Shielding the perpetrator, blaming the victim
A letter to the Grant Joint Union High School District Board of Trustees
about dangerously abusive, illegal practices in their schools.

Jim Hall, President
Grant Joint Union High School District
Board of Trustees
1333 Grand Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95838

April 12, 1990

Dear Mr. Hall:

According to our information, certain practices which are illegal, unprofessional and dangerous to students allegedly occurred, and may be continuing to occur at two schools within the Grant Joint Union High School District.

Most serious of those practices is the alleged assault and battery of pupils, resulting, on at least one occasion, in the injuring of a child. This occurred at Don Julio Junior High during the 1988-89 school year. On this occasion, the pupil allegedly was slam-dunked into his seat by the teacher, then pulled out of the seat and thrown against the wall, then grabbed and thrown out of the room where he landed against a post. The result was a visible contusion approximately 2 inches in length on the child's right side in the region of the kidney and finger marks where he was grabbed by the teacher. (This organization holds photographs of the child showing the injury.) Corporal punishment, defined in Education Code 49000 - 49001 as "...the willful infliction of, or wilfully causing the infliction of, physical pain on a pupil...," has been illegal in California since January 1, 1987.

We believe that the alleged manhandling of pupils by certain personnel in the school district is commonplace, that justifications given for such behavior are too readily accepted by administrators and that complaints by victims are ignored or may even result in subsequent harassment of the complainant.

Another form of illegal corporal punishment is reportedly practiced at Foothill Farms Junior High School. Some pupils can be forced to execute various calisthenic procedures for reasons of punishment. Since these pain-inducing activities are not voluntarily engaged in by the pupil, they are in direct contravention of Education Code 49000 - 49001.

Also, we are aware that at Foothill Farms Junior High School certain schoolchildren who are over-weight reportedly have been required to exercise beyond the limit of their ability, i.e., to exercise to the point of exhaustion. In addition to being a violation of 49000 - 49001 of the Education Code, this practice is both physically and psychologically dangerous to the child and can have long term adverse consequences. Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education is aware of two recent suicides by schoolchildren (not in the Grant Joint Union High School District) who became severely depressed after being routinely humiliated by their teachers for being over-weight.

One particular teacher at Foothill Farms Junior High School allegedly selects certain students whom he deputizes as "captains" and authorizes them to impose forced calisthenics as punishment on their peers. We have been told this by two students, one of whom was such a "captain." Reportedly the "captains" are trusted by their teacher to use their own discretion as to whom they cite for punishment, how much punishment they give and for what reasons. The risks incurred by this system of management become obvious if we consider what might happen if a "captain" orders a child with whom he is having a personal feud to do thirty push-ups and the punishee, who is asthmatic, has an attack while doing the punishment.

We believe that parents who object to any of the above-mentioned practices run the risk of having their children subjected to retaliation. The above-mentioned child who allegedly was thrown against the post at Don Julio Junior High School, claims to have been grabbed and shaken this year by a teacher at Foothill Farms Junior High School and to have seen the same mistreatment inflicted on other pupils. His parent complained to the school and to the police after both incidents, but to no effect. To our knowledge, school authorities did not, in either instance, communicate suspected child abuse to law enforcement authorities nor to Child Protective Services as they are mandated to do pursuant to Penal Code 11165, et. seq.

On the March 3, 1990 this same child was suspended for 5 days. He reportedly was not given a hearing nor any opportunity to explain the behavior which lead to his suspension. Denial of due process contravenes Education Code 48900, et. seq., as well as the Constitution of the United States. What ostensibly lead to the suspension was his possession two wire staples which he was twisting and bending as he sat at his desk. His teacher confiscated the staples and during the next period, he was called to the Principal's office and told he was suspended. The Suspension Notice dated 3-13-90 gives this reason for the suspension: "possession of dangerous object (twisted staple in a pointed position)."

It would appear that the only consequence of the parent's allegations of assaults on her child has been the alleged on-going harassment of the child. It appears that the school is aggressively attempting to manufacture a dossier on this child as a kind of insurance to create the impression that he is a discipline problem, that he deserves what he gets and that his parent is a complainer without credibility. The parent has felt compelled to remove him from the school for the sake of his physical and emotional well-being and he is currently in a home study program.

Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education believes that certain school personnel within the Grant Joint Union High School District have been violating provisions of the Education Code and Penal Code with impunity. We also believe that there is a marked lack of diligence, apparently compounded by an absence of will, on the part of local law enforcement to carry out its investigative duties regarding allegations of child abuse as required by Penal Code 11166(g).

Jordan Riak,
Executive Director

cc: All members of the California State Assembly Education Committee and the California State Senate Education Committee; District Attorney Steve White; Attorney General John K. Van de Kamp; Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig.

Soon after sending the above letter, I received a telephone call from a person claiming to be an attorney representing the school district. She asked me what our next move was. The question caught me completely off guard. I thought the next move was theirs -- to clean up their mess. I was very na´ve that way. I heard nothing more from the school district, nor anything at all from any of the copy addressees.
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