District 161 parents look for answers but school board withholds comment

The legalities that bind a school board meant parents left the District 161 school board meeting Monday without answers to their questions on school discipline and its enforcement.

Parents hoped they would get some responses to their questions following a fight between two junior high students, but board members would not comment either during the public discussion period or after a 90-minute executive session that — in part — included student discipline.

Superintendent Craig Doster told the audience he is planning a community meeting that will focus on “norms, values and expectations and those types of things,” but he did not give a date for the session.

School board president Stephen Paredes said after the meeting, “We are legally prohibited from making comments” on student conduct and discipline resulting from the May 27 fight. Doster said the district is continuing its investigation into the incident that left one student hospitalized with brain trauma after being hit by another student about the head as Parker Junior High students were waiting in the bus loading area at the end of the school day. The beating has made its way onto social media after a student posted video.

The injured boy’s parents, addressing the board during the public comment portion of the meeting, said they felt the district did little to share information on the situation with them.  The Flossmoor couple had hoped the district would call an intervention meeting between them and the parents of the other boy and their children, but no such meeting has taken place and they say the principal of Parker Junior High wouldn’t share any information with them.

The boy’s mother said her son’s injuries are serious and doctors cannot give them a prognosis on his long-term health. She said he has had several episodes since he was released from the hospital where he was admitted to the intensive care unit after a doctor found he had numerous severe injuries, including bleeding from his ear as a result of the fight. 

The mother wanted to know if the other student in the fight had been suspended for his actions, but the board would not comment. Doster said by law administrators cannot talk about what happened or about the other student in the fight. He assured the audience the district takes the incident “very seriously” and its investigation is ongoing.

The mother said her three children in District 161 are facing harassment, and the two older ones are seeing a counselor because of the fears they have about returning to Parker Junior High. 

Several parents asked about the board’s policies on discipline and whether they were followed that day. The board heard the questions but gave no response.

“If we do have a policy and it was followed, it’s not good enough,” parent Stefanie Mullin said afterward.


Related stories:
Boy, 12, hospitalized after Parker Junior High attack (HF Chronicle, May 29, 2015) 
District 161: Parker incident was fight between two students (HF Chronicle, May 29, 2015)

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