June 12, 2024

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4J staff, parents ask for improved safety

6 min read
Anne Sharman: "We endured four bomb threats, one per week at South Eugene High School...Had the students responsible been one to three years older, they would have been brought up on federal charges of domestic terrorism and spent time in prison."

4J staff and parents express concern about safety in the schools. At the Nov. 15 board meeting:

Allison Kreider: Monday, Nov. 13. Child screams at adult, throws chairs at window, knocks over table, later kicks teacher in the lower spine. Possible injury to staff. Another student pushes a peer into a table. Excessive use of language. Slaps another student in the back multiple times. Another student becomes upset, throws a tray that hits a staff member in the back of her legs. possible injury to staff. Student runs to a neighboring school.

Tuesday, Nov. 14. Student throws objects at teachers, punches her in the stomach, then closes all emergency doors behind him. Punches teacher multiple times, then kicks her. Broke other student’s belongings, then barricaded the doors with chairs, screaming at other students.

[00:00:54] These are just a couple of things of the larger incidents that occurred in our building just this week. I’m speaking to you on behalf of myself and the staff at my building. We are in crisis. There are so many issues that we would like to address and they all focus around student and staff safety, equity, and lack of resources.

[00:01:13] Our school has roughly 500 students. We have three full time special education staff members as well as a full-time Life Skills program and preschool. Our super boundary covers a very large area including a large number of apartment complexes and low-income housing options. As of last year, our population was roughly 20% or 100 students who qualified for IEP level services.

[00:01:37] We have the highest number of students of any school in 4J who qualify for McKinney-Vento, and the largest, most complex learning center in the district. We have one counselor and no vice principal.

[00:01:48] Our school data looks dismal. We are one of the lowest in the district when it comes to all areas of testing, and we have one of the lowest attendance rates.

[00:01:57] We are in crisis. The last few years, we’ve seen a sudden shift in the behavior of students. Typically, our very qualified staff have been able to address behavior and academics and turn things around. We use strategies as master teachers to help meet students where they are, make them feel welcome and safe, and do everything we can to meet their needs.

[00:02:16] However, this year has been drastically different. So many students have started this year so dysregulated, with such extreme trauma, that we’re just trying to keep students safe. And not a lot else is able to happen.

[00:02:29] On a weekly basis, students are running from campus, hitting, kicking, punching, biting, and spitting. Kids are screaming vulgar profanities and or racist slurs at staff members and each other.

[00:02:40] Students are threatening to kill others and are experiencing extreme bullying. Our doors, chairs, and tables are routinely getting broken from kids throwing furniture at windows and walls, or slamming doors so hard that they no longer stay open or closed correctly. Our school building is only eight years old, and what we are seeing is no significant consequences for violent behaviors and constant compound trauma for all other students.

[00:03:05] We need more support, and we need to continue the support that we currently have been given. We are in crisis.

[00:03:13] 4J School District: Would Anne Sharman like to speak now?

[00:03:15] Anne Sharman: My name is Anne Sharman, and I am the parent of two students. I have a middle schooler at Roosevelt and a high schooler at South Eugene High School. And last spring, as you all know, we endured four bomb threats, one per week at South Eugene High School.

[00:03:30] Fifteen hundred students, faculty, and staff were subjected to hours of trauma, awaiting the ‘All clear’ to return to class or to be dismissed for the remainder of the day. The cost to the district was tens of thousands of dollars, and, had the students responsible been one to three years older, they would have been brought up on federal charges of domestic terrorism and spent time in prison.

[00:03:53] There has been no effort that I’m aware of for the students responsible to apologize or make amends to 1,500 teachers, students, and staff who were traumatized four times. Nor has there been an effort to remediate the days of instruction that were lost, which were significant. The year before the bomb threats, my high school student, then a freshman, endured quarterly room clears due to a single student who threw books, laptops and backpacks at the teacher. When I called the school to inquire about the situation, I was told nothing could be done to discipline the student and they could not be dismissed from school. The student also threatened to pull out a gun and shoot himself 17 days before the end of school.

[00:04:33] The administrative response to this threat, while I know it was well intentioned, and done with as many resources as were available (it was inadequate), was to have a school counselor meet with my student and the other children in the class, and ask if they felt safe, to which my student responded, ‘No, I do not.’ And the administrative response was to have the student sit outside the classroom when they felt triggered by the content in the classroom.

[00:04:59] So, I’m coming to you this evening. I’ve spent the summer doing informational interviews with a number of people both in the district and outside the district to understand the context of how 4J is thinking about security and safety. I’ve tried to go on sort of a listening campaign. I did eight informational interviews with a variety of people in a position to explain to me what we are doing.

[00:05:22] I’m just a parent, but I’m trying to wrap my brain around how we make our schools better for all students, parents, teachers, and our faculty.

[00:05:33] So, I have two requests for you as a board. I’m coming to you this evening to ask for two proactive steps. First is, I would, I’d like to ask that each board member select a high school in our district and spend two hours attending school. school between now and Jan. 30. I’d just love to get you guys on the ground in our daily experience, and I want to echo what the high school student representative said, Wednesday would be an excellent day for you to go see how wacky that experience is, those poor kids, we call it ‘Whiplash Wednesday’ at our house.

[00:06:05] So, I would love for you to get a sense of what’s happening with safety and campus security, and you’ll get the double benefit of seeing what it’s like to deal with this new semester schedule.

[00:06:15] So my second request would be that I would like to ask you all to consider convening a campus safety subcommittee chaired by the director of safety in January 2024. My hope is that you could make a six-month commitment to the subcommittee and they could report back to this body with actionable steps for you all to consider.

[00:06:35] To facilitate this, the subcommittee would need to deep dive into safety data, investigate a newly-imagined relationship with the city of Eugene or the Eugene Police Department and set objective data-driven goals for the district with regard to decision-making around safety and security.

[00:06:52] I propose that the subcommittee meet twice a month for six months and provide recommendations to this body at the end of that time frame. I would specifically ask that you select individuals who are credentialed and have expertise in this area so that it doesn’t become a political football. I would like to see facts-based, data-driven decisions.

[00:07:12] I want you to know that as I did my research, I came upon the information that 4J is one of the only districts without a relationship with its local police department. That is terrifying, especially in the wake of four bomb threats last year. So, I’m coming to you because I think it’s important for you to move forward on this topic.

[00:07:33] I think it’s important for us as parents and as stakeholders to see movement. I appreciate that you are all volunteers and this is of your own time and I am grateful for that. But this is something we need to move on. Our children are depending on you and I would be happy to be of help in any way that you feel I would be useful.

[00:07:52] John Q: A 4J parent calls for a safety subcommittee and a reimagined relationship with public safety officials. School officials directed our questions about staff concerns to the 4J communications team. We await their response.

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