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Students Air Their Grievances

School Discipline a Prime Issue

Students air their grievances at the 2/12/15 Board of Education Meeting.                *Photo by Katherine Massopust

Students air their grievances at the 2/12/15 Board of Education Meeting. *Photo by Katherine Massopust

By: Katherine Massopust

PERTH AMBOY – At the 2/12/15 Board of Education Meeting Parent (and PTO President) Donna Stewart thanked the Board for allowing a group of students to speak.

Senior Class President Abdul Diof spoke first. “Being late to school gets you 20 minutes of detention. Now during basketball season they check your ID’s and you’re are not allowed to go to the game.”

Interim Superintendent Dr. Vivian Rodriguez said, “I don’t have an answer.”

Abdul continued, “On the uniform code: some kids can’t purchase a lock. You put a student in ISD (In School Detention) for a full day just because he/she is not wearing a uniform. Is there a reason as to why this is mandatory? It’s $6 for a lock. Some can’t purchase it.”

Dr. Vivian Rodriguez answered, “Maybe we need a meeting with the students to be held soon.”

Donna Stewart added, “Sometimes it’s a closed meeting in private and issues are not addressed. That is why we came here.”

Student Jasmine Rodriguez spoke next. “Why are we being asked to clock in? We are treated as if our voice doesn’t matter. I was one minute late and treated the same as if I was two hours late. Yes, discipline is vital but not when it interferes with the education process. Students were put in ISD when carrying our jackets. Not everyone has a locker. Now the rules are being enforced. Why should students suffer for the inconsistency of policy?”

Board President Sam Lebreault said, “You’re voices do matter.”

Jasmine continued, “We shouldn’t be treated like that. Why are we being treated as if our thoughts didn’t mean anything?”

Another student spoke. “I am in my senior year and on the basketball team. The football players were allowed to play when late. We hosted St. Joe’s (in basketball). Last year we had a full house. This year there wasn’t because of detention. I wasn’t allowed to play and we lost. How can you tell kids in their senior year they can’t play?  Sometimes kids come late (to school) and they turn around and go home (so they don’t get detention) Also what about sports jackets? I can’t wear them in class. I worked hard to earn that jacket. It’s against the uniform policy.”

Another student, Reginald Boston, Vice-President of the Junior Class spoke next, “The uniform policy is blown out of proportion. Teachers rat on teachers on uniform policy. We’re trying to get here our best on time. I’m a young African-American and I want an education.”

Senior Melissa Rodriguez, Student Council Secretary spoke next, “Students don’t have time to make up 10 hours of time (they have work, activities, etc.) Students work hard. How can they not let us go to a basketball game? If you are getting the opportunity to speak, we should be allowed to speak. It’s like we’re going to jail. We must do what they say or else. There should never be an “or else.” Until all the students come and speak and every seat here is taken nothing will change. I will come back as a sophomore in college and speak if I have to.

After all the students spoke, Donna Stewart made a few remarks, “Consistency. The rules are in place. No code of conduct. They are pressured in a uniform policy. None of these students mentioned a name. We should not care about appeasing adults. That cannot happen if they spend all this time in detention.” She then read the mission statement for the Perth Amboy School System and concluded with: “Let’s be consistent. A child should not be denied a prom because they don’t have a uniform on. THE YOUTH MATTER – I MATTER – YOU MATTER!”

During the public portion resident Stanley Sierakowski stated, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Donna Stewart should be ashamed of herself. I’ll give a $6 check for a lock. For the students: they are the decision makers. When I work, I sign in: on paper and on the computer. In a work environment if a meeting starts at 9:00 a.m. and you are there at 9:02 a.m. you may not be allowed to come to the meeting. You hear it from your boss afterwards. A group of people will be there to usurp your power. Mrs. Stewart brought in a basketball player who couldn’t play because of a reason, but the football players got away with it. Mrs. Stewart – the word is transparency.”

Donna Stewart spoke next. “As a parent, people need to know how they stand. Some have never spoken in public before. Thanks to those who came to the Y.O.U. Matter March at the Cathedral International on January 19th. Students need to know that they matter.”

Resident Reinaldo Aviles disagreed with Sierakowksi, “Citizens have a right to address you. Donna Stewart does God’s work. When I was in here, the Jocks got to wear their jackets. Cheerleaders wore their uniforms. Athletes wore their jackets. He’s right (the student). He earned that jacket. It’s like telling someone they can’t hang their PhD diploma on their office wall. A jacket’s not the same, but it still is an accomplishment.”

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