Saturday, October 31, 2015

Florin High and most other schools maintain secrecy, keep voters in the dark about what is going on

Most public schools are desperate to keep the public from knowing about problems in schools. School board members' primary goal is to present a smooth, unruffled surface to the public, and to hide the serious problems lurking underneath that surface. They expect administrators to make sure this happens. 

Why is it so important to schools to cover-up problems? Two reasons:

1) Board members want to get reelected;
2) Board members and administrators and teachers want to make their jobs as easy as possible.

I have said for years that school board elections are a farce because the public doesn't know what is going on in schools.

Schools do NOT have a legal right to stop students from talking about matters of public interest.

 “I don’t want this to become a First Amendment rights issue..." said one Florin High administrator. No, of course not. Schools want the right to keep secrets.

 Florin High’s punishment of student whose video went viral draws free speech questions
By Loretta Kalb and Diana Lambert
Sacramento Bee
October 29, 2015

After Florin High School suspended a student who recorded a cafeteria melee this week on her cell phone, free speech experts said Friday that administrators may have overreached by disciplining someone who captured video in a public gathering place. The video recorded by Tiana Johnson, 15, quickly went viral, airing on “Inside Edition” and landing on several national news media sites.

It brought unwanted attention to the campus, where Principal Don Ross decried the negative light cast on the school and called it “hurtful” to students. Johnson received a three-day suspension for recording the fight, filing “inflammatory” remarks on social media and declining to “write a statement” about her actions, according to school paperwork.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Could that video threaten the Principal's job security? Is that why the student is being punished?]

That disciplinary move drew questions from Johnson’s parents and free speech experts.

 “She had a right to be where she was and she took the video and she posted it online,” said Jim Ewert, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. He noted that the cafeteria was crowded and not private. “That’s protected activity. To the extent that she’s being disciplined for having done that, it violates state law.”...

Just four days after the Florin incident, student video that appeared to show a McClatchy High School teacher wrestling a student from his desk to the ground resulted in the teacher’s arrest on Friday.

[Maura Larkins' comment:  If this video had not been made, would this assault by a teacher have been concealed? I have seen many illegal actions concealed in Chula Vista Elementary School District. Many, if not most, school districts violate the law to protect officials and teachers who have political influence.]

 During Monday’s altercation, a student slammed [Florin High principal] Ross to the floor of the cafeteria as he tried to break up the fight. Three students – two 15-year-olds and a 13-year-old – were arrested and sent to juvenile hall. They have not been identified because they are minors.

Johnson started her suspension Friday, four days after the brawl that involved eight to 10 students. After Ross was thrown to the floor, he jumped back up in an effort to restrain his assailant. He and two other school officials suffered minor injuries.

The district’s order of Johnson’s home suspension came Monday afternoon and was shared with The Bee by a family member. It complains that Johnson disrupted school activities “and otherwise willfully defied the valid authority” of those engaged in performing their duties. The details of the decision do not cite the specific language of the school handbook that she is accused of violating. District officials said they are unable to comment on any disciplinary action. The 90-page student handbook does bar students from using electronic devices to make audio and/or video recordings that infringe upon the privacy rights of students and or staff. It makes no mention of social media. But it says parents may appeal a suspension.

Keith Mims, coordinator of student support and health services for the Elk Grove Unified School District, said he did not want the discussion to focus on freedom of expression. “I don’t want this to become a First Amendment rights issue as opposed to safety,” he said.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Isn't it secrecy that the school is worried about in this case, not safety?]

“The school was embarrassed,” Johnson said. He said that he and his daughter wondered if she would have faced suspension if she had recorded something that put the school in a positive light. 

 Read more here: