Butterfield Ranch Elementary parents, including the mother who said her son was assaulted by a teacher at the Chino Hills campus, voiced more concerns at the Feb. 6 school board meeting in Chino.
In the past few weeks, the majority of the teachers at the school have asked for transfers because they said their principal Al Bennett had not supported them, particularly when it came to dealing with unruly students. Many of the parents supported the teachers’ claims and showed solidarity by keeping their children out of class for a day.
Monique Alexander, the mother of the 6-year-old special education student who said his kindergarten teacher grabbed him by the shirt and shoved him to the floor on Jan. 23, told the school board that she has “had to deal with parents attacking her” and that they are the reason her son can no longer attend his daycare or the Chino Valley school district’s BRIEF Academy, an interim program for special education students.
“While you’re outside with your posters, let’s remember that he’s 6 and that he still lives in the community,” Ms. Alexander said.
“My heart goes out to Mrs. B.C. (the kindergarten teacher), but in that moment she had a right to walk away. She should have walked away,” Ms. Alexander said
The assault had been reported by another teacher and Tina Bozikis-Coccia was arrested and given a court date for a misdemeanor charge of willful cruelty to a child, according to the Chino Hills Police Department.
Speaking on behalf of Ms. Alexander, Jaid Person Lind said she was “not desirous of any expensive lengthy litigation” and also said that she had not received support or empathy from Butterfield Ranch parents.
“I just want you to look at it from her perspective,” he said.
Butterfield Ranch parents protested with signs outside the school the week of Jan. 27 and told the media that they wanted Principal Bennett removed for not supporting the schools’ teachers, parents or special education students.
This school year, 24 tenured teachers have requested transfers from the school.
Four of them were placed on indefinite leave, including the kindergarten teacher, and two others.
Chino Valley school district public relations director Imee Perius, in a prepared statement said that effective Jan. 31, the district had retained an outside firm to investigate allegations involving personnel at Butterfield.
“The safety of our students and staff remains a top priority and as needed, employees may be placed on administrative leave during the investigation,” Mrs. Perius said. “Butterfield Ranch Elementary School parents have been notified about any staff leaves that may affect their child(ren)’s classrooms, and the district has taken necessary steps to ensure that student learning continues by assigning qualified employees as temporary classroom replacement(s) until further notice.”
She also said that because it was an active investigation, the district could not provide further details nor discuss confidential personnel matters.
Several Butterfield parents on Feb. 6 told the board the four teachers put on leave had made positive impacts on their students and that their absence has disrupted the students’ educations.
“The toxicity and stress at Butterfield Ranch have had insurmountable effects on everyone, especially our teachers,” parent Debra Johnson told the school board.
Country Springs Principal Tom Mackessy, representing CHAMP, the district’s management employee group, spoke in support of Mr. Bennett.
He said the situation was “an emotional lynching by a mob of angry parents” and “administrators usually feel the brunt of the mob.”
Mr. Mackessy also said the district needed to look into teachers and board members sharing confidential information.
Mr. Bennett now works in the district as “a principal on special assignment,” according to Mrs. Perius.
Laurie Warner has been assigned to Butterfield Ranch as an interim principal through the end of this school year.
Special education issues
Special education parent Keven Butscher said residents are “not happy by the slow reaction to concerns expressed by parents at the Jan. 16 school board meeting.”
“If this poor boy had been given behavioral support sooner, this would not have happened,” he said.
Mr. Butscher and other Butterfield Ranch parents have been advocating for better support from the district for special education students.
Peter Attwood, an advocate for special education parents and a frequent public speaker at Chino Valley school board meetings, publicly served Superintendent Norm Enfield with a federal court complaint at the Feb. 6 meeting.
Mr. Attwood has often spoken out at school board meetings against the district’s special education department for allegedly spending money on litigation to avoid providing special education services.
“If the district’s special ed department was totally indifferent, doing as little as possible, the kids would get better services for less money,” he said.
In an interview with the Champion, Mr. Attwood said students who have sensory processing issues, attention deficiencies, brain traumas, and other disabilities and are not having their needs met are often perceived as having behavior issues in classrooms.
Mrs. Perius said the school district is unable to respond to individual situations because of student privacy concerns, but that the district offers “a multitude of behavioral supports” for teachers and students.
A Second Step Curriculum is used by teachers of grades pre-kindergarten through eighth that focuses on student learning skills, empathy, emotional regulation and problem solving.
All district schools have implemented the PBIS system, Positive Behavior Intervention and Support, a California Department of Education program that establishes behavioral expectations at schools.
PBIS includes extensive teacher training throughout the school year for those who want additional support for student behaviors, Mrs. Perius said.
The PBIS system promotes a reduction to school suspensions.
State law prohibits schools from suspending or recommending expulsion for students enrolled in kindergarten or in grades 1-3 for disrupting activities or willful defiance.
New legislation in California starting July 2020 and continuing through July 1, 2025 will prohibit the suspension of students in grades 6-8 for those reasons.
Trustee Irene Hernandez-Blair has said that state laws limit the actions that could be taken by the school district.