Concerned Maple Grove Middle School parents asked the Osseo Area School Board to rethink the district’s discipline policy.
After a Dec. 16 physical altercation at Maple Grove Middle School resulted in a four-day suspension, rather than an expulsion for the students who instigated the fight, parents asked the board to look into changing school policy and examine the broader issue of bullying.
Erin Schindler, who’s daughter was beaten up in the incident prior to winter break, was the first parent to take the podium and publicly comment on the matter at the Jan. 28 school board meeting. “Two girls attacked her from behind, they punched and kicked her in the head over 35 times,” Schindler said.
After the assault, Schlinder said she and her family found comfort in reviewing school policy, because they were under the assumption that students who act out violently would be expelled. However, in this incident the students received a four-day suspension and one of the two was allowed back on the bus with Schindler’s daughter.
Schindler said school staff assigned the student on her daughter’s bus to the seat directly behind the bus driver and instructed the bus driver to call 9-1-1 if an issue arises.
Since Schindler and her family disagree with the disciplinary action that took effect, she asked the board to expel the students and listen to community concerns of Maple Grove Middle School parents. “There are some very serious concerns about the environment at the school. We do not want to add our three children to the 5,000 children who live in your district who have already chosen to receive education outside of Osseo schools,” she added.
Julie Ohman has two daughters that attend Maple Grove Middle School, one of which was part of the physical attack on Schindler’s daughter. Ohman said she was sorry for what happened — “I do not condone her behavior at all.”
Ohman told the board she adopted one of her daughters at birth and has been fostering her other daughter since last August. Within her public statement, she explained the difficult background and bullying her own daughters have endured, which has included both name-calling and being blamed for harassment of mistakes they haven’t committed. “I think it’s because of the color of their skin,” Ohman said.
In closing, Ohman said the safety of all students should be kept in mind.
Two other parents also spoke about separate bullying instances their children have encountered.
Heidi Segedy said she is also concerned with bullying and the discipline procedures at Maple Grove Middle School.
Segedy said her son experienced verbal harassment, which led to him being physically assaulted by a child double his size. Similar to the child who physically hurt Schindler’s daughter, the child who physically hurt Segedy’s son was also allowed back on campus and wasn’t expelled.
This experience has led Segedy’s son to feel terrified and not want to go to school, she said. Before leaving the podium, she asked the board to have the school and its administration “let the students in that building know that they are safe and that they’re accountable for their behavior.”
Erin Bergem, who’s son attends Maple Grove Middle school and commutes by bus, addressed the board with her concerns with school bus safety. Bergem said her son rides a bus with “students who are harassing students on a daily basis, swearing at them, pushing them out of seats.”
Bergem asked the board to work on putting new safety precautions in place at the middle school, because after kids are suspended they are allowed back on the bus and having the bus driver call 9-1-1 if a situation escalates shouldn’t be the resolution, she said. “The bus driver has to drive to get our kids to school safely, they can’t pull over and worry about something like that.”
After the public comment portion of the meeting, Superintendent Cory McIntyre thanked everyone who came and spoke about the “hard topic” of bullying. He told the audience Maple Grove Middle School parents and district staff have a common goal to “create safe school environments and positive school climates for all of our students.”
McIntyre also said the district is responsible for addressing challenging behavior that disrupts both the physical and psychological safety of students. “If people have not felt heard or supported for that, we apologize.”
The superintendent and district staff are taking immediate action to address concerns raised during the Jan. 28 meeting, McIntyre said. This will be done through feedback gathered both at the meeting and from other parents, possibly creating a district-level discipline committee and evaluating and reviewing policies, procedures and protocols, he said.