The subject of student safety took a two-headed turn at the KV School Corp. board’s regular meeting Monday night, with the board giving its first public consideration of the multimillion-dollar sale of bonds to finance a school-security project and, later, a group of parents calling for the termination of a middle school teacher who they claim has been verbally and physically abusive toward students on a daily basis to the point of “unlawful harassment.”
Early in the meeting, the board began publicly considering the sale of $15 million in general obligation bonds to finance a number of measures to increase security at KV High School and KV Intermediate School by limiting free and easy access to the buildings. Currently, the two schools are the only ones in the district where individuals entering the building are not first required to be admitted electronically by front office staff.
Supt. Aaron Case said the district had been planning for security projects and renovations at the two schools, but recent school shootings, particularly one in downstate Noblesville, hastened those plans.
Case said the plans would also include renovations to the high school cafeteria, which has suffered water damage from a leaky roof, and an activity center which could at some point be open to the public. Case said a central activity center would allow students to return home from after-school activities sooner, as well as providing another venue for activities during inclement weather.
Representatives from Umbaugh and Associates told the board that the debt service for the new bond issue, which would be repaid over a period of 16 years, would not cost more than what the district is currently paying on its other bond obligations. The impact would also be lessened as other bonds the district sold to pay for the construction of new facilities are gradually retired over the 16-year life of the proposed new bonds.
No members of the public in attendance voiced any comment during the public hearing. The second and final hearing on the proposed bond issue will occur during the board’s July 9 meeting.
That changed later, however, as a group of nearly a dozen parents and a smattering of grade-school students described to the board the behavior of a teacher at KV Middle School, and demanded the removal of that teacher. That behavior and classroom atmosphere, they maintained Monday, was described as one fueled by fear, belittlement, and mental and physical cruelty that daily crossed the line from bullying to “unlawful harassment” and flat-out abuse.
The parents who addressed the board said things had gotten to the point of students not wanting to attend classes, and that the teacher’s behavior was affecting their performance in other classes as well as their desire to learn. One parent told the board her son had gone as far as considering running away from home so he wouldn’t haver to attend school, and others told the board they were considering pulling their children out of the KV school system in favor of home schooling. “He wants to be home schooled because of the intimidation and humiliation. He still fears going to school,” the parent said. “You shouldn’t make anyone cry in school,” said another. “You’re making them scared.”
State law precluded the name of the teacher from being publicly disclosed and only generalities were allowed to be aired, but board members and Case were clearly affected by the testimony during the public session. That testimony also included statements by several students who had a class with the teacher this year. Among their statements were charges of students being physically slapped and regularly berated as being “stupid” by the teacher.
“Their remarks raised some serious concerns,” Case told the Post-News Tuesday. “I have serious concerns, because it’s extremely important that all our students should be able to go to a safe, caring learning environment.”
Asked whether he was personally aware in the past of the teacher’s alleged behavior, Case replied, “I will tell you there were things I was not aware of. We are [now] going to do our due diligence and investigate this thoroughly.”
“I think [the speakers] has a legitimate gripe,” said board President Ed Habrowski also on Tuesday. “We’ve noted their concerns, and I want them to know that we’re going to address this and have to follow through. We’re obligated now.”
Habrowski said board members had an opportunity to talk about the matter afterward, and “it caught us off guard. We didn’t know it was this severe.” As for Case, he said the superintendent “had been getting wind of this stuff earlier,” but reiterated that the administration was not aware of the depth of the issue as described publicly by the parents and students.
“The frosting just got thicker and richer,” Habrowski said.