SPRINGFIELD, NJ—Two township mothers complained to the township’s board of education on Monday that the practice of looping in the district’s elementary schools may force their children to be exposed to possible bullying. They also claimed that school officials were rude to them and insulted them when they inquired about the practice.

Board members, in the meantime, said that scheduling is within the purview of administrators and they would not interfere with this administrative responsibility by setting a board policy regulating looping.

Looping, in education, refers to the practice of a teacher remaining with the same group of students for more than one school year. For example, a teacher who teaches a third grade class and then goes on to teach the same students, the following year, for the fourth grade.

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Prior to opening the floor to public discussion, board president Robin Cornelison said the school body was aware of the concerns within the community, but urged the speakers not to make disparaging statements about staff members, not to refer to individual students and not to engage in debate with those on the podium.

Parent Samantha Kestin said that, while she did not wish to disturb the policy in place for the current school year, it was felt the district “was kind of all over the place where the rules are” and the response to parents raising questions about the practice “has been strong and upsetting and not really okay.”

Kestin added that, if a parent had a question, whether about whether their child was learning properly or about “remaining another year with children who make them cry every day” they shouldn't be placed in a position where placements can’t be changed or “nobody wants to help or figure out a way to help.”

She also said there was a “fine line between bullying and subtle bullying, and children should not be exposed even to subtle bullying.

Parent Sylvia Caggiano complained that, when she made her feelings on looping known, school administrators called her a liar and yelled at her.

Caggiano added that the rules of civility laid down to the public at board meetings should also apply to school officials in their dealings with residents.

She also questioned why Superintendent of Schools Michael A. Davino had refused to meet with parents to address their concerns and why he seemed to have an attitude that it was up to the administration to set the rules and no one should question their decisions.

Caggiano also said Davino’s answer that placement decisions were made “after careful consideration” and were “sound educational decisions” also meant that his decisions could not be questioned.

She added the superintendent did not respond to any of the specific points raised in many emails addressed to him on the situation.

She also called the decision to loop her child’s class “an unmitigated disaster.”

The school board’s attorney replied that Caggiano’s questions that were appropriate had been answered.

She added that decisions made by the administration were in the best interest of the schools and students and the board was not condoning disrespectful behavior from any member of the staff.

The attorney repeated that looping related to scheduling, it was an administrative policy and it was not within the board’s responsibilities to deal with it.