NASHUA — A week after a local father posted videos of his child being attacked at Fairgrounds Middle School by other students, Nashua parents say their own children are now afraid of going to school.
“A child is going to be seriously hurt, I feel like, before anybody wakes up and does something,” Sarah Wessel of Percheron Circle told the Board of Education this week.
Wessel claims that city schools are understaffed and administrators are not being held accountable to uphold existing discipline and bullying policies.
“In the meantime, we have children afraid to go to school. That is the problem, and nothing is being done about that,” said Wessel.
Last week, videos of a girl apparently being assaulted by other students at Fairgrounds Middle School were posted on social media sites by the victim’s father, who said he was desperate to have the situation resolved. The assaults sparked outrage by parents.
Two days later, Superintendent Jahmal Mosley announced that two administrators at Elm Street Middle School — Principal Ian Atwell and Vice Principal Kelly Holmes — were placed on administrative leave. Although no explanation for the action was offered, Heather Raymond, president of the Board of Education, said the situation at Elm Street was not related to the incidents at Fairgrounds.
“There has been zero communication about situations going on at the schools,” said parent Amy Doughty of Michelle Drive.
Another local parent, Paula Finn, said the bullying problem must be addressed. When her own daughter was bullied at a Nashua school, Finn said, she had to jump through hoops to get help from school administrators.
“There has to be a stop to this somehow … nothing is being done. They are being pushed aside and it is getting ignored,” Finn said of the bullying incidents.
“There is an active investigation going on right now,” said Mosley, urging that due process be allowed to take place.
Mosley said letters were sent to students discussing the topic, and updates and other communication will be provided on the district’s website. In addition, he said a student behavior task force is being formed, as part of the school district’s five-year strategic plan, to study some of these matters at all grade levels.
Juliet Gilbert of Upstone Drive has an eighth-grade son at Elm Street Middle School.
“He says he is not safe going to school,” Gilbert told the board.
Raymond said there is currently no evidence that the district has not been following its own policies.
Student privacy laws prevent the district from sharing the disciplinary action that is taken in specific situations, she said, explaining the perpetrator is a child that also has rights.
“The onus is never on the victim, so I think it is a good time for us to take some hard looks at our policies and procedures to make sure we are doing the best thing that we can,” added Raymond.
The board’s policy committee will be reviewing a proposed change to the school district’s student behavior standards. School board member Doris Hohensee is recommending amendments to the current policy.
Those changes include, in part, that “indisputable physical violence or assault by a student directed against another student or staff member, with corroborating evidence such as but not limited to video recordings … All students engaging in (these) Class IA offenses, other than the victim of the violence, shall be immediately removed from school until the situation is resolved.”
Hohensee said parents are asking for immediate assistance, as well as a long-term plan.
“This is a perfect crisis to get us focused on finding solutions for the parents and hopefully preventing it in the future,” she said, maintaining board members and parents are being shut out from the process.