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January 15, 2014
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Angry parents say Pleasant Valley school mistreats kids

Nearly 50 people packed the room at Tuesday night’s meeting of Pleasant Valley Elementary School District’s board of trustees, during which the newly formed Nevada County Parents for Student Success accused district personnel of harassing and mistreating students.

Outraged families have demanded a special session to address these complaints, and Superintendent Debra Sandoval has agreed to meet with them.

Much of the anger expressed to the school board revolved around School Attendance Review Boards. Several parents described situations where their children were labeled as “habitual truants” after family vacations and ultimately were referred to Child Protective Services.

“It’s offensive. We’re good people in this community,” said Kelly Clark, mother of a Pleasant Valley student. “I don’t want him labeled as a habitual truant.”

Sandoval maintained that the district does not make referrals to CPS over attendance issues.

Numerous individuals alleged that children have been subjected to retaliation due to adversarial relations between their parents and the school.

“We do not single out children for what their parents do,” Sandoval responded.

“You absolutely do,” one parent claimed. “That’s not true.”

Pleasant Valley parent Dianna Johnson said her son received punitive disciplinary action the day after she confronted school staffers about what she calls “abuses of power.” Several other parents joined Johnson in demanding guarantees from trustees that their children would not be subjected to retaliation for the views expressed during the meeting.

More than half of those in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting left immediately after the agenda item involving Nevada County Parents for Student Success. Later, district personnel responded to some of the concerns expressed.

“We do not retaliate, but that’s the perception,” Sandoval said to a mostly empty room. “How we get past that is the challenge.”

The trustees thanked parents and other family members for expressing their concerns.

“It’s obvious that there is some kind of problem here,” said Trustee Richard Faciana, “but I think it’s very important for each side of this argument to not assume anything. To come with an open mind rather than a preconceived notion that the other side is wrong. That’s not going to be productive.”

Not all of the parents at Tuesday night’s school board meeting were in agreement with the views expressed by Nevada County Parents for Student Success. Shari Oitzman, a parent who described herself as very involved in volunteer activities, was highly supportive of the district and suggested that those present did not speak for the rest of families in the district.

“The minority was prepared,” Oitzman said. “The majority was not.”

That sentiment was echoed by Superintendent Sandoval Wednesday afternoon in an email.

“The group of parents who were at the meeting last night represent a very small percentage of our families,” she wrote.

“I take their concerns to heart and plan to speak with them in greater depth to help them understand the laws surrounding their particular issues and to help them feel heard and to allow them to provide input on how we can make our schools stronger learning places for their children.”

The dialogue became adversarial early on during the meeting’s public comment phase, leading some to later call that portion of the evening unproductive. Mostly, it was conducted in a calm and respectful fashion.

In preparation for any possible conflict, Sandova had contacted the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office earlier that afternoon to request extra patrols in the area during the meeting.

“I was not anticipating a definite problem, I wanted to make sure that if a problem arose, there were resources in our area on whom we could call,” Sandoval wrote in an email the following day.

“I did not want anyone in attendance to be unsafe.”

To contact Staff Writer Dave Brooksher, email dbrooksher@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.


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The Union Updated Jan 15, 2014 11:36PM Published Jan 19, 2014 12:42PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.