Protests over lack of school safety in Antioch expand
By John Crowder
Parents, teachers, and staff returned again this month to the meeting of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) board meeting held on January 22nd to protest what they portrayed as “disrespect, disruption, and violence” by a group of out-of-control students at Black Diamond Middle School (BDMS). This time they were not alone, however, as a number of staff members from Dallas Ranch Middle School (DRMS) were also present, speaking out against aggressive behavior and violence by students at their school as well.
Early in the public comments section of the meeting Frank DeLuna, a long-time volunteer at BDMS, repeated the message he had given the board at their previous meeting held on December 18th, that about 20 students at the school continued to be serious discipline problems.
“It is not fair to the rest of the students who want to be there and learn,” he stated. DeLuna went on to fault a lack of consequences for bad behavior, noting that, “…they (disruptive students) know nothing is going to happen.”
The idea that a lack of consequences was driving the continuing problem was repeated by other speakers, notably a contingent of Girl Scouts, appearing in their uniforms as they addressed the Board. Another staff member, Joseph Vasquez, stated that he had been hired to help ensure security at the school, but with disruptive students returning the next day, “We’re more like baby-sitters.”
Staff members from Dallas Ranch also spoke out against problems with threatening and violent behavior by students. Two members of the physical education department at the school vowed not to return to work if a particular student they claimed had physically attacked one of them and threatened to attack another was going to be allowed to remain on campus. Other DRMS staff members spoke out in support of their colleagues.
In other public comments the RAAMP charter school was in the spotlight as two members of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), including Dr. Elizabeth Robitaille, asked the Board to not renew its charter, effectively to close the school. Dr. Robitaille characterized RAAMP as “chronically under performing,” also stating, “RAAMP is performing far below every other school in Antioch.”
The request to close the RAAMP school was countered by members of RAAMP’s board, also in attendance at the meeting. While acknowledging that the school had difficulties, they spoke about the hurdles they felt they had to overcome, including funding difficulties, the need to move locations three times, and a student demographic that was more challenging. The speakers in support of RAAMP’s charter being renewed told the Board that, while they faced difficulties, they had a plan to “turn things around” if given the chance.
Later in the meeting the Board agreed to adopt the Reading Wonders curriculum produced by McGraw-Hill for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders over the objections of Julie Young, a parent who claimed the curriculum had “many mistakes in the books.” Board Member Claire Smith, who cast the lone vote against approval, also spoke out against it. “I’m not terribly impressed,” she said, noting that there appeared to be no readings from classic literature in the books.
Finally, money issues were brought up several times. Toward the end of the meeting the Board discussed consideration of a parcel tax to be placed on the November, 2014 ballot. After considerable back-and-forth among the Board members, they directed school staff to return with more information on the issue, stopping short of authorizing a poll be conducted in order to determine whether or not such a measure would be able to receive the required 2/3 vote in the District to pass.
The next meeting of the Board is scheduled for February 12th. Meetings are held at the Antioch Unified School District Office located at 510 G Street.