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School board denies open enrollment request, even with racism allegations

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 9:33 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 9:35 a.m. CST

Editors note:Osceola Sentinel-Tribune is not naming the mother or daughter in the article.

A mother wanted to take her daughter out of Clarke Community School District for a year and teach her at home through K-12 public school open enrollment, also known as CAM. She cited racism in the school district as the cause.

However, the request was made after the state’s March 1 deadline for the 2014-15 school year.

Clarke Superintendent Steve Seid recommended the school board deny the open enrollment request because of the fact it is a late filed application and doesn’t meet the good cause requirement for late approval.

Monday’s meeting

During the Aug. 11 school board meeting, Seid said there wasn’t enough documentation in the daughter’s file to show racism.

Seid said there wasn’t due cause for late approval because of not having enough documentation to show an extensive continuation of bullying or reflecting a pattern of discrimination.

“There should’ve been documentation because I was in the school so many times, and that my daughter wrote a letter stating exactly what happened with names, places, the comments, everything, and it’s not in her file,” the mother said. “There should’ve been plenty of documentation.”

According to the mother, there was a fight with her daughter and other students on a school bus. The daughter didn’t throw the first punch, but did have to defend herself. The daughter told the school’s office what had happened, but was threatened with suspension.

“This is not the only time she’s gotten the racial comments,” the mother said. “I get tired of my daughter coming home two to three days a week crying and nothing happening because of it.”

The majority of the incidents happened during the last couple of weeks of school, the mother said.

She added, the same incidents happened to her older daughter, but it got better once she went into high school.

There was a consensus the board wanted more of an investigation done on the incidents before making a decision.

“If that’s going on, that is unacceptable in our school — in any way, shape or form. We just don’t tolerate that, but we need to do some investigating and figure out what’s going on,” said James Bair, Clarke School Board member.

The school board decided to schedule a special board meeting Thursday, Aug. 14, to have a more thorough investigation before they made their decision on the late open enrollment.

Thursday’s meeting

During the Thursday meeting, Seid said there was a letter that had been submitted by the daughter, however, it wasn’t obtainable at meeting time.

At least one staff member had been interviewed about the racism, but there was no recollection of racism concerns. There was nothing documented with the school’s counselor about racism.

The situation on the bus had been documented, as well as classroom issues, but nothing that fell under the umbrella of racism.

“When talking with staff, there had been ongoing things between other (students) at recess and things like that,” said Randy Bolton, elementary vice principal. “When confronting all parties involved, all parties involved had usually been a part of the name calling or bothering, or those type of things.”

Bolton said he had seen the letter and it did contain the racism concerns.

“What typical protocol would be, would be to talk to all parties and then have those conversations,” he said. “... We can’t stop things necessarily right away. We want to make things better, but if there’s anything else that happens, we need to know at the school that things are not getting better or that things have been said. If things were to progress and get worse, consequences and what we do are going to be adjusted, added on to, those type of things.”

He added, after checking with the student, there didn’t seem to be any further problems that were addressed to him, the counselor or staff.

The mother said her daughter met what constitutes as pervasive harassment. The reason the child doesn’t talk to school officials is because she feels more comfortable, or safer, talking to her mother.

The mother said she had been informed her daughter had been on the verge of getting kicked off the school bus and out of school.

“I’ve been verbally told by a couple of the teachers on the phone that if any of this fighting continues, that she will be expelled from school,” she said. “That’s been verbal. That has not been written.”

“I don’t think the teachers have that authority,” said Steve O’Tool, school board member. “That kind of decision has to be made by administration.”

No school bus driver or school staff member were in attendance at the meeting.

No documentation

When it came to having a hardcopy of the documentation, the mother said she didn’t keep a copy of the letter her daughter wrote.

Bolton said he had seen the letter, but it wasn’t in the student’s file.

“That was my mistake. It’s not in my folder where I keep documents. I don’t even have a folder for (the student). It’s not like she’s been somebody that’s, you know, under the radar — a frequent flyer type of a thing,” he said. “I take full responsibility, but, I am not denying there definitely was a letter that had racial comments and things that had been said to her. That was a fact.”

The mother said she had been called into the school several times to talk with the teachers or counselor, however, the situation doesn’t get to the administrative office.

School board members agreed there wasn’t enough proper documentation to overturn the decision to deny the late filed open enrollment. They said it was past the state’s March 1 deadline and the qualifications for just cause hadn’t been met.

After the board denied the request, the mother stormed out of the board room saying “failing my daughter” to the school board.

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