When the admissions counselor at the San Francisco Unified School District refused to give me her name, I knew all hope was lost. But first, let me back up a little over eight months.
We began our son's kindergarten year hopeful and excited. We enrolled him in San Francisco public schools and easily got him into the school down the street from us. Being a diverse family, ourselves, we loved the multi-cultural composition of the student body. I was impressed by our teacher during orientation and parents could not say enough good things about the after school program. But two days into the first week of the school year.
Our son came home and told us that someone slapped him in the face during recess. It was not a major event, but I mentioned it to the teacher who promised to pass it along to the other child's instructor. She also gave me a heads up that lunch monitors typically do not inform other staff of what goes on during this period. It alarmed a little, but I went about my business thinking everything will be ok. Over the course of the next two months, he came home almost daily informing us of the latest incident. I would tell the teacher, who promised to pass it along to the principal. And throughout the balance of the year, I exchanged emails, sent letters and held numerous conversations with the administrator. Every time, she would tell what step was being taken for incidents occurring in and out of class with the same three kids, and every time I would thank her and hope that things would get better. I even helped watch lunch recess when I got the chance. A week and half before the end of the school year, I decided it was all in vain.
There was an incident in the school yard (again, during lunch recess) and enough was enough. I went to the district's main office to work on getting him transferred and was stonewalled by a "counselor" who probably heard the same story over and over. I insisted that he be transferred to one of two elementary schools in our part of the City that I knew had everything under better control. Unfortunately, they are very popular and difficult to get into. And it was then I realized we really are just one of 52,000 families to them. But I refused to give up hope. After all, the principal PROMISED she would keep an eye on our son in the final week of school (as she derisively reminded us). However, on the final Tuesday of the final week, my wife took a call and learned that his chief tormenters chased him down, cornered him and hit him in the eye.
It was then we did something I thought we would never do. We swallowed hard, got him into a well regarded Catholic school. He was even able to obtain a partial scholarship. Believe me what I say that we honesty put our hopes, time and aspirations for the future into SFUSD, but they repaid us with indifference and anxiety over his personal safety. We might be back for high school, but at this point, we have given up on our public school system.