Education

Millburn Parent Calls for Formation of Disciplinary Committee, Formal Inquiry into Punishment of Seniors in ‘Silly String Episode’

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 MILLBURN, NJ—A parent on Monday called for the board of education to form a disciplinary committee, including a student representative, and launch a formal board inquiry into an incident prior to this year’s graduation in which Millburn High School Principal William Myron, Assistant Principal Robert Keenan and a number of students were sprayed with “silly string” in the high school cafeteria.

Students identified in a videotape as having participated in the prank were not allowed to participate in the senior cruise.

The parent, Monica Ortuzar Palma of Long Hill Drive, Short Hills, said the board did not observe proper due process in the disciplining of the students.

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She called upon the board and Superintendent of Schools James Crisfield, “to look at the current school’s disciplinary policy and governance, and introduce the necessary modifications to guarantee that due process will be followed in every single case going forward to ensure that any disciplinary actions are taken by an impartial and independent body (Disciplinary Committee).”

Palma said the day after the incident the students identified as having participated were “summoned to a classroom only to be engaged in a reprisal and retaliation attitude from the school administrators. The students were told that their reputations were ruined, they were disgraced, and were denied their right to speak up in their defense.”

She added, “These actions are clearly against any procedure, or expected conduct from any school or district employee and go against the right of due process and are a clear violation of the Code.” (Referring to the New Jersey Administrative Code—Section 6a:16-7.2 through 7.6).

Palma noted Section 5600 of the board’s policy, pertaining to Pupil Discipline/Code of Conduct, provides for steps to be taken to ensure due process for students.

She said both of these documents guarantee:

  • Written notification of charges to the student.
  • An informal hearing prior to the suspension in which the student is given the opportunity to present his or her version of the events.
  • Oral or written notification to the students’ parents.
  • Information of the right of the student to secure an attorney and legal resources available in the community.
  • A formal hearing before the board of education.

The parent said school board members ignored their duty to mediate the situation and told parents that the education body had no say in disciplinary matters.

She cited a section of the Code of Ethics for Board Members that says they will “uphold all laws, rules and regulations of the State Board of Education and court orders pertaining to schools,” and the board policy on the “Adjudication of Dispute” that gives the board jurisdiction over any dispute or controversy arising within the school district.

Palma added that Crisfield, when informed about the “parents’ discrepancy with respect to the process and the disciplinary actions taken by the school authorities” chose to ignore pleas by parents to intervene and “limited his response to a massive email sent the day of graduation at 4 p.m. when most of the parents were already on school grounds waiting for the ceremony to begin.”

Neither board members nor Crisfield responded to Palma’s comments at Monday’s meeting.

In official actions at the meeting, education body members:

  • Okayed installation of concrete improvements throughout the district by Diamond Construction Corporation at a maximum cost of $172,520. School Business Administrator Steven DiGeronimo said the board probably would address upgrading of the restrooms under the stands at the high school in the future with a portion of the $4.4 million in surplus the school body is projecting in its current budget. He added the concrete improvements were addressed first because they presented the most immediate need.
  • Extended the contract of Aramark School Support Services of Philadelphia to provide food management services to the school district for the 2012-2013 school year for $62,523, based on an administrative flat fee of $43,000 and a management fee based on $.0316 per meal and a guaranteed surplus of $26,510. The business administrator explained the food program is paid for by the fees paid by those purchasing meals in school and the surplus is provided to the district by the vendor.
  • Approved several revisions in curricula in world language, art, social studies, English language learning, and English/language arts and a long list of teaching staff appointments and appointments of those who will lead teacher training sessions and engage in curriculum writing workshops.

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