Education, Local News

Incident brings District 153 parents before board asking for greater transparency

Parents of students in Homewood District 153 addressed the school board Monday, Feb. 6, asking that school administrators do a better job at communicating with them when incidents arise.

About a dozen parents spoke about their concerns after learning that a fourth grader was injured in class. Students told parents various stories about what happened, but the school district didn’t communicate with parents until days later. The communication didn’t provide enough information to counter what children had repeated about what they had heard happened. 

“I heard about this from my 11-year-old, and his story came from (another child) and it spread like wildfire throughout the school,” one mom said. “Kids heard different stories about what happened…The district should have reported there was an altercation in the classroom and we’re taking care of it. What happened was the entire class of kids were talking about it” and the story was incorrect, she said.

Several parents also raised concerns about building safety. Others asked for a Parents Advisory Committee that could help the district put plans to place for incidents like what happened on Jan. 26 at Churchill School.

On that Thursday, a fourth grade teacher suggested students stand and stretch to give them a break from STAR testing. When she told students to return to their desks, a child with a pencil didn’t move his hand away from another boy’s chair. The boy was stabbed with a pencil that was pushed into his buttocks about 4.5 inches deep. He required emergency treatment. Doctors at Hope Children’s Hospital told Jessica Lopez her son narrowly missed serious injury to his intestines and rectum. Lopez told the school board her son is suffering physically and emotionally.

The school district is bound by privacy rules, and school board members couldn’t address specific concerns raised by parents.

The parents of the 9-year-old who caused the injury were at the meeting. They extended their apologies, and said their son is “being slandered on social media” and he is suffering emotionally. They told the board they have talked with their son about how he should be acting in school and treating other children.

One mom said she was sorry two families were suffering because of this incident. She wondered if more classroom aides are needed to help reduce bullying and other issues. She also told the board that rather than staff trying to deal with issues, parents need to know if their child is having problems with other children or staff.

One parent reminded the audience that this incident shouldn’t be a blemish on all the good the district is doing. “We’re still out here fighting for our kids, our community is as good as it was 20, 30 years ago. We just need more transparency,” she said.

Another mom said this incident doesn’t support what students learn is “the Churchill way.” She wondered how strong values will be communicated to Churchill students so they feel comfortable, rather than “sweeping it under the rug.”

Superintendent Scott McAlister thanked the audience for coming to share their concerns.  

“We’re in a difficult position. I hear a lot about transparency…you want us to tell you more. And you also acknowledge that there are reasons we can’t…I know in your seat it’s really difficult to get vague correspondence. We understand that. I also hope you appreciate the reason we have privacy laws,” he said.

McAlister stressed that every person makes mistakes that they regret and learn from.

“My goal is always, always to do better. To make this district as good as possible. To leave it a better place when I leave than when I started,” he said. McAlister stressed that he would never intentionally put a child or staff member in harm’s way.

“My decisions are based on years of experience working with kids, basing it on the advice of professionals. I’m basing it on the history of those we’re talking about. I cannot promise going forward what kids will or will not do or what adults will do,” he said.

News by email

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Free weekly newsletter

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Most read stories this week