19 days ago, a student was beaten in the cafeteria of Caesar Rodney High School. Tomorrow, the student’s parents and advocate will be holding a press conference in front of the Caesar Rodney District Office.
I’ve heard from several sources that the fight in the cafeteria where a disabled student was pummeled could have been prevented had district staff or administration intervened. These same sources revealed that district staff come over to the high school to eat in the very nice cafeteria. On Tuesday, district staff were present during the fight, including Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald. The reason no one tries to break up a fight? Because they are not allowed to if they have not received restraint training.
It would be one thing if this were indeed a “rare” situation, as described by Fitzgerald in his announcement about the fight today. But I’m hearing there have been several fights. Another recent one had the same scenario- a girl gets beaten up, no one breaks it up, and the school calls the parent to tell them to pick their child up and she may need medical attention. I’m sorry, but if the school or district refuses to get the training needed to properly break up a fight, then they should incur the medical expenses for a student when they fail to prevent it or act once it starts.
In terms of the beating the disabled child took, some have gone online suggesting the disabled child used the “n” word against the other student. But Diane Eastburn, the child’s advocate, said there were allegations tossed around but the school found through their investigations those allegations were false. Those comments appeared on the WDEL article that broke this story. Many have asked why the student who beat the child wasn’t expelled. Any school expulsion has to go through a school board. A school may suspend a student until the school board convenes to vote on that action item, but the school cannot expel a student. The student was arrested as per Fitzgerald’s statement today.
I have serious concerns with Fitzgerald putting in words that “The District will continue to work hard to insure the safety of our students.” How is it working hard if staff and administration don’t have the means to break up a fight? That cafeteria was filled with adults according to several sources. But in the video not one of them came over to the scene in the 30 seconds the fight took place. The high school does have a School Resource Officer, but the school cannot and should not rely on one person to break up a fight. It is a logistical nightmare. What comfort does this give to the parents of the beaten child? If I were them, I would see that as a slap in the face. Because their child needed medical attention while the adults watched.
This district has been in the spotlight this week, and not in a good way. I’ve written about Caesar Rodney School District more this week than I have my entire time blogging. And I’ve done this for well over three years now. One source, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said “This isn’t anything new. It is just boiling to the surface now.” Once you let the genie out of the bottle…
Delaware’s legislators have to find a way to make discipline issues more uniform throughout the state. They have to make sure there are proper methods for interventions before events like this erupt all over the news. It was a year and a half ago that Amy Joyner Francis was brutally murdered in a high school bathroom. We don’t need a repeat of that again. Fights will happen but I can’t help but think this district and our state could be doing a hell of a lot more to prevent them or act when they do.
In a week where Caesar Rodney has been inundated with bad news, from the custodian at Charlton sending explicit texts to a minor, to the Rider Mascot racial slur, and this fight, it is clear this district needs to think very carefully about what kind of message they are sending to parents. Their Board of Education needs to take a very clear look at these situations and not just brush them off. They need to come up with strategies and policies to tackle this in the best interests of students.
Many parents are wondering what is happening to students. Fights are getting more vicious. Racial tensions are building up in our state. But we have far too many adults in charge who seem oblivious to the realities on the ground. People are very sensitive today and our schools and leaders have to recognize this. They must come up with better ways to help students deal with our world. We can no longer let local control dictate what happens with school climate. We must have uniform policies, training, and resources in every single public school in this state. Parents or guardians must also help their children understand and cope with these issues as well. For those who say “it was like this when I was a kid”, maybe it was, but we have more resources and knowledge on how to deal with these situations now. We can’t live in bubbles. If we want to live in this world, we have to share it. And that means accepting others differences and helping others. The hate has to stop before it becomes an uncontrollable beast.
On Tuesday, a student with disabilities was beat up very badly in the Caesar Rodney High School cafeteria. According to WDEL’s Amy Cherry, this was not related to the racial slur associated with the high school mascot that shook the Caesar Rodney community this week.
The boy’s parents contacted their advocate, Diane Eastburn, because of the punishment meted out to their son who was massively beat up. He was charged by the school with “offensive touching” even though he is not seen on the video punching the other student. The word “bitch” was thrown around prior to the fight. The disabled student received two days of in-school suspension but his parents do not feel the punishment should have been given to their child since he wasn’t fighting. The parents and Eastburn contacted WDEL yesterday. In fairness, I sent Eastburn to WDEL because I was uncomfortable posting the video with minors on it. The video is very graphic as described by Cherry:
The student was repeatedly being punched in the back of the head as he used his hands to cover his head. The victim student suffered bumps and bruises to his head and face in the assault.
This has Eastburn wondering what is going on at Caesar Rodney High School since these two unrelated incidents happened in the same week:
“There seems to be an underlying hostility in that building,” alleged Eastburn. “And if they’re having problems they need to address it quickly. To be quite honest, they can’t afford not to. If they start having fights like this, someone’s going to get hurt or worse. These are lawsuits waiting to happen if they don’t start dealing with the undercurrent in that building.”
These are questions the district are going to have to look at. I sincerely hope the disabled child does not have a concussion or any lasting damage done in this brutal assault. I don’t think any student who is attacked should get a punishment like that, whether they are disabled or not. If words are said, let the punishment fit that category. But using a poor choice of words is not the same thing as offensive touching in any world.
Updated, 3:15pm: Caesar Rodney School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald issued the following statement regarding this incident on the district website-
STATEMENT FROM DR. FITZGERALD REGARDING CRHS CAFETERIA INCIDENT
“Recently a fight that previously took place in the Caesar Rodney High School cafeteria has been posted to the internet. This situation in no way is related to the recent mascot post. After an investigation by the school administration and the Delaware State Police, disciplinary action was taken and an arrest was made. Fights of this nature, while rare are unacceptable and are not tolerated in Caesar Rodney. The District will continue to work hard to insure the safety of our students.”
This is an important message for ALL Caesar Rodney School District parents: You need to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. If they started already, do not let them take one more second of this test. Refuse The Test! The Network of Public Education is calling for a National Opt Out of these high-stakes tests. They aren’t effective at all, and everyone knows it. These tests are being used for nefarious purposes. Do not believe the lies coming out of Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education. They care more about corporate profit than your child. It doesn’t matter if your kid is smart. It doesn’t matter if you are Democrat or Republican. What matters is your child, and their education. This is not education. It is a mockery of education.
Please give the principal of your child’s school a letter on Monday morning indicating you are opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Let the school know you want your child to receive academic instruction while the other kids are taking the test. If they tell you that you can’t opt your child out, look them in the eye and say “Yes I can, and if you make my child take this test I will call the police.” To get support from other parents, please join the Opt Out Caesar Rodney Facebook group.