School district outlines steps for complaints
November 4, 2009
By Laura Geggel
Fall City parent Steve Marquis had a bone to pick with the Snoqualmie Valley School Board about the district’s controversial issues policy at the Oct. 22 meeting.
“I think your policies that you put out have got to most ears, with the exception of one teacher who abused their students last quarter,” Marquis said.
Marquis said he had heard from a Mount Si student that a teacher had “forced the entire class to read ‘gay’ poetry.”
He asked the school board to do two things — a better job enforcing the district’s controversial-issues policy and that the high school develop a system in which students could anonymously submit comments about issues of concern.
The student was “very concerned and said this is going on, but (said), ‘we’re afraid to talk about it. We’re afraid to go to the principal’,” Marquis said. “There’s no place to go to that they feel comfortable without feeling some personal repercussions might come their way.”
Snoqualmie Valley School District Superintendent Joel Aune followed up with Marquis after the meeting. As it turned out, the incident Marquis had spoken about happened in April, just before the Day of Silence.
A teacher at Mount Si High School had taught a unit in a different sequence. Normally, the lesson was taught in the fall instead of in April. After the lesson, a student notified Mount Si Principal Randy Taylor, who addressed the issue with the teacher.
“The high school administration had become aware of that situation and it was addressed and dealt with,” Aune said. “We’ve since moved on.”
How to express school-related concerns
All Snoqualmie Valley School Board meetings allow time for public comment, although the board reserves the right to make some topics off limits, as it did during the weeks preceding the Day of Silence.
If community members have a concern, Aune said he encourages them to first start with the source instead of coming directly to school board meetings, unless their concern is with board policy itself.
“We encourage individuals to work through the basic protocol in terms of starting at the source and trying to get your concern addressed or your question answered at that level,” Aune said. “If that doesn’t work, we certainly encourage people to go to the next level.”
“I encourage parents that if they just don’t feel right about it, go ask the question,” Taylor said. “Nine times out of 10, there’s another source of additional information that may allay their concern because now you see the bigger picture and now there’s more information that may diffuse the initial alarm.”
Taylor recommended parents use e-mail, which teachers usually respond to faster than voicemail. If the teacher does not respond or does not adequately address the issue, he said, people should contact him.
Sometimes, students and parents send Taylor anonymous messages.
“They can talk to me directly, they can send me an e-mail or drop it at my office door, anonymously or in person,” he said.
At the beginning of the year, Taylor visits classrooms and tells students they can contact him about any concern they have.
Mount Si does not have an anonymous comment box because such boxes usually attract everything “from threats to obscene notes to notes detailing serious issues,” Taylor said. If a student wants to remain anonymous, Taylor asked that they send him a note giving him enough information to investigate the issue.
If parents are unsatisfied with the school’s response, they can contact Aune, any of the district administrators or the school board.
“Fortunately, a high percentage of the time, if not always, issues and concerns can be resolved at those levels before they can even rise to the level of the school board,” Aune said.
Laura Geggel: 392-6434 ext. 221 or email@example.com.