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Vail District parent fears retaliation by principal

Vail District parent fears retaliation by principal

CREATED Mar 22, 2012

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) --   A parent in the Vail School District claims her son is a victim of bullies and instead of the school doing something about it -- the principal offers to help her son change schools.

At first, the parent was afraid to talk with us in fear of retaliation. Not by the bullies, who might continue to threaten her son. But by the principal, who she claims will take no action to resolve the problem -- leaving the parent no choice -- but to leave the school.  It's an issue that we've heard from other parents in that school -- as well as in districts throughout Southern Arizona.
   
"I felt it was brushed under the rug," said Jody (KGUN9 is withholding the mother's last name and also her child's name). For nearly a year, Jody claims her son, who attends Desert Willow Elementary in Vail, was constantly harassed by a few students until a fight broke out on the playground. One of the students, she saID, tackled her son. "When the monitor pulled the child off my son -- each child had their (hands) wrapped around each other's (throat)."
   
The principal suspended her son -- a decision she tried to overturn. Jody insisted he was repeatedly harrassed -- and simply retaliated. The principal disagreed. "She said basically if I didn't like her decision then she would be more than happy to help my son get into another school."

Jody said she felt trapped with only 8 weeks left in the school year -- because she fears the principal will retaliate if she takes her protest to the superintendent. "I'm afraid if I do go to the superintendent that the principal will take that as my decision not to -- quote -- cooperate with her as per our last discussion together." Jody claims the principal was upset because she previously tried to contact Superintendent Dr. Calvin Baker.

KGUN 9's Valerie Cavazos asked the superintendent, "How do you assure the parents that if they go above the principal's head that there will not be any retaliation?"

Dr. Baker replied emphatically, "We simply don't hire people who are principals to be vindictive. We just don't do that. If they simply go back and engage in some kind of retaliatory behavior then that only serves to escalate the problem further and motivates the parent to take more action. That's not what we want. We want to solve the problem."

Cavazos then asked, "Can you guarantee all of your principals will not act in that way?" Baker replied, "I can guarantee that that kind of behavior," he paused a second and continued, "I would be shocked."

Cavazos asked, "And if it did occur?" The superintendent answered, "If it did occur then we'll deal with it."

And the district has in the past. Dr. Baker says the district works hard to train its teachers and administrators to create an environment where everyone -- educators, parents and students -- can all get along. And if educators don't -- they will not longer work for him.

Jody said the teacher recently sent her an email explaining that she will be more proactive in preventing conflict between her son and the two other classmates, however, it took several months to get to this point.