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Parents, school board members discuss bullying, climate at Delavan-Darien High School

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ANN MARIE AMES
August 4, 2011
— Only 12 people were allowed to speak.

But the presence of the other 300 people Wednesday night in the Delavan-Darien High School cafeteria made it clear that more than a small group of people are concerned about things in the school district.


The Delavan-Darien School Board hosted the district’s first facilitated listening session after a July request by a parents group to address issues in the district including discipline, communication, the climate at the high school, academics and the number of students who leave the district through open enrollment.


Facilitators chose 12 names from a box and allowed those people to speak. Attendees were invited to write additional comments on slips of paper or on poster-sized sheets taped to the wall.


The district will evaluate the results of the meeting and decide the best way to continue the conversation, spokesman Mike Heine said.


Administrator Wendy Overturf declined to comment Wednesday night on the issues raised by parents.


“Tonight, we are just here to listen,” Overturf said.


Here is a sample of what the speakers had to say:


-- Tanya Hembrook, Delavan parent: “I don’t want to think our students have been attending school in a climate of disrespect, low expectations and danger.”


Hembrook spoke on behalf of the concerned parents group. She said students and teachers are harassed and bullied at school. She said the board should install cameras and alarms, be willing to expel dangerous students, allow parents to visit, and support teachers’ disciplinary actions.


-- Michael Ida, a pastor at First Baptist Church in Delavan: “There are some behaviors that are not tolerable if we are going to have a safe environment.”


The school board needs to clearly define punishments for specific behaviors, Ida said. Teachers or students who are abused by other students should know if or how their abuser is punished, he said.


-- David Thompson, deputy director of the Walworth County Health and Human Services Department: “We have found administration very responsive to concerns. We think the administration is taking a very cutting-edge approach to discipline.”


Thompson’s department oversees juvenile court referrals. Delavan-Darien administration is not perfect but is willing to try proven steps to respond to problems, he said.


-- Kevin Armstrong, Delavan parent: “Our personal experience has been great. However, we think it’s an anomaly.”


Armstrong was on a committee that two years ago worked on a survey about issues facing the district. The issues parents are concerned about today are the ones the district did not address then, he said.


“This is not new data,” Armstrong said.



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