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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.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's very disappointing (7+ / 0-)

    that your family was treated this way.  I would have assumed that the SF schools are fairly enlightened and would be responsive to your complaints.  You never know.

  •  Your childs safety always comes before (10+ / 0-)

    doing the politically "right" thing.  I too will be enrolling our child in public school because I believe in it but should my child get hurt and the school not respond...hello private school.  It is disappointing!

  •  It's especially difficult because it's K'garten. (7+ / 0-)

    There's really very little you can hold 5-year-olds responsible for, and the fortunate thing is that relatively few 5-year-olds engage in the kind of behavior you've described against your son.  And when you don't have teachers supervising during recess it's a real problem because the part-time people who do that kind of thing are, no offense to them (well, to some of them), not professionals in any sense of the word.  

    Dear conservatives: If instead of "marriage equality" we call it "voluntary government registration of committed homosexuals," are you on board?

    by Rich in PA on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 01:00:04 PM PDT

  •  Don't let up (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    edsbrooklyn, kyril, Ree Zen, efraker, chimene

    on them. That is your tax dollar working in those schools. Even when your child is not attending, keep an eye and ear on what is happening. Your neighbors will also help keep you informed. My sister-in-law had the same experience in Berkeley (also kindergarten) and moved her daughter to a private school. I expect that she will at some time move back to the public school.
    My own town seemed to have a large number of students skipping our 7-8 grades and returning for high school, so don't give up hope.

  •  Our son was bullied at a private school. (4+ / 0-)

    We moved him to an Episcopal school and all was fine. Many a bully has been tamed or expelled from such schools. He just graduated from a Jesuit HS where he grew into a man. You won't regret this move. As an agnostic I had to accept a certain amount of religous indoctrination and there was not much diversity. A good education in an emotionally safe environment was worth all the other trade offs and the Money. I bet 10 years from now you will be very pleased with your difficult decision.

    There is only one planet suitable for human habitation in our solar system.

    by too many people on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 01:10:37 PM PDT

  •  About that Catholic school (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    when it is time for your son to go to public high school you will find he can only get into the Mission district. We live in the Sunset and the neighborhood kids ended up going to Catholic high school because they couldn't get into anything nearby


    by voracious on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 01:15:45 PM PDT

    •  We're not committed to returning. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And we're not too worried because who knows how many times the BOE will change the process between now and then. I do know that quite a few graduates of our new school go on to Lowell and SOTA.

  •  I am so sorry (9+ / 0-)

    but you do have to protect your child.  I just hope that the new school is good for him.

    I'm retired but I work as a substitute teach in the local systemandI do mostly Pre-K.  Schools vary within the system. Some schools are really good. The teachers, aides and other employees work as a team and the children feel protected and secure. In other schools, it is different.

    I have quit working at one school. One of the children (bright, charismatic, cute) was undisciplined and bored and became a disrespective bully with teachers and students alike.  Once when I was subbing, he was pushing and intentionally bumping into the other children and running wild.  I caught him by the shoulders, marched him to a corner and stood against his back so he could not run out or turn around to make faces or shout at the other students. At noon, the child was again running around the cafeteria and spitting so I tried to catch him but the other aides did not help. (When I confronted them later, they said they were so busy with their own kids, they did not notice). When I did catch him (some children helped me), I had to walk him to the Critical Thinking Classroom ( time out room).

    Later, the vice principal came to talk to me about being too "handsy" with the child. She said that I should talk and reason with him quietly instead. Personally, I agree and would much rather reason and talk, but when other children are being theatened and the child cannot hear because he is yeling and screaming ... how do you protect the other children and slow him down enough to have him hear you? How do you make people realize that they are ALL our children, not just the ones in your individual classroom?

    Sum total, I no longer sub at that school.  I did go back a couple of time to fullfill some commitments I has made and the children from that classroom rushed to hug me and to ask me when I was going to be with them again. It broke my heart not to be able to be with them but I could not put myself in that position again and end up with a lawsuit or worse, especially knowing that the school administration would not back me up.

    I dearly believe in the public schools. I kept my children in public schools because I knew that the only way I could influence the school was to be an active parent. but I have come to realize that sometimes you have to shake the dust from your sandals and move on.  Sometimes giving up is the only way you can make things better.

    I am so sorry for what happened to your child.  However, now he knows that you will listen to him, believe him and then move heaven and earth to protect him.  THAT is a good thing.

    "Life without liberty is like a body without spirit. Liberty without thought is like a disturbed spirit." Kahlil Gibran, 'The Vision'

    by CorinaR on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 01:18:37 PM PDT

    •  I'm a big fan of public schools, (0+ / 0-)

      even thought all of my experience is in Catholic ones.  There is room for both.  If they work together, as they do in my community, the relationship can be fruitful.

      Not every situation fits every child.  We had kids come to us from public school because they needed a smaller atmosphere or just to get away from undesirable/unruly "playmates."  We had kids leave us for the public schools because they had resources for dealing with disabilities and other things that we didn't have.  Transferring was easy and amicable.  The school secretaries knew each other and worked to make transitions smooth for the good of the kids.

      -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

      by luckylizard on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 07:18:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, sadly, may be (5+ / 0-)

    at the same point.  Two years ago, a kid at an alternative school rigged up a pen with TATP (the same explosive used by the Shoebomber), intending it as a prank on a teacher.  Another kid picked it up and it exploded in his hand, sending him to the hospital.  It turned out his house was full of explosives, and three firefighters were injured trying to remove them.

    Not long after this story came out, it was also revealed that this kid had previously been kicked out of his regular school for joking about a bomb threat.  Makes you wonder--what the heck was he still doing in school in the first place?

  •  It's a good thing private school is an option (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The next best thing I guess? Martial Arts training.

    When The US tries to export our form of "democracy" and they laugh and say "no thanks" - Something's wrong

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 03:02:05 PM PDT

    •  Our son takes karate. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      But all year they drilled into his head that he could not fight back. And, toward the end of the year, when he finally did, they nearly sent him home.

      •  That's bs. Every creature has a vested an (0+ / 0-)

        innate right to maintain their bodily integrity.

        There is a huge departure from "Don't be a bully" to "Don't fight back."

        What a load of malarkey.

        I am sorry that your child defended himself, but I am glad that he was able.

        Can you imagine giving a women's self defense class and then telling them that?

        •  Jeez I need more coffee, MISSING WORDS-- (0+ / 0-)

          Lets try this again:
          That's bs. Every creature has an

          innate right to maintain their bodily integrity.

          There is a huge departure from "Don't be a bully" to "Don't fight back."

          What a load of malarkey.

          I am sorry that your child had to defend himself, but I am glad that he was able.

          Can you imagine giving a women's self defense class and then telling them that?

          Much better.

  •  I wouldn't feel bad about it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    luckylizard, radical simplicity

    I have never understood why some people treat public school like it's this sacred thing rather than just one of possibly many choices. Every town, every community is going to have different situations. In some places, the public schools might be a better option and in some the private schools might be - and among those schools, both private and public there are going to be some that are better or worse.
    In general, private schools are going to be more receptie to your complaints as the relationship between you paying them and them paying staff is going to be a lot more direct, but this is not always the case. One of my nephews went to a private school where it was made plain they were not interested in any input from parents. They wouldn't even allow a PTA. He lived in a small town and there were not a lot of choices so he stuck with them, but I think I would have sooner homeschooled (they had some other weird issues, that school).
    Of course, money must also factor into it as private school is not free, but if one has the means and it seems that the private school is that much better, then that would be the logical decision to make. I don't know why you would ever feel guilty about doing the right thing for your child. Even Obama made that choice when he sent is kids to private school. So did Clinton if I remember right.

  •  Maybe the teachers really ARE too busy. When I (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radical simplicity

    was a kid in school parents were there as recess, classroom, and lunch helpers. I hear all kinds of talk about how schools need more parental involvement. Well, isn't this exactly the time and place that some is needed? Rather than taking your child out, what about the other kids still to be bullied because there is still not enough supervision on this playground when you're gone? I understand that parents these days are busy at work and can't do the things previous generations did, but isn't that just more evidence that parents are expecting too much from schools?

      I do support home-schooling and my grandchildren will soon begin. But not everyone can do that and so I also support public schools.

    •  Or that schools are expecting too much of parents (0+ / 0-)

      If I weren't home schooling I would either be in college or at a job.

      So my participation for recess or any other issue during working hours would be limited. And my energy for after school even more so.

      We need more teachers, and smaller classrooms and the teachers need the power to kick unruly students out and keep them out.

      A parent of a child that can behave shouldn't have to compensate so much for a family that is unable to teach their child to do the same.

      And a teacher should not be forced to teach to the most disruptive child in the class.

  •  As a former Catholic school teacher, (0+ / 0-)

    and the product of 17 years of Catholic education, I hope this proves to be a good move for your son.  I only have experience with schools in my area (Iowa) but I think you will find it a little better situation.  

    Don't expect perfection, however.  Like any other human institution, parochial schools can be run by flawed people.  My advice is to keep as close as you can.  Volunteer if you're able and participate in all the activities, including ubiquitous (often odious) fundraisers.  The more you are in and out of the building, the more connected you'll be.  You don't have to buy into the religion stuff to be an active member of the school community.

    If your son gets even a fraction of the excellent education I got, he will be one lucky boy.  :-)

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 07:10:28 PM PDT

  •  It just baffles me why schools still refuse to get (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    tough on bullies.  It's easy, if a child cannot keep his hands to himself and be respectful of others, he needs to go home and stay there until his parents can demonstrate that is has sufficient social skills to be in school.  A letter from a competent lawyer to the school and the parents of the bully would get them into shape in short order.  Too bad it takes that kind of action to get their attention.  

    •  Sadly I such a letter would. (0+ / 0-)

      If that was all it took, then the millions of people who have had children bullied at schools would have nipped this in the bud a decade or more ago.

    •  Well, you know, in our district, we've been told (0+ / 0-)

      that we cannot deny a child recess because of the child's misbehavior.  There is no consequence we can deliver to the child for misbehavior now.  Our hands are tied.

      Permissiveness in behavior - and it's not just the schools - it pervades our society, is rampant.  It's too bad.

      I'm sorry for this parent and for their experience.  I'm a teacher in a public school, but I think she did the right thing.

      Sadly, teachers are blamed for the perceived failings of the schools, when people leave them because of the behavior of the student population.

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