PEPPER PIKE, Ohio – A parent in the Orange City School District expressed concerns about what he called “matters of student safety” to the Orange Board of Education Monday (March 28).
Jeremy Caldwell, whose daughter attends Moreland Hills Elementary School, told the board about two specific incidents he said happened in the district and also related general concerns about bullying.
Caldwell claimed a student at the elementary school threatened to kill his niece, who also attends the school. He also commented about the school’s response to a playground injury suffered by a student.
He said these incidents have been “very concerning” to him and his fiancée, who also attended the meeting, as well as other parents in the district.
Last year, Caldwell said, his brother’s daughter was suddenly afraid to go to school for a week and a half.
“Another student threatened to kill my niece, bring a gun to school and shoot her,” he said.
Caldwell said the school did an investigation, but claimed school officials didn’t inform his brother or sister-in-law that another child had threatened to kill his niece.
“She was traumatized from that,” he said. “We had no idea what had happened.
“This is the health and well-being of our children. So whenever there is an incident like that, parents need to be notified.”
Last fall, Caldwell said, his daughter came home from school and was “visibly distraught.” She told him one of her friends, a third-grade girl, was pushed off a crowded slide on the playground, fell to the ground and was knocked unconscious.
He later learned the girl suffered several broken ribs.
Caldwell said he called the school to ask what had happened and was told the school nurse came out and placed the girl in a wheelchair.
He then explained that he’s a firefighter/paramedic for the City of Cleveland and a nursing instructor. He added he fills in as needed for the district nurse at West Geauga Schools.
“The issue is when you move somebody who has a traumatic fall, you can cause serious spinal cord injury, and commonly, the ribs will puncture the pleural cavity, where the lungs are, and the child could suffocate,” he said.
Caldwell proposed that the district’s nurses be trained via a course and book titled “Pediatric Education for Prehospital Professionals,” developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The publication represents a comprehensive source of prehospital medical information for the emergency care of infants and children.
“Every firefighter in Orange and Pepper Pike should also have this certification, and it would probably be helpful if our school nurses drill with the fire department,” he said. “This way we don’t run into this issue again.”
Caldwell said in his role as a school nurse, when a student is injured at school, he calls “every single parent” to let them know the child was injured, the type of treatment they received and what parents should look out for if they need to call a doctor.
“This is what every parent wants,” he said. “This is not happening at Moreland.
“It needs to happen, so that we know what happened with our children and just keeping them safe.”
Finally, bullying also has been an issue for some parents in the district, Caldwell said.
“One parent is taking her daughter out of Orange Schools after just one year and sending her to Hawken (School),” he said.
“Our kids don’t want to ride the bus anymore. We are having to coordinate between us parents who can take the kids to school and who can pick them up because our kids are terrified to ride the bus.”
Caldwell said the bullying has been “damaging” and “traumatic” for the children, who are “getting kicked and punched” and “coming home with injuries.”
“We’re not knowing what is happening, how they got (injured),” he said. “We just know that they’re scared to go to school and don’t want to ride the bus anymore. This has to change.”
The board did not respond to Caldwell’s comments, as is its policy for public participation. The board also allowed Caldwell to continue well beyond the three-minute limit that is normally allowed per speaker in this portion of the meeting.
The district issued this statement from Superintendent Lynn Campbell via email Tuesday (March 29), in response to Caldwell’s comments: “As always, providing a safe and secure learning environment for our students is a top priority for the Orange City School District. We take all allegations seriously and we encourage families upon hearing anything concerning to contact a school administrator immediately.”
Technology grant approved
In other action, the board approved an Emergency Connectivity Fund grant for $190,246 from the Ohio Department of Education for the use of technology.
Treasurer Todd Puster said the grant is for this fiscal year. The funding helps schools and libraries keep students, staff and patrons connected during the COVID-19 health emergency, according to the program’s website.
Jennette Irish-Glass, the district’s director of technology, said the money from the grant has been used to replace older Chromebooks that didn’t have the processing capabilities needed for remote learning when the district was doing that.
“So in anticipation that we have to go remote again, we’ll have machines with better processing capabilities,” she said.
Modified requirements for subs
The board also approved a resolution to modify its substitute teacher requirements for this school year.
Campbell said last year, due to a statewide shortage of substitute teachers, the Ohio Department of Education and state legislature allowed school districts to have “relaxed standards” for substitutes.
He noted a student teacher in the district was allowed to stay on and finish the 2020-21 school year as a substitute, even though he or she had not graduated from college yet.
“This year the ODE and state legislature extended that same flexibility for school boards to be allowed to come up with some relaxed standards for substitute teachers,” he said. “So that’s one relaxation that we would like the board to entertain, to allow us to again add on any student teachers who have completed their education work and are just waiting to graduate.”
Campbell noted this is “prime time” for such student teachers, as some will graduate soon, and to have them available as substitutes for the months of April and May would be helpful.
They would go through the same background checks and training that is normally required of substitute teachers, he added.
The board also accepted the resignation of Cameron Durham, building engineer, effective Friday (April 1).
The board will have a special meeting with the mayors of the five primary municipalities served by the district at 8 a.m. April 7 at the Pepper Pike Learning Center.
Its next regular meeting will be at 6 p.m. April 11 at the PPLC.