Emotions run high at special Antioch School Board meeting on school safety Tuesday night

Two cousins of victim Jonathan Parker fight back tears as they speak to the Antioch School Board Trustees and staff, as his mother and other family members, sitting in the front row, and others listen Tuesday night, Feb. 18, 2020.

Family members of teen who died from gunshot at Deer Valley High following Jan. 31 basketball game speak, blame lack of security, police; school site security staff, principal respond; board members call for president to resign position

Not too many members of the public attended the meeting in Antioch High’s Beede Auditorium.

By Allen Payton

Accusations were lodged by members of the public against the board, district officials and the school principal of not caring, a lack of security and police at Deer Valley High School the night of the shooting that resulted in the death of 16-year-old student, Jonathan Parker, as well as calls for the resignation of the board president during an emotional, special meeting of the Antioch School Board, Wednesday night. (See the video of the meeting,  here).

The sparsely attended meeting was held in Antioch High School’s Beede Auditorium, which has a capacity of 1,500 seats, in response to the tragic incident that occurred on Friday, Jan. 31 following a basketball game between Antioch High and Deer Valley High Schools.

The one item on the meeting’s agenda was listed as Comprehensive School Safety Plans. But, what started out as a presentation of the measures currently underway for school site safety in the district, at one continuation high school and two middle schools, ended with emotional calls for the resignation of Diane Gibson-Gray from her position as board president by two other school board trustees and just flat out resignation by members of the public, complaints by Parker’s family members, and a school site safety staff member at Deer Valley High refuting claims of a lack of safety on the campus, that night.

School Site Safety Presentation Comprehensive School Safety Final Presentation 2.18.20

Antioch School Board members, district and school staff spoke and listened to the public speak their minds.

The presentation by school and district staff included discussion of restorative practice, building community relationships among students, teachers and staff, trauma informed training, the CARE Team and Wellness Room at Park Middle School and the Sandy Hook Promise, which “empowers students to end social isolation” of other students. Part of that will be the use of a new “Say Something” anonymous reporting system app, which will be introduced during the Say Something Week in March, according to Scott Bergerhouse, the district’s Director of Student Support Services. Students and staff will download the app to their phones so they can anonymously report something they see on social media.

“Within two minutes Sandy Hook folks will assess the situation and contact the local police department,” he explained.

Students will be encouraged to share what they know “with a trusted adult.”

Bergerhouse also mentioned that Superintendent Stephanie Anello and Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks, who was in attendance during the meeting and spoke with residents after, “are working on grants for police presence at sporting events.”

He also stated that Measure T, the bond measure on the March 3 ballot, “will increase safety” at the schools in that part of the district if it passes.

Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services, Christine Ibarra shared the comments of Deer Valley High students during a meeting she had with them.

“Students said ‘we don’t want more safety. We want more relationship and community. More building each other up instead of tearing down,’” Ibarra said.

Deer Valley High Incident More Important

But, two school board members and members of the public weren’t interested in all of that. They wanted to discuss the shooting at Deer Valley High, why and how it happened and what can be done to prevent it from occurring, again in the future.

In spite of requests by Trustee Ellie Householder to not focus on the Deer Valley High incident, but have the meeting be a more, broad discussion of school site safety, she and Trustee Cystal Sawyer-White attacked Gibson-Gray and staff, in what appeared to be efforts to pander to those in the audience.

At the regular meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 12, Householder said about holding the special meeting, “first would be just to review what our safety protocols at our schools and from a district wide perspective, board policy, board bylaws. Just overview of what our safety plan is”

“And then second point I would like to make is I really do like the idea of this kind of, because it’s not going to be a town hall because it’s going to be an official board meeting, right, but that kind of spirit and that idea to, you know we have, you know maybe three items,” she continued. “That’s reviewing the site policy, the district policy, and our policies and then having there be a, you know obviously, public comment, and then that could be a time where the public can come and tell us, you know, how they feel and what direction they think we should go in, and then from there we can, you know, kind of make, have there be an item for further discussion at a next board meeting.”

Yet, at the special meeting Householder said, “Quite frankly, I’m appalled we had to fight to have this agendized, tonight. This is a reflection on the board president. Board President Gibson-Gray failed to act. I’ll be asking for her resignation, tonight.”

Applause from the audience drowned out the rest of her comments which were about Gibson-Gray resigning as board president, not as a trustee.

“I’m concerned we’re not addressing Deer Valley High School,” Sawyer-White said. “Where’s the principal? The parents and family are here.”

“I would have appreciated a presentation on Deer Valley’s site safety,” she said later in the meeting. “The next steps would be to address that, tomorrow.”

Public Commments

Jerome Householder was the first to speak during public comments, referring to the board meeting on Feb. 12 he mentioned, “the eye rolling, the condescending behavior of the board members at last week’s meeting.”

“Where is the safety? Where is the security guard?” he asked.

The second speaker, Laneasha Lee, a mother of a student in the district and an employee at Deer Valley High said, “you guys got to do something and do something, now. You got to do your job because you’re killing our babies. Go get us some police officers during those games.”

Mary Lynn Peck then said, “there’s not safety in our schools. My daughter who teaches (at an AUSD school)…is frightened.”

“I am very dismayed,” she added, also calling for Gibson-Gray’s resignation.

One of Jonathan Parker’s aunts, Margarita Gurule was upset with the school district officials.

“He fought for 15 hours. None of you showed up to the hospital,” she said. “Why haven’t any of you called my sister? This was Jonathan’s first game he went to.”

Antioch resident, business owner and former president of the NAACP East County Branch, Joseph Adebayo spoke as a parent.

“I told my niece I could no longer pick her up because the guy that actually fired the shot was so close to my car,” he stated. “As we were driving out of Deer Valley…the cop car was driving in. It was too late. I told my niece I would no longer allow her to go to games unless there are police before and after the game.”

Another of Parker’s aunts, Aurora Solorio, asked “where was security? It took my nephew’s life. It allowed the kids to jump him and then kill him.”

“We have not yet heard from Deer Valley’s principal,” she continued. “This is not OK. You have resources out here in the audience willing to do whatever they can.”

Another family member said, “we haven’t heard from the principal. Is it because my nephew is a minority? You all ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

Courtney Campbell Reich, a parent of a Deer Valley High graduate said, “we wanted to hear something, we heard nothing. Six days later the PTSA Board President asked for a meeting.”

She then thanked Anello, Householder and Chief Brooks “for responding to our email.”

“We need more police, better lighting and cameras that work,” she continued, then mentioned an “assault of a school volunteer” speaking of herself, “a football game brawl and now murder.”

Emily Woodhall, a counselor at Deer Valley High said, “I’m here to fight for the needs of my students because they are grieving the loss of their friend, their innocence, their loss of safety. At Deer Valley High School there are no mental health counselors.”

Willie Mims, representing the East County Branch of the NAACP, said “you have to show compassion to this family. I think you let these people down. I didn’t hear anything about the incident.”

“You had over $1 million in site safety,” he continued. “Where was your site safety? You’re spending money in the wrong direction.”

Dave Neal, a 32-year teacher in the district said, “I have a passion for our community. That’s why I’m not retiring. We do not have a comprehensive plan for the district. We need to come together. Let’s sit down together and have a conversation.”

He then invited the board to “community circles” that were to be held the next day at the high school.

Ayesha Hall said, “I told you if you don’t address this issue, this issue will come knocking at your door. I don’t think you can relate to what they’re going through” referring to Parker’s family. “Then we’re having the meeting tonight and you’re not even talking about Deer Valley. We need resolution, right now.”

Site Safety Staff Member Responds

Bob Scudero then refuted some of the comments that there was no safety at the school on the night of the shooting.

“I’m security site safety at Deer Valley High School,” he said. “Our school and our staff are hurting. We talked to John John 10 minutes before the game was over.”

Scudero said “I wanted to set the record straight…we had four security people at the school…we had staff, we had administrators, we had people..staff members from both schools” at the school, that night.

“I’m not making any excuse. There was no excuse for such a waste of such a beautiful human life as John John. And I’m not here to defend our system,” he continued. “But, I want you to know, I want the public to know as large as that school is, and as many people from both schools that were there, there was no possible way that us could have covered the whole lot, the whole property. I believe there should have been police there. That is something that needs to be taken up with the Antioch Police Department. The police were called that night before the incident. I know that for a fact.”

He continued to speak past his three-minute time limit, with the microphone turned off, but Gibson-Gray allowed it.

Scudero spoke of how he corralled a group of students and parents into a room on the campus and told them to stay there, keep the door locked and to not “unlock this door for anyone. I have a key.”

“I ended up with 30 people and I put them in lock down,” he stated.

“I can’t imagine what you feel,” Scudero shared with the family. “But I know my loss with John John and it’s tearing me up.”

Principal Oyebade Speaks

Deer Valley High School Bukky Oyebade then spoke, directing her comments to the family.

“You’re in my heart and my prayers,” she said. “I take full responsibility. We doubled the amount of security that night. There was security, that night.”

“I apologize for his loss,” Oyebade stated. “I talked to John John every day.”

Following the meeting she told the Herald she had reached out to the family, refuting the accusations by Parker’s family members, and that she wasn’t told not to speak to them, as had been rumored.

Board Members Respond & Argue Among Themselves

“I agree with Trustee Ellie Householder and I call for your resignation, Board President Gibson-Gray,” said Sawyer-White.

Trustee Gary Hack then shared his thoughts, saying “You say we’re wrong, we’re cold hearted, we don’t care. I disagree. I’ve gone to the memorial in the parking lot and prayed. It’s a very emotional situation.”

Trustee Mary Rocha was next to share her thoughts, explaining a lack of officers on the Antioch police force as part of the reason for no police at the game, that night.

“I’m a mother, like you are,” she said. “I’ve lost a son, too. We have all thought about the police and there are police at some events. We have a heck of a lot more police, now. If you want to help us, put the pressure on.”

Rocha then read the policy of the Bay Valley Athletic League, for which her son, Antioch High Principal Louie Rocha, Jr. is President of the Board of Managers, that even visiting teams bring their administration to the games.

“With all due respect, Board Trustee Rocha, it’s not all about the police,” Sawyer-White responded. “We have a LCAP fund of $1.155 million and that’s us, the board to allocate appropriately. If we hired teachers of color and counselors…there would be more of an opportunity for the students to relate to their teachers and their administrators. I’ve been addressing that for three-and-a-half years. I’m not seeing how we’re moving forward as a board, as the staff that we hire to address the students of color.”

“We should have had blueprints up here of where the incident occurred, where are the cameras, are we installing more cameras,” she continued. “These are basic steps.”

“No excuses. I’m sorry and we have to do better,” added Householder. “That’s it. It’s really that simple.”

“This is an ongoing investigation and Superintendent Anello is working closely with the police,” said Gibson-Gray. “We want to find out who murdered Jonathan just as much as you do. And if any of the kids out there, adults, anybody hears anything, I beg you to share it with the police. Because someone is out there who needs to be caught.”

“This has not happened before,” she continued. “As someone who has to run this meeting, I have to be composed. Have I cried tears for your son, nephew, cousin at home? Yes, I have.”

But she was shouted down by members of the audience.

“Please let me speak. OK. Fine, I’m not going to speak. To the family I give you my condolences. And I am so sorry there is nothing I can do to bring him back,” Gibson-Gray concluded, then calling for a motion to adjourn the meeting, as members of the audience continued to shout.

She then asked if there was anything else could be said.

“Is there anything we can add to this meeting, because it is an on-going investigation with the police,” Gibson-Gray stated.

“I have nothing,” said Anello.

Then Gibson-Gray returned to the motion to adjourn and even it passed on a split vote with Householder and Sawyer-White voting against.

SATURDAY, 2/22/20 UPDATE – Letter from Principal Oyebade:

In a letter to parents posted on Facebook on Friday, Feb. 21, Principal Ovebade wrote the following about additional safety measures at the campus:

Dear Wolverine Families,

I am contacting you to inform you of additional safety measures that were recently received from our district. Going forward, we will now have two additional site safety team members and two more site administrators. This will assist with supervision of student activities around our campus. We have reviewed camera placement and are looking to increase the number of cameras throughout our campus. Furthermore, beginning next month, the district is launching the Say Something app for the community to be able to anonymously report information that can be routed to school personnel, law enforcement, etc. Finally, our district is in discussions with the police department on how to retain school resource officers for daily presence on campus and supervision of games. Please encourage your student to wear their id at all times. This simple action will assist us with positively identifying our students.

Thank you for your continued patience with us as we work to enhance security on the DV campus.

Bukky Oyebade Ed. D.

DVHS Principal

the attachments to this post:

Comprehensive School Safety Final Presentation 2.18.20

School safety meeting 1

School safety meeting 2

Cousins and family members of Jonathan Parker

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