Education

Bullard High School teachers release petition demanding stricter discipline

Bullard High School science teacher Scott Hatfield announces a petition calling for safety and discipline improvements on Wednesday. Teachers in the background hold signs saying, “Students deserve safe schools.”
Bullard High School science teacher Scott Hatfield announces a petition calling for safety and discipline improvements on Wednesday. Teachers in the background hold signs saying, “Students deserve safe schools.” acastillo@fresnobee.com

Cathy Cavagnaro, a math teacher at Bullard High School, has had students disrupt her classroom by talking back, walking out or refusing to be quiet.

Cavagnaro said most students at Bullard are amazing, but that group is diluted by some troublemakers. After hearing about the assaults of other teachers in the classroom, she decided to support a group at her school calling for change.

She was among more than 10 Bullard teachers Wednesday afternoon who announced a petition demanding stricter discipline policies and increased campus safety. Many teachers at a news conference held signs that read, “Our students deserve safe schools.”

The petition, which was first reported Tuesday by The Bee, says teachers no longer feel safe. It calls for the district to take immediate action by developing a new site-safety plan by Jan. 25.

Teachers want the new plan to include:

▪ Specific, monitored entrances for students and visitors;

▪ A well-defined and secure campus boundary;

▪ An updated emergency action plan based on revised boundaries and safety guidelines;

▪ The necessary staffing and supports to achieve the overall goals of the plan.

The petition also calls for a new site discipline plan by Feb. 9 with elements including:

▪ Clear, well-defined tier of consequences and supports for specific offenses;

▪ Personal safety protections for teachers;

▪ The necessary staffing and support to achieve the overall goals of the plan.

Science teacher Scott Hatfield said 50 teachers have signed the petition so far. Similar petitions have been signed recently by teachers at Ahwahnee, Tioga, Tehipite and Fort Miller middle schools.

More than 90 teachers have also responded to a survey since last week expressing concerns about how discipline is handled and saying discipline problems have increased over the years.

Hatfield said the district is on notice but everyone is on the hook to make sure the issues are fixed. But he said they aren’t blaming the kids – they are blaming the system.

Bullard principal Carlos Castillo said he’s open to hearing teachers’ concerns and will have a better idea of the issues after a meeting they have scheduled for after winter break. He said questions about student behavior and safety are valid.

Castillo said he hopes to direct some of the nearly $40 million being used to renovate the school to improve entrance safety.

The demands come after a string of student-teacher altercations at Bullard. Last month, for example, a student allegedly assaulted teacher Roy Verduzco when he tried to break up a fight between her and another student. He was sent to a hospital for high blood pressure.

Afterward, some of Cavagnaro’s students blamed Verduzco for getting in the way and getting hurt. Students used to stop fighting once teachers stepped in, she said. Now they keep throwing punches.

“That’s scary to me,” she said.

English teacher Milla Smith agreed.

“He’s not the only one,” she said. “It could happen to me.”

Andrea Castillo: 559-441-6279, @andreamcastillo

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