Parents shared personal anecdotes to Milford's school board, pleading for improved school safety.

Milford parents voice concern about school safety, bullying

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

Parents shared personal anecdotes to Milford's school board, pleading for improved school safety.

Parents shared personal anecdotes to Milford’s school board, pleading for improved school safety.

School safety and violence in the hallways and on buses was a major concern among parents Monday night at the Milford School District’s board meeting. 

Casey Calhoun, a mother of two children in the district and one recent graduate, was the first to speak.

Milford’s schools are a hit or miss in terms of students safety and support.

One of her children has seizures and is on an Individualized Education Program – a plan developed by the school and parents to ensure that a child with a disability receives specialized instruction and related services – and has been “spoiled,” she said, at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School because of the amazing support provided to her child.

But, Calhoun said, her high-school-age daughter comes home almost daily and tells her about the abundance of fights happening. 

“I’m extremely disgusted with the high school,” she said. “I personally emailed the principal to ask what he could do to assure me that my child is safe, and he said that things were being implemented. You can say that every day, but when my kid comes home if there’s a fight every day, I can’t see as a parent where anything is being implemented.”

She said her daughter recently came home from school and said there was a fight so bad that a student’s teeth were “busted out of his mouth.”

Then, Calhoun began to choke up.

“Friday, my child came off the bus, holding back tears and I immediately knew something was wrong,” she said. “She was beat up on the school bus because a child rudely interrupted her conversation and because she cut her off and continued with the conversation that she was having, this child lunged onto her, hitting her and would not stop.”

Calhoun said the bus driver couldn’t stop the bus at the time. The driver has made numerous attempts to have the child who beat up her daughter kicked off the bus, she said. 

“He has never had any complaints to say about my child,” Calhoun said. “Do I think she was 100% innocent? No. I know that things were said back and forth, but it was not enough for her to be assaulted.”

She said parents shouldn’t have to worry about their child’s safety in school, and she is concerned about keeping her children in a district where they can get beat up, or perhaps land themselves in the “crossfire” of another fight.

“I don’t want my kid to come home missing her front teeth,” Calhoun said. “I know I’m not the only concerned parent to say that this district or any other district in this state is becoming out of control. I feel like there is a lack of discipline, and it’s becoming a lot.”

School board members typically do not respond or engage with speakers during public comment sessions in board meetings, and that was the case Monday night.

Christy Clark spoke next, saying that Calhoun is far from alone in her concerns. 

Clark said her daughter is a fifth grader at Lulu Ross Elementary School, and she’s concerned for her mental, physical and emotional safety. 

She claims the district has hung up on her in the past when trying to express these issues.

Jeanette Gillespie said her son has come home and shown multiple videos of fights going on, and said there is a “fight club” among students. 

“He told me it’s to see who’s the strongest and who’s the most powerful,” she said. “I was just concerned that these kids are not being disciplined. It’s a game…it’s to see who’s the strongest and they just come back the next day and try it again to see who can beat up the other kid.”

Although her son hasn’t been involved in the fight club, she said she’s worried because he’s getting the message that it’s fun and he’s learning that at school it’s okay to fight.

She also said that she’s upset that the dress code is sometimes enforced and sometimes is not, which creates unfair disciplinary measures for students who don’t have consistent expectations.

RELATED: Milford parents petition to loosen dress code

RELATED: The school dress code: Still a hot topic in Milford 

Patty Maloney was the last parent to speak, saying that bullying and hate speech has become a huge problem, catalyzed by the unrest in the Middle East. 

She was promoting a new initiative in Sussex County called Speak Out Against Hate,  a newly formed group of concerned citizens bringing awareness to the normalization and rising tide of hate and Delaware. 

The initiative was started earlier this year by members of the Seaside Jewish community in Rehoboth Beach and the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice.

“We hope to share with students the importance of recognizing bullying and other hateful speech acts,” she said. “In doing so, our goal is to help students come together to support no hate in their schools and in their communities.”

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