Board procedure broke down at the Dolores School Board meeting on March 8 as parents, students and residents spoke up during discussions about school discipline.
Many of the 130 people in attendance were concerned about discipline in Dolores Schools after an apparent assault involving two students last month.
Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin told The Journal the next day that the incident “appears to be a premeditated assault of a minor on a minor. There is a strong possibility that others could be charged with complicity,” he said. “I have asked for that.”
District Will Furse, of the 22nd District, said a special prosecutor from the 6th District is handling the case.
Brandon Sloan, a parent of the student who was allegedly assaulted, told the board that he has slowly lost all confidence that Dolores is a good environment for his daughter and other students. Sloan also called administration at the school a liability.
“Administration knew about this problem,” Sloan said. “I was called in to address this problem, and we sort of thought everything was taken care of, but the biggest flaw here is that the administration never informed one teacher.”
When asked by Sloan, most everyone in attendance raised their hands to indicate they had seen the video. The Journal has not seen it.
Some board members admitted to seeing parts, if not all of the video. Board president Dee Prock called it “horrendous.”
VanBibber called members of the newly formed student group “I Was Now I Am” heroes and asked the board to be heroes as well.
Members of the group were given student government’s time during the meeting to introduce themselves to the board.
Tel Hamilton, a senior at Dolores High School, admitted mistakes and welcomed fellow students’ criticism. He said that calling each other out on their wrongs is part of the group’s message.
“We are just some kids that got really tired of things that were happening in our society and in our school,” he said.
Hamilton also announced that the group is being sponsored by the Kaiser Permanente insurance group, which has asked the students to take the group statewide.
The group’s presentation was met with cheers, applause and a standing ovation.
Others in attendance complained that the schools lacked disciplinary action.
Amy Lewis, a substitute teacher, said she has been frustrated by classroom disruptions and how administrators handled them. She called out Secondary School principal Jen Hufman, saying, “there is no discipline and no consequence, and it is out of control.”
She also called athletic director Chris Trusler, “the biggest bully in the school,” to cheers and applause from the crowd.
After about 10 people addressed the board and School Resource Officer Kaylee Green and Nowlin talked, the meeting took a break. After the break, Hufman asked the school’s social workers Nick Mayes and Peggy Pine, to address parent concerns.
Parents’ main concern was that they are not contacted before the student goes to a counselor.
Board treasurer Casey McClellan agreed with parents, saying, “We don’t need anybody else to spend the next few months working with someone’s child and a parent doesn’t even know about it,” he said.
One parent, Jerry Whited, who lost a run for the school board in November, spoke to the social workers about his own son’s discipline problems.
“The biggest problem I have is that he ... has asked to be taken out of that class and this was over a month ago, and he hasn’t even been moved from the class,” Whited said.
Hufman requested a meeting with Whited Friday morning to discuss his son’s school schedule.
The meeting then quickly was out of control as parents and staff angrily argued.
After an outburst from one audience member and an argument with I Was Now I Am member Courtney Corbitt, a high school senior, Prock called the meeting to order. She deemed the behavior “inappropriate.”
Prock tried to bring the meeting back to the board’s posted agenda, but was overruled by the crowd and McClellan.
A student government member was applauded by fellow students and attendees when she voiced her desire to allow McClellan to speak, claiming he was the only board member who had taken the time to come speak with students about ongoing issues.
After a back-and-forth discussion between Prock and McClellan, McClellan took the floor and finished a list of problems voiced to him by students and parents.
McClellan directed the grievances at Superintendent Scott Cooper, telling him that he inherited a great school.
“You are always saying it is the opt-out culture that is killing us, but I think the lack of discipline is killing us,” McClellan said to cheers and applause from the audience.
McClellan then moved to terminate Cooper’s position. “He is ineffective, has created an environment that is dangerous for students, disrespectful to teachers, distracting and nonconducive to learning,” McClellan said.
The motion died on the floor without a second motion, and Prock again issued a call to order, saying the situation was getting “volatile.”
“Those that spoke from what they know were right on,” Nowlin told The Journal on Friday. “It is important that our communities get involved in our schools, and people are needed now more than ever and we can make it better and safer.”
Cooper told The Journal on Saturday that he met Friday with Hufman and social workers Mayes and Pine to make sure they are doing everything possible to help with behavior.
“They are doing outstanding work,” Cooper said. “I mean, yeah, we had a pretty scary assault, and it shook all of us up, but outside of that, that is the only violence we have really experienced.”
“We do not have fights going on at the school, we do not have violence at the school,” Cooper said. “We have a lot of good people; they help these students out before it gets to that level.”
The school board agreed to set a meeting to discuss disciplinary policies on April 4 at 5 p.m.