think pressure should be brought to bear on the teacher's union to get them to remove that little tidbit from their contract so there can be full accountability, and so these cumulative incidents and issues do not get swept under the rug. But this is not likely to happen because the teacher's union does not want to promote accountability for it's members. The union simply wants to add more members and keep those dues-dollars flowing in.

The Rainier Valley Post said...

Have you received a reply from Dr. Goodloe-Johnson yet? If not, I am considering starting a letter-writing campaign to increase the pressure. This sort of reckless behavior and lack of accountability on the part of SPS is simply unacceptable.