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A disturbing report at an elementary school

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, January 20th, 2011 at 7:28 pm in elementary schools, investigations, safety.

Oakland school district officials are investigating a report that two second-graders engaged in oral sex in their classroom while the teacher was present. They’re also looking into a complaint that, in the same classroom and in front of the teacher, some students were taking off their clothes and clowning around.

The teacher, who has been placed on administrative leave, apparently told school officials he was unaware of either incident — both of which reportedly happened last week. The principal got the report on Wednesday, immediately after a child told a staff member about it, said OUSD Spokesman Troy Flint.

After conducting multiple interviews, Flint said, “We believe the substance of the story is true.”

Here is a copy of the letter that went home to Markham families today.

Ug. Any Markham parents or teachers out there?

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  • Jacob

    Gee You;

    I think you are missing the point in regards to Charlie’s post. Charters are not perfect nor are they the sole solution. If Im not mistaken, that is not what was posed.

    Charters by law, have a 5 year existence window before having to go before the board to be judged and in fact shut down. Traditional schools do NOT have this level of scrutiny.

    That is the essence as I understand it Gee. But I do not want to speak to anothers idea.

    However, Susan brings up an excellent poitn… OUSD’s reputatation has undergone a series of tarnishes including the boaed member misconduct that was in fact very sketchy.

    What did they do to him? In this case they throw the teacher under the bus and not administration……typical.

  • Catherine

    I am still trying to process the information. I, too, have witnessed inappropriate sexual interactions in my middle school classrooms. I redirect behavior, separate students, report when appropriate, and attempt to have conversations with parents and guardians.

    This is all so very sad.

    My students are in the range of 11 – 13 years old. I have about 1/3 of my students parents in the age range of 26 – 30. What this means is that the parents of my students were engaged in similar or more sexualized behavior at roughly the same age. I have heard parents say there is nothing they can do; that it’s just “the age”; or that they’re okay with being a “young grandparent.”

    It is all so very sad.

  • Alice Spearman

    Jacob,
    The teacher was not thrown under the bus. Proper protocal states any employee involved in such matters will be put on administrative leave until the matter is throughly investigated. The employee has not lost any of the employee’s rights,(compensation,medical, etc.), also the employee has union representation. If the alleged charges are unfounded, the employee will return to the previous post. All per contract language.
    The board member you are referring to was not found guilty of any crime, but he was censored by the sitting board, we had no authority to remove him. However the member was re-elected by his city constiuency of District 6 in November, 2010, he ran unopposed, which says a lot!

  • A_concerned_teacher

    It’s the “thoroughly investigated” part, though, that genuinely should have happened before a letter like that went out. Right now, we have secondhand-from-seven-year- olds tarnishing the man’s reputation on what seems, with the media jumping on another “look at crazy Oakland” bandwagon, to be quickly reaching a global scale.

    No, his name isn’t out there yet. But I could get it in ten minutes if I were so inclined. And so could most people reading this.

    I know teachers accused of physical abuse against students: as a special education teacher working with students who were physically aggressive and needed at times to be physically restrained, I experienced these allegations myself once when a bystander thought he saw a child being hit, rather than a child hitting me. A thorough investigation cleared me, cleared another colleague, and is in the slow, steady process of clearing a third: imagine what it would have been like if the media had gotten hold of these stories before they ran their course.

    I really think the administrator needs to be called on the carpet for this. If I were a teacher at that site, I’d feel pretty darn shaky on a good number of levels right now.

  • ousd funemployed

    Why is this teachers rights to privacy more important then a parents right to make good choices about where they send there kids? If he didn’t do nothing wrong then his name will be cleared. If nobody knows who he is and then the district is just going to sweep this under the rug and move him to a different school. I don’t want my kids in a room with a teacher who lets something like this happen and doesn’t even see nothing. At least with the sick ousd member we know his name and we can keep our kids away.

    I’m not saying this teacher did something wrong. I don’t know but I don’t trust the district to tell me the truth so if I don’t know him then I can’t protect my kids. Then who will?

  • Jenna

    One of my sons is no longer in the district. he secured an interdistrict transfer to another district and is doing very well.

    The district he is in also had inappropriate sexual behavior – the difference between how the two districts handled the situation was as different as night and day – Parents who had email were sent an email blast that included the letter that was sent home. Counselors were many and were available to all students, not just students in the class(es) and there was a list of references, websites and books that discussed appropriate and inappropriate sexual behavior by children’s ages.

    Parents could also receive counseling through the district counselors.

    Our situation is also under investigation. In our case the police were called and the case is being investigated and sorted there.

    I have not read about the students involved. One thing that came out of the issue in the other school district is that family support services investigated the home of the student and closed their case.

    Oakland has tried to hold up their part, if they could learn two things by this action, my opinion would be that they need to more quickly send information home to parents and teachers at the school, an email including the letter as an attachment is most appropriate (they may have done so with the teachers in the school, I don’t know, but I have not heard any parents state they were emailed with information) and counseling should be made to all families in the school and it should include information about age appropriate exploration and inappropriate sexual activity.

  • Shiela Nathaniels

    There are rumors going around that Markham’s test scores aren’t legit. In fact, I’ve heard rumors about cheating in several OUSD elementary schools, from teachers and from administrators.

    A board member in this thread is making consistent spelling mistakes in her posts. Another board member was caught having an affair with a minor a few years ago. The board president is a nice guy, but he is clueless.

    OUSD is a joke and charters are going to overtake the district because teachers and administrators are not let go when they can’t do their jobs. This entire system doesn’t work. Go see Waiting For Superman.

    How can oral sex happen in a 2nd grade classroom without the teacher knowing? Did the teacher leave the room? Was he asleep? C’mon Oakland. Our kids deserve better.

  • J.R.

    Shiela,
    While all those things that you mention “do happen” in our education system, there is very little known of this “sexual” incident at this time. This may be overblown, or a mis-interpretation so just let the investigation finish before tossing blame just yet. Waiting for Superman is good(somewhat slanted), but anyone who cares to investigate the claims can see that there are big problems with the education system, and it needs an complete overhaul badly.

  • OaklandNeighbor

    A message to parents
    “DO NOT TRUST ANYBODY!” do your job keep your children safe participate in classrooms, especially when the kids are young. Question everything! 20kids = 20 parents rotate be in alert of what’s happening in class and school. Kids get intimidated when they see parents around.
    SOME teachers don’t care for your kids they get paid regardless if they teach or are at home, the UNION protects them. That is why I chose Charter schools for my kids, after bad experience at Oakland Public schools.
    NOT all Charter schools are good either so parents take the time to check who you leave your children with, at the end of the day its worth so much.

  • Social(ist) Justice

    From what I understand, one of the students admitted to the act. It must be reported because of all tthe students in the class being exposed to “the act”, and Alice S. is right, there is something wrong with the votership if a board member (CD) can have an affair with a teen and get re-elected. There is not enough genuine interest in OUSD-everone wants to be mayor!! This case if easily solved bc the teacher was in the room and should be held liable for any action that occurs in his presence. If it was an INJURY to the student that rule would apply. Somebody needs to look at the household bc my second-grader isn’t performing fellatio!

  • AC Mom

    Post #37 Edit: Sentence two, paragraph two should read. “made about the classroom TEAHCER,”.

    Ms. Spearman:

    Thank you for your response. I do visit my child’s school as often as I can. But, that brings up another point, perhaps better suited for another discussion, but since you are listening…Some teachers/schools actively encourage parents to visit and to be involved and others do not. Although, parents are never barred from visiting (with the exception of those parents restraining orders and the like), some teachers definitely give the vibe that they would rather not see parents in their classroom. If OUSD wants increase parental support and involvement, then a teacher’s lack of enthusiasm for a parent even sitting in the class can certainly put one off from contributing their time or talent to the school, and quite frankly a teacher’s reluctance can set of some alarms about what is actually going on. Personally, I will just show up if I am concerned about what’s going on in my child’s classroom, so it doesn’t affect me that much, but I must admit that I am irked by a teacher that holds that opinion.

    One of the qualities that seems (I say seems because I am basing this on my personal experience and not empirical data) to distinguish higher performing schools (even when you factor income and education into the equation) is the level of parental involvement at the site. Head Start and Even Start build that into their programs; in fact program sites are evaluated in part by the level of parent participation. What can we take from that model to create a school community? Of course, an attitudinal shift is the first step.

    With respect to the Markham case, one of the many lessons learned should be that the district require that any statements sent to parents/public about matters that might result in staff and/or student disciplinary action (or as in this case result in a CPS investigation) be thoroughly vetted by OUSD Counsel and probably the Superintendent before it is distributed. Such a policy should be implemented immediately.

  • Starshaped

    “The teacher’s name will be cleared in the end if he did no wrong.” The man that was accused of the Atlanta bombing was cleared by the FBI but he still was looked at sideways until the day he died. This man’s reputation is going to continued to be tarnished.

    I don’t believe protocal was followed. The principal found out about the allegations on Wednesday and released a statement to the public on Thursday. The district should have done an investigation first. CPS should have been called. Witness statement should be filed. None of this should have been made public until all of this was done.

  • livegreen

    Jenna, Sounds like the other district made resources & knowledge available. Was the press brought in and was it kept for days as THE headline store? Of course maybe info was given to families at this school too, and it just wasn’t reported on. Remember just because something was reported, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

    Finally, regarding the Police being brought in, understand that would simply not happen, or be acceptable, in Oakland.

  • Katy Murphy

    A couple of things:

    One, I wouldn’t say the press was “brought in” to the story. I understand that a parent contacted KTVU. Once the story was out, the OUSD administration reported to the media what it had shared with the families.

    Secondly, the police have been brought in to investigate the Markham report. OPD, as well as the Oakland Schools Police, are involved.

    Maybe the letter that went out in Jenna’s district revealed less about the alleged incident. Maybe families at her son’s school decided to keep the story private. Maybe, even if an outraged parent had contacted a local news outlet, the story wouldn’t have been such a media sensation because it didn’t involve a city with a reputation quite like Oakland’s (or the details weren’t quite so shocking).

    It’s possible that if Markham and OUSD had held off on informing families about the investigation until more was known, or if the letter had been more cryptic, the story wouldn’t have blown up like it did. On the other hand, it might have led to more questions, rumors and accusations of a cover-up. Who knows.

  • Sue

    I hate to say it, but if not for this blog, its the same as most sensationalist stories…its dissappearing.

    The sad part is that their are kids involved. Has anyone though of the other kids who may have wtinessed it? What about the so called stripping incident in this class- what happened in that case? Weere parents notified?

    A few years ago (2006?) there was an alleged sexual assault at Brett Harte Middle. My child did not go there but she knew. I was dumfounded because how could the kids know but not adults know about this? My daughter did not go to Brett Harte bu learned about it on the bus;(the story was confirmed by the school via mail).

    How many other times has this happened in schools yet we know nothing?

  • livegreen

    Katy, I looked back at your more detailed story and it does say “the investigation is continuing with school district police officers and the city’s special victims unit.”

    Now I don’t know if by “the city’s” it means Oakland PD or another agency. I was contemplating why it was easy for a reader to miss this. Maybe it was such a brief mention. Maybe because the words weren’t capitalized. Maybe in such a hot topic it shows the importance to read calmly and carefully (as always). Maybe it’s because the facts were intermingled in between the fears of parents and the questions (not the answers) surrounding the story.

    http://www.insidebayarea.com/news/ci_17161104

    I agree with you that if OUSD had released no information the parents would have heard more & more rumors anyway (as they did) and then been labeled a coverup.

    Did, in fact, the school and/or OUSD give resources to the parents to better understand age appropriate and inappropriate sexual activity? To me this impacts how well OUSD handled the situation.

    PS. In that same link there’s a clip of Chanel 7 News coverage, that makes it sound like the teacher knew about this, without a direct accusation: “Some students say the teacher allowed this to happen more than once…”.

    Is Channel 7 quoting students? Or are they ad-libbing? Does “allow” mean the teacher knew or didn’t? Words and who said what matters.

    PPS. Troy Flint and some of the parents come out quite rational. Much more so than the Channel 7 News casters.

  • Katy Murphy

    Yes, the special victim’s unit is part of OPD. I guess that wasn’t very clear. Sorry about that.

  • Katy Murphy

    I emailed Troy Flint, OUSD’s spokesman, today to see if there were any updates in the Markham case. Here is what he had to say (well, write) about the investigation, the district’s counseling response and the timing of the disclosure:

    “There is nothing further to reveal at this time concerning the alleged incident at Markham. Our internal investigation continues and we are working with OPD’s Special Victims Unit to provide any required assistance with their own, separate investigation.

    We also continue to work with the school to provide counseling services. The Crisis Manager for Region 3 (which includes Markham) is a veteran psychologist with the District. She was on-site Friday morning to assist the school psychologist. They spoke to the class as a whole and conducted separate, more in-depth discussions with the students thought to be more directly affected. The intent was to “reestablish safety, hear the students’ feelings, and help them process what had happened.” To this end, the school psychologist was provided support in the classroom throughout the day. Today (Monday), the school psychologist did follow-up and spoke to additional students.

    Further instruction (“good and bad touching”, etc.) from a member of the Special Victims Unit will be provided in the near future, but is on hold until the investigation is complete. The Principal has been meeting constantly with parents to hear and address their concerns and will do so for as long as necessary.

    The level of public disclosure in this case was heavily influenced by the fact that, due to a tip, KTVU had an explicit account of the allegations right at the outset. Obviously, it’s headline grabbing material and the station was not going to sit on the exclusive. This development prevented the completion of a discreet investigation without the knowledge of the media or the general public. Once it was clear the story was going to run, OUSD took steps to inform parents (via a letter vetted by Legal) so they could receive the news from the source.

    It’s interesting to note that last year there was a very public allegation of a sexual act taking place at an OUSD school (not an elementary school). At the time, OUSD tried to complete the investigation before providing parental notification so the quality of the investigation would not be compromised. This plan was thwarted when a KTVU reporter received a tip and ran a story before we were able to notify parents. We were criticized rather heavily for not notifying parents sooner, including by many posters to the Education Report blog. A recurring theme held that parents should be notified immediately so they can decide how to respond in the way that’s best for this children and that delayed notification interferes with this process. Others suggested that OUSD was attempting to cover-up the incident. A year later, the District is being criticized for providing too much information, too soon.

    As far as configuration is concerned, there is nothing exceptional about the room where the alleged incident occurred.”

  • Jenna

    The incident was reported in the press. However, by the time the press had the story the parents knew more than was reported in the headline. This was comforting (in an otherwise frightening set of events that involved a teacher and student).

    This particular school district also notifies WITHIN THE HOUR when there are things like a man exposing himself on a route to school regularly used by students, a car pulled over and attempted to talk to students two days in a row, an attempted kidnapping of a teen girl. Over the past two years these four incidents happened. One may say that’s a lot to happen in two years. May it’s true and maybe not – but I put out to this blog – how many OUSD principals have the authority to send an email blast and a flyer home on such incidents within an hour. I don’t believe any do have that authority or would even pay attention to a car stopping and talking to students unless there was an attempt to take a child.

    There was a mentally disturbed naked man who was walking near some of the hills elementary schools a few years back. It took a district approved flyer home several days after the first sighting to have it reported to parents.

    The only principal that I know that comes close to this type of reporting is at Oakland Tech. But even that takes a couple of days or more.

    In Oakland we seem to be significantly more concerned about what “everyone thinks” than how to inform the parents who then can inform the students served by the district.

    To those parents who talk about “more resources” – it takes almost no resources to send an email blast. It takes few resources to send home a letter or flyer. When my sons were in elementary school, the one in OUSD middle school and even high school, papers with information about fundraising, activities on campus and camps/lessons come home at least twice a week.

  • Ms. J.

    I have to say, given the fact that whatever the OUSD does is wrong, I’m surprised posters haven’t yet blamed the district (or teachers) for what happened in Tucson. Or at the Moscow airport.

    Seriously, this is a terrible, terrible thing. Many different groups of people may or may not have acted in wise or unwise ways in their reactions to it.

    But the idea that OUSD should be blamed for every sickness in the community is pure scapegoating, and it demonstrates just how effectively the education ‘reform’ folks have managed to demonize educators.

  • harlemmoon

    Hang in, Troy.
    This one’s “unwinnable.”
    Betwixt Monday-morning quarterbacks and the know-it-alls, you are truly damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  • J.R.

    “it demonstrates just how effectively the education ‘reform’ folks have managed to demonize educators”.

    I would also say the huge percentages of ill prepared students(that far outnumber the poverty stats btw), and the horrendous costs involved have something to do with the taxpaying public’s opinion as well. I will go on saying it, if the public education monopoly was doing its job nobody would have ever paid any attention to any reformers.

  • J.R.

    Ms.J
    So are “the reformers” just making this stuff up, or what?

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/25/BAH11HDK7G.DTL&tsp=1

    Some people are in serious denial.

  • Charlie G.

    Ms. J- obviously there is nothing one could say to you to change your mind- not even hard data facts. You are a unionist school district supporter true and true, and others are school reformers that cannot be swayed either.

    The battle is for the community, families, and parents minds. In inner city districts like OUSD- thats where your side will eventually los footing.

    Figures and historical data cannot lie.

    Are you a relative of the Dr.J?

  • AH

    Shades of the McMartin pre-school – false memories, and innocent adults thrown into prison on the testimony of children. (Wikipedia).

    The ’70s & ’80s were rife with this type of hysteria.

    So, what’s next – blood sacrifices, flying witches, underground tunnels, orgies at car washes and airports?
    (Wikipedia)

    Per Troy Flint, I don’t really understand the need for a psychologist. Did anything really happen? Does this alleged incident have direct bearing on the kids’ perception of safety? I’m curious.

    Considering the ham-handed interviews conducted in McMartin and others, I wonder how many false memories are going to result in this instance.

  • Ms. J.

    So, JR and Charlie G, you are saying that this incident is OUSD’s fault? And I am a ‘unionist’ if I question that?

    I am just asking you to reflect on that question. You are maintaining that I am in denial if I question the idea that this terrible incident, the details of which we don’t yet know, is the fault of Oakland Schools? That is what I am asking.

    I have been reading Pedro Noguera recently. In Public Schools and The American Dream he states that one thing that will need to happen in order for public schools to succeed is for teachers to be willing to change, to expand, their idea of what a school’s function is. I am struggling with this challenge, but to the extent that I am willing to accept it I want it to be made explicit. Schools are now expected to feed, clothe, and nurture students in ways that families used to be expected to do. No doubt some families have never done so, and no doubt some teachers have always filled in the gaps. But I don’t think we should criticize today’s schools for the poverty and desperation of the larger society.

  • J.R.

    “I don’t think we should criticize today’s schools for the poverty and desperation of the larger society”.

    What I am telling you is that the education system has become nothing more than an employment service where a sizeable amount of the teaching is mediocre at best, and the system is inundated with overpaid unnecessary bureaucrats. The real problems started decades ago when the safety net became a hammock. With the benefits(welfare,afdc,subsidized housing), even totally irresponsible people could have children, a home and even get tax refunds even though technically they don’t pay taxes(except sales)though not in reality. People wanted to support irresponsible people and now they have procreated 2-3 generations of irresponsible offspring. We are paying the price for that now.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/25/BAQB1HE0PQ.DTL

  • livegreen

    Katy, When Jena made comments about what the other district is doing, she said they gave parents resources for further reading. Now I don’t know if that was just to the students at the school, or to the broader District. But this incident has created conversations in the broader OUSD community, and at many schools. Namely, what’s normal and what’s not? & how do we handle any similar incident?

    With this in mind, could OUSD not share further info on what is age appropriate & what’s not?

    Of course we can search online on our own. There’s a world of self-described experts out there and the challenge is not knowing who truly is and who isn’t. That’s where OUSD could step in and help the knowledge-base. & demonstrate it’s viability as a resource.

    This demonstrates once again that OUSD is challenged at communications.
    (& so is the press).

  • Charile G.

    Mrs. J;

    Inner cities schools have been about everything else other than education for 3 generations now. There are food dives, clothing drives, protests, community meetings…you name it but student perfomance down right disgraceful. Anf yes teachers, and educrats are to pay for this as are liberal minded politicians who kids do not even attend inner city schools.

    And more to your point….union leaders and their cronies have demonized school reformers right?

    As I said…families will vote with their feet!

  • Cadnerd

    One small question. Does anyone have any idea, logistically, how this could happen without the teacher seeing? Are these classrooms so big that the kids could hide behind bookshelves or something? I know it sounds stupid, but I just couldn’t get my head wrapped around the simplest part of this…
    Do people think the teacher sat there and watched? Or that is happened so fast that the teacher missed it? Or that the teacher was actually not present or sleeping or what????
    Or maybe it didn’t really happen and the kids made it up? Even if the teacher is a poster child for anti-teacher union school reform, I just can’t see how something like this could happen in practice…

  • Catherine

    Cadnerd: Here are a couple of ways it could happen – I am not suggesting that things did happen this way: 1) Two students were physically fighting as is common in many schools. The teacher has been told to work with the students in a way that preserves self-esteem (common in OUSD). Teacher pulls students apart. Takes them to a quiet place in the back of the class. Turns back to class while getting down on one knee to make eye level contact. Asks each boy what happened, listens to each boy for about 4 minutes, gives suggestions and feedback – total interaction time 16 minutes with teacher paying attention to students who will attack each other again if given the chance.

    2) Teacher takes one student outside, then the other leaving students in the class alone for about 15 minutes.

    3) Students are working in groups – a group at the computers, another listening to books on tape, another writing stories, another creating artwork to go with their stories. The teacher works with the group on the computer and has his back to the students listening to the books on tape. One student slips below the table.

    4) Students are working on math contracts. One group is doing tangrams, another is doing math with blocks, another is working on the computer – - – similar scenario to #3.

    The list can go on and on. Because there are many students who do know have self-discipline, particularly those who have not learned it at home, they do not know how to behave when given tasks to work in small groups. That is why many teachers in schools where students have discipline problems have been warned over and over “Never turn your back to the students in the class, never!” It is the mantra of teaching credential programs for urban education, of professional development courses and of district leaders. This is the reason why when asked why there is no creativity in the Title 1 classrooms, teachers have a difficult time. If students cannot be trusted to work in groups of four or six because they do not behave in a socially acceptable way – or even a few students in the class cannot be trusted to behave, all students must learn while sitting at their desks having the teacher up front giving the lecture telling students when to pick up their pencil and when to put it down.

    That is the reality of the situation when we have students who do not behave in a socially acceptable way. When parents send students to school having watched R or X rates movies, watched adults having sex, watched sexually explicit video games, did not stop students behavior because it was “cute” at 4 or 5 or because “He didn’t mean anything by it” or “You always target students of color” or the myriad of other excuses you will have to constantly watch students, more like a guard than a guide. Because ultimately, we have a teacher that will likely lose a job when he may have been doing what the district had trained him to do, rather than separating out students who misbehave. Instead of saying “knock it off!” or filming students misbehaving and requiring parents to sit with students who misbehave and the misbehavior can be shown to parents and the district on video. Oh, and yes, video taping student and teacher behavior for the improvement of teaching practices is perfectly legal.

    It is time that students, yes, even second grade students and their parents be held as equally accountable for their behavior as parents. It is time for other students and parents of children who behave to demand that the district hold misbehaving students and their parents accountable for their actions. Only when the district begins to lose money because parents of well-behaved students pull those students from the district legally through inter-district transfers will the district take the responsibility of behavior seriously.

    I feel for these students, I really do. But it may be that someone’s career is at stake. Someone who did what the district defined as right.

  • AC Mom

    Catherine;

    A large number of students do pull their well behaved children out of the district. Of course I am equating well behaved with the ability to score “advanced” or “proficient” on the CST, but I think that most people would agree with that analogy.

    http://www.ibabuzz.com/education/2010/12/13/oaklands-middle-school-brain-drain/

    I do agree that parents need to be held accountable, but how does one do that?

  • Catherine

    AC Mom:
    You hold parents accountable by video recording the activity in your classroom that is disturbing. Some teachers currently record their classrooms for their own protection and to improve their teaching. You tie aid money to parents / guardians for taking care of children. This means that children / tweens / teens who display risky or unacceptable behavior by standards of agreement (children sit in chairs, do not crawl across floors, do not lie on their chairs and on the desktops, students do not use cell phones or text in class, girls to not intentionally lift their skirts to show what is underneath, boys do not unzip their pants, girls do not pull down the shoulders of their shirts to display their bra/camisole/lack of straps underneath). Students who display these behaviors must have a parent come and sit with the child all day to receive aid. For parents who work, they must take off time from work and come and sit with their children. Is this a burden. Yes. It is a burden for the parent and the teacher.

    As it stands now, I have students who have done all of the behaviors I have described above. When you say the burden is too high for parents to have to sit with their children. I say, yes, the burden / cost is high. The cost is also high for the other 30 students in the class with students who misbehave to the point of being socially unacceptable. And when you tell me parents simply cannot take time off work or you cannot require a parent on aid to sit with their child I would like to offer an alternative perspective: what you are saying is that the life of one adult is more important to you and to society than the lives of 30 children. Because if you allowed a grown man to expose himself to 30 adult women, we would consider it a crime worth prosecution. But when the person who exposes his genitals or sings in class “suck me” or who grabs girls around the waist to simulate sex is 8 or 10 or 12 it is more a burden to require parents to take action than it is to protect the others in the class.

    And by well-behaved, I was not referring to test scores at all. I was referring to students who arrive on time, sit in their seats, do not shout across the class, do not use cell phones and other electronics that parents have threatened me over when I have taken them away. I was referring to students who are well-behaved as students who when you ask them to take out their text book and turn to page 76, they take out their textbook and turn to page 76, they do not take out their lip gloss and apply it.

    I wish their were ways for the people on the blog to see what happens in classrooms in deep east Oakland and west Oakland in some of the “slope” schools where students have been shipped from relative to relative. I currently have a 13 year old boy who is partially deaf because his mother did not take him to the doctor soon enough after contracting meningitis. He survived. He has four siblings. His 18 year old sister is taking care of their 16 year old brother while their mother is still collecting aid on both boys. She’s doing so hoping he can stay in school until he graduates. She didn’t, she has an infant son and lives on aid in a housing project. The 13 year old boy slips out at night where he and his friends steal cars to go joy riding. He has been in the hospital after 2 crashes. Everything stops when he is in the hospital. Mother spends the aid on “her man.”

    And for every one of these boys I have another 5 – 8 in a class of 30 just like him. He has turned in exactly 2 assignments this semester. He has video games and a cell phone. He’s “cool with the ladies.”

    So the direct answer is teachers videotape the behavior that is unacceptable. It is viewed by at least one administrator and one other teacher. The panel of three deems the behavior unacceptable. At that point if parents want financial aid to take care of their children they must show up every day in class and actually take care of their child. Their other children are in schools with breakfast and lunch served with child care before and after school, so having to take care of other children is no excuse. Only when parents are held responsible for their children will the behavior stop.

  • Nextset

    Catherine: We are actually discussing the difference between a real school with real students and a ghetto pretend school with pretend students.

    A real school flunks out bad students. A real school expells or transfers bad acting students. A real school conveys the discipline standards early and often to the students and their families and will not hesitate to expel a student a day before graduation if that student crosses the line of tolerated behavior. And I’m not talking about the nonsensical zero tolerance malarky where a boy gets it for drawing a gun either. I’m talking of the decision a principal makes in consultation with teaching staff that a student is no longer appropriate to be retained because they don’t fit the program and you don’t want to expose the class to him or her any further.

    OSUD really does believe the OUSD students are unworthy of a real school and they collectively are no better than the bad actors anyway (there’s your racism…). And this is the difference between OUSD schools and Piedmont/Moraga type schools.

    The families had just better vote with their feet. Actually, they are.

    As far as why the teaching staff remains at bad schools – that’s another discussion.

    Brave New World.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Catherine, you have shared with us many of the difficulties and frustrations you have faced in your teaching, but surely there must also be positive experiences and successes you have had. Would you share some of those with us?

  • works in Oakland high school

    Catherine, thanks for telling it like it is. I wish there were more teachers who thought like you. Once in my education class I asked the prof what one does if there is a 16-year old boy who doesn’t want to be in class and learn and is disruptive. I was angrily told that doesn’t happen and if it does it is my fault and that all children want to learn. The teachers who teach education classes are completely out of touch with reality. The constant use of cell phones, Ipods, makeup using, is constant throughout classses in high school. At least one fourth are engaged in this behavior in the class I observe daily and that is
    “well behaved” class with a good, albeit new and young, teacher.
    When I was an intern I was admonished because a child had pages missing from his textbook so how could he read? The child was the one who had ripped out the pages of the textbook and who had written grafitti all over it – yet it was the teacher’s fault. I had taken the class from a teacher who had quit due to lack of administrative backup for the behavior problems so there was no record of which book had beeen assigned to whom, which gave license to the students to destroy them, and they did.
    The idea of taping the classroom is great – it should be done in all classses whre there are children whose parents think the teachers are picking on them and who can’t believe their angels could act that way – it should also be used to tape those who are just disruptive on a daily basis so the princupal and parents can see what is going on. Get them out of the classroom! If they can’t behave like students, they need to either go to a place for kids who don’t want to behave or as Catherine suggests, have mom come to the classroom and stay with her kid and tie the aid to it. If the kid reverts to his previous behavior, then mom or dad comes back. Bet it won’t happen more than once.

  • livegreen

    San Leandro has a school for the most disruptive kids. It is too bad for them but itsbetter than dragging the rest of the student population with them. Does OUSD have such a school? What IS OUSD HQ doing to support it’s teachers and schools deal with such disruptive children, both before it gets to a point of no return, and after?

    Is there a well spelled out process or not? (This would b good for every body, in addition to spelling out resources).

    This issue of disruptive behavior keeps coming up, yet we hear nothing from OUSD about it. It would b nice to know what’s being done to improve things, if anything.

  • AC Mom

    Catherine:

    Thank you for responding, and I agree with you 100%. If the school that I was assigned to had the reputation for behavior that you describe, I would not send my child to school there. I would move, apply for a charter, work two jobs to pay for private or parochial school, whatever it took. My point is parents “voting with their feet” already occurs; OUSD knows this as enrollment has been declining for years, especially in the middle and high school ranks. As a parent of an OUSD student, I can honestly say that I feel that I do not have a voice as far as what the district chooses to pursue. Is that perceotion inaccurate, perhaps, but it is one shared by many. All that I can do is what is best for my child, right now I am satisfied with what occurs at his elementary school, but, if needed, I too would pull my child from OUSD.

    In the end, I hope that your words are passed onto someone (or someones) that can make the changes that you speak of, or at the very least put those changes in motion.

  • Catherine

    At the request of Steven, I will give examples of students who are doing good to excellent work against many obstacles. The vast majority of my students are not working to grade level. Some of the students are able to make it into the “proficient” category, in one area of the CST, however, their writing often does not begin with capital letters or end with an end mark. Despite this, and some arrangements for students to hand in and receive their work back “on the sly” to avoid embarrassment from peers for trying hard and reworking essays over and over, the following students produce excellent work and generally have what I would describe as “scholarly behavior.” To protect the identities I have changed the names of my students.

    Jabari is 13, a little older than his peers, he and his sister are being raised by their mom who had his sister at 17. Jabari’s reading of expository text in elementary school was the Bible. Jabari used the information from the Bible to help his classmates argue against the spread of Islam, while he, himself, through a flip of the coin had to argue for the spread of Islam. (6th grade standards in social studies)

    Kenesha is 11 and her single mother is 25. They just moved into their own apartment after living with grandma. Kenesha recently finished the book Tom Sawyer and wrote an essay in defense of the language in the book based on its historical context. She argued that although there were parts of the book that offended her personally, she would not change it.

    Che is 12 and one of five children of an ice cream vendor and a mother who is a housekeeper for an Oakland motel. They live in a two-bedroom apartment, above a liquor store. Che came here three years ago and when he arrived in my classroom he spoke about 150 words in English. His reading was at a second grade six-month level in his native Spanish. He is now reading at fifth grade fifth-month and improving weekly. His vocabulary has improved. He writes about missing Mexico and of the sacrifice his entire family makes to get an education and improve their lives. He comes in every afternoon, faithfully, to make sure he does his homework, because his parents were incredibly disappointed to see his first “F”.

    Isabel lives with her grandmother and several cousins. I cannot get a parent in for a conference. She is at my door every morning, first thing. She has edited single pieces of writing up to seven times. First with capitalization and punctuation, then spelling, then subject verb agreement, and so on. She can tell you about the importance of the Hindu Kush mountain range and can explain the roots of the divide making two countries of Pakistan and India. Oh, and if you want to know why the Kashmir region is so important to both countries, Isabel is the person to ask.

    Aliyah has three sisters, a 28-year-old mother and a pregnant 14 year old sister. She is determined to make sure that she gets through high school and becomes a math professor. Although English and Social Studies are “not her thing” her social studies journal is meticulously kept. She wants to know where her future students come from because she is expecting to teach math in Oakland. Her writing improves everyday because she wants to be able to apply to the engineering academy at Oakland Tech for the math program. To get in she knows she will have to write an essay and advocate for herself.

    I have several other students such as these. I wish we knew what contributed to the resilience my students demonstrate. These students are what keep me in Oakland.

  • Nextset

    Catherine: Now just imagine what it would be like if the “scholary students” only went to school with other students who were scholarly.

    And the disruptive students had to go to a school for disruptive students and were not permitted on a scholarly campus.

    OUSD diserves good schools also, just like Piedmont.

  • Hot r

    This blog is heartbreaking all around. The most committed educators burn out under the strain in order to support the few resilient students. Teachers cannot by themselves overcome problems of poverty and ignorance. But the system also encourages rather than limits disruptive behavior by associating all discipline with racism.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Thank you for sharing these positive stories from your classes. I wish these students and you further success.