Monday, May 29, 2017

Letter to the Editor: Another Parent Speaks Out on Bullying

Dear Editor,

I am the parent of an 8 year old student from a Pine Grove stem school. A beautiful, smart, caring young girl who has become a victim of bullying. Experiencing different problems since Kindergarten. This past year has been extremely difficult​ for her. We have had meetings with the teachers, been told our daughter is “the most picked on child in class”, watched her confidence slowly falling with her grades and her friends, to the point she no longer wants to go to the school she is attending.

The last incident with her being called “fat” by a group of kids, had the teacher calling us, and finally we felt like something had to be said. When I approached the principal that morning to address my concerns, I was told she was told not to deal with me, and obviously my concerns for my daughter were not being taken care of, or even addressed. The principal even asked, "If she was having so many problems, why was she still there?"

My heart sank. I felt no hope, as the principal offered to sign the transfer papers to Jackson Elementary. I am a single mother, and have no choice but to have her finish off the school year there. She will attend Jackson this Fall. I am hoping to see more support from school, with more resources for my daughter to deal with the aggressors...build her confidence and succeed in school without feeling pushed out. If you ask my daughter, that's exactly how she feels...with no support from her school, and the responsibility left on her to try and counteract the issues she is dealing with every day, without anyone stopping it.

As a mother of a young daughter, it concerns me to see this exclusion start at such a young age. I expect more from our school system to make sure our children feel mentally and physically safe and secure while our children are in their care, and I hope to see a change...the schools modelling the kindness expected of the students, and the students needs as a priority. Not the convenience of exclusion, which has pushed her away from her school.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Words do hurt, and it all starts somewhere. Teach your children kindness, inclusion, tolerance and to support each other.

Best regards,

Kelley A Gaston
Parent


Friday, May 26, 2017

Scott Thomas Anderson: "A Threat Past the Pages: The Future of Reading & Writing in the Digital Age" - Sat June 3

Scott Thomas Anderson will speak at Hein & Company Bookstore on Saturday, June 3 at 5 p.m., on the subject of how prose, poetry and creativity will make or break the English language in the Digital Age.

For more than a decade, Anderson has worked as a crime, culture, and travel journalist, writing in the center of a media metamorphosis that continues to alter how Americans share their everyday experiences. Appearing at Hein’s & Company’s Baker Street West, Anderson will discuss the danger of our youngest generations learning linguistic impulses through hyper-abbreviated platforms like Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. He will consider what happens to the brain’s ability to focus when we trade a book’s imaginative doorway for the swamp of fragmented, multi-media distractions. He will also look at the future of the written word if today’s writers, poets, artists, and teachers don’t recognize a threat against it.
Scott Thomas Anderson is an award-winning staff writer for Sacramento News & Review. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Future Traveland The Irish Independent, Dublin’s largest daily newspaper. He’s been interviewed about homicide investigations nationally on the Travel Channel and internationally on Ireland’s Radio 1:Drivetime. His nonfiction book, Shadow People: How Meth-Driven Crime is Eating at the Heart of Rural America is an exploration of the nation’s modern methamphetamine crisis. In 2015, his newest nonfiction book was released, The Cutting Four-Piece: Crime and Tragedy in an Era of Prison Overcrowding.

This free talk is open to the public.

Hein & Co. is located at 2004 Main Street, Jackson. (209) 223-9076

For information regarding this event, please call 209-223-2215.



Thursday, May 25, 2017

2nd Annual LGBT and Ally Family Day - Sun June 18

In our rural community, allies make all the difference. Share this invitation with someone in your neighborhood, workplace, club, class or church. Together we make the difference in each other's lives.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Open letter to Richard Forster, Charles Bonham, and Mike Clark

I wish you had attended the special session of the Amador County School Board tonight (May 15) and heard about the bullying, racial slurs, sexual harassment and other forms of harassment that have been experienced by kids of all ages in our schools. Maybe then Supervisor Forster wouldn't have been so quick to shrug off the effect of the misogynistic and racist entry in the Ione Homecoming parade as "political humor."

Maybe if Mr. Bonham, Mr. Clark and the third man in the parade "skit" had been at the forum to hear the stories of kids and families who have been (AND ARE STILL BEING) affected by an atmosphere of bullying and harassment over being a different race, religion, sexual orientation or simply female they would have reconsidered their choice of costumes. If the "Trump character" had been wearing a Speedo and walking alongside the "Clinton" and "Obama" characters, then this could have been a piece of even-handed political skewering. But the idea that all of you, mature adults, are ignorant of our nation's history, and truly do not see how offensive it is to try to "get laughs" by portraying a fully-dressed white man carrying a gun and with a dog on a leash walking behind two scantily-clad women characters as though they are under his control - it is mind-boggling.

But I will give you the benefit of the doubt, because to think that you actually did this as a nod to the history of slavery and the oppression of people of color and women in this country is too appalling to consider. I know that you have all done much for your communities. Because of that obvious care, I hope that you will consider the ways that this "joke" contributes to the proliferation of an atmosphere that allows adults to say "boys will be boys" when they say sexually inappropriate things to their female junior high and high school classmates or condones harassment of LGBT students. That allows anti-Semetic remarks to be treated as just another form of bullying. That lets people ignore (or simply not notice) that kids are saying to their classmates of color that "this is a white county." I have seen and heard people (mostly men, but sometimes women) roll their eyes when people talk about things being insensitive.

I hope that you will read the transcript from tonight's meeting and consider the pain that kids in our schools have experienced recently, and how the parade "performance" rubs salt in the wound by giving tacit approval to unacceptable behavior and attitudes.

And please, if you do nothing else, be more thoughtful of your words and your actions. In fact, this goes for all of us in this community (me included) Let's stop shrugging off this kind of stuff because that way we can make Amador County a place where ALL people, no matter gender, color, religion or political views, feel welcome.


Bronwyn Hogan
Amador County parent

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NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: For a recording of the ACUSD Meeting on Monday, May 15, visit:
https://amadorsoapbox.blogspot.com/2017/05/bullying-in-amador-county-schools.html

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Amador Republican Central Committee - Thurs May 18

Thanks to all who made our Lincoln Dinner such a success.  We had a full house and lots of good food and fun.
Tony (the Tiger) Lopez, 3 time world champion boxer was an entertaining and inspirational speaker.  He told of being raised with Republican values in south Sacramento.  A sterling example of rising above your environment.
    It is easy to be discouraged as a Republican in California, but we mustn't be.  The Trump train is driving full-speed ahead and the enthusiasm is not waning.
    We have challenges for sure in Amador County to maintain a conservative voice on the Board of Supervisors.  In 2018 we will have a Republican supervisor (district 5) facing a liberal challenger. We also will have an opportunity to take back district 3.  What we need is "boots on the ground" to get our folks in office.
So, hope to see you at our next monthly meeting on Thursday, May 18th at 6:30pm.  Share your ideas and volunteer to help in this tremendous effort.  We can do it!
   For more information call 209-257-3405.

Lois McDonald
Amador County Republican Central Committee


P.S. Our new website is currently being reconstructed.  It is amadorrepublican.com

Monday, May 15, 2017

Bullying in Amador County schools - Meeting of Monday, May 15, 2017

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Here is the MP3 file of the ACUSD's Board meeting on the issue of bullying in our schools (link below). I'm sorry if the quality is not quite pristine...it was recorded on my phone's voice recorder:

http://amadormedia.homestead.com/ACUSD-Bullying-Meeting-051517.mp3


I came early and stayed behind. Here are a few short interviews I did before and after the meeting:
___________

Name Withheld: I am afraid to sit and tell my story in front of everyone.

Carol Harper/ACN: You can tell your story here.

Name Withheld: My second grade daughter never had an issue at Jackson Elementary, and she got called a “little black n****r” by two of the students playing color tag today. Just playing color tag...
My son has been going to Jackson Elementary; he’s gotten 12 suspensions from fighting, and he’s been fighting because he’s been called names and been picked on.
All the other parents say that my son is the bully, but they don’t understand that he’s reacting to what the children are saying to him. The racist remarks are just killing me.
Today I went to pick up my children. None of the staff knew where my children were.

Carol Harper/ACN: You’re kidding me.

Name Withheld: I kid you not. I stood in the middle of the street...how is it that they’ve been here the whole school year, and there are six staff members outside--including the crossing guard (voice breaks)--and none of them knew where my children were?
  I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why my kids are being treated this way. I have two daughters going to Jackson JH. they’re perfectly fine, no problems, doing good...it’s just Jackson Elementary.
  I spoke with the assistant superintendent, I’m not sure what she’s going to do about it. I spoke with the principal numerous times...

Carol Harper/ACN: How many times have you talked to the principal?

Name Withheld: Several. More than I can count. My son (voice breaks)...oh, my son. I didn’t think living here was going to be like this. We were homeless in a car. This is the only shelter that took us in. That’s how I knew about Amador County. I don’t know anyone here. They never had been called a “n****r” or any of these names. I just wanted to come here [to the meeting] and see what I could do about it, maybe parents could come out and talk about it, at least…

Carol Harper/ACN: Have a discussion, communication...

Name Withheld: Yes. But I didn’t want to join the meeting because I don’t know if half these parents are going to come talk about my son and how my son has fought their kid, but they need to know that he is reacting. I’m scared, I don’t know…
____

Andrea Cruz and her son, Brandon.

Andrea: So my son goes to a non-public school and the bullying was occurring on the bus over a long period of time, and on Feb 1, the student came from behind and started punching him, and that was caught on video. I did try to involve the authorities, but on February 14th…

Carol Harper/ACN: Wait, you mean two weeks later?

Andrea: Two weeks later. I heard from Officer Davis that it was the Department of Probation that was to deal with the bullying...or I should say, assault...on Feb 1st. It’s been resolved at this point.

Carol Harper/ACN: ...and we just heard tonight that these things need to be reported immediately. Two weeks. Wow. How have you/your son dealt with that? What is happening now for you and Brandon?

Andrea: As a resolution, he is riding on a van with a smaller number of students with the same classification of disability, so he’s no longer on a bus, or on a vehicle where he feels unsafe. But as I brought up to Doug, the Director of Transportation: What if you’re not here next year? How do I ensure that my son’s safety is still top priority?  How do I know the next director is going to value the safety of all students?

Carol Harper/ACN: Well, hopefully things are in place by then, and it won’t happen again. Thanks for talking to me, Andrea.
____

Two mothers of Jackson Elementary students:


Carol Harper/ACN: So you have a story about bullying?

Mother #1: It’s an ongoing issue, particularly with one child. On Friday, a group of kids were picking on one child, and my son is friends with him. He and that boy were playing hide and seek, and when he went to go find the little boy, there was a group of kids beating him up. So when my son (he’s in 3rd grade; he’s just eight years old) went to tell them, “Hey, knock it off!”, that group of kids then went after my son and started attacking him, and then they broke off into two groups and started attacking the boy and my son...because he was defending him.

Carol Harper/ACN: That was just this Friday?

Mother #1: Just this Friday. Yeah.

Mother #2: Our situation got so bad that a father barged into the classroom, unannounced, not signed in...yelling at the teacher (who was also very upset) saying, “This is going to stop right here, right now, between these two...and which one is she, anyway?” asking to point out my child.
  So at this point, my child is not going to school, I’m fearing for her life, and I don’t know if this man is going to go back and talk to my child angrily, go back and shoot her? I’m not exaggerating; these crazy things happen in this world, and that is what we’re fearing.
  The principal has set up a meeting one week later with the parents. One week! What’s going to happen this week? My child’s not going to school. They’re excusing her absence, though...

Carol Harper/ACN: That doesn’t sound like a solution.

Mother #1: But this situation is not where her daughter is picking on his daughter. Her daughter is the one being bullied...

Mother #2: It’s a really bad situation. And as it was common theme tonight, that’s the problem. The reactiveness is not there. They’re not reacting appropriately, timely, strongly enough, severely enough. It’s just not happening.

Mother #1:. There’s no follow up. I mean, we had to leave early. I got there when it all happened, but I never got a phone call. I was really concerned...the fact that my son is only eight years old and he got himself into a situation where he was being attacked, and was hurt.

Mother #2: ...and no kids in that instance were punished.

Carol Harper/ACN: No discipline?

Both Mothers: Warnings.

Mother #1: And they [the bullies] are still at school. I asked my son today how school was. He said that one of the boys was really nice to him, and the other boy was like, “Hey, we’re cool, right?”

Mother #2: ...and he told her that he could probably make it 10 more days.

Mother #1: Yeah, he said, “I could probably make it ten more days, Mom…” Because I’m taking him back to Pine Grove Elementary.

Carol Harper/ACN: These stories are breaking my heart.

Mother #2: Yeah, this was way more emotional than I thought.

Mother #1: And my son, he’s a tough little kid. He stepped into help, but then he became a target in defending this kid. It’s just a terrible cycle.

Response from Supervisor Forster over controversial Ione parade entry

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: I asked District 2 Supervisor Richard Forster this morning for a statement/comment regarding the controversial parade entry at the Ione Homecoming parade.
Below is his response. Thank you for getting back to me so quickly, Richard. I appreciate that.
- Carol Harper

Chuck Bonham and Mike Clark (they have been called Chuck and Mike Bonham by a person who doesn't know them. Mike is Chuck's nephew.) have been doing the exact same satirical routines in the Ione Homecoming Parade for 30 plus years. They have dressed to kill like this every year, and they have mocked many Presidents, Republican and Democrat. Their antics are not focused on political people, and others have been roasted by them. They are not really political, and just try to be funny. They are not worried about political correctness.

I ran the parade for about six years back in the 1980's. I can guarantee it was the same then and they rarely, if ever, put an entry form together. People expect them to be in the parade and provide a laugh or chuckle to the crowd. Most people get it. Some who may be seeing their first or second Homecoming parade in their lives obviously don't get it, and take it too seriously.

You can look at last year's parade and the years before, and they will be dressed the same. The difference is they made fun of Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump this year, and that got under a few individuals' skin.

My kids grew up around these guys. I was not afraid to have my kids see them in the parade. If the kids had questions, I responded and explained things. That's what parents do. My kids are grown and their kids will watch these guys and laugh. Kids see worse things on television than they'll ever see in the Homecoming Parade.

Chuck and Mike have hearts of gold. These guys and their families have contributed more to Ione in their lifetimes than most people will ever think about contributing in time, effort and dollars. This is a non-issue to me because I know them and their intent. People who are relatively new to Ione don't know the history and really don't know the people.

______________________

Statement from Mayor Dan Epperson:
"I have read a number of offensive accusations. I view it as performance art and that is rarely without controversy."

Statement from Councilmember Dominic Atlan:
I have not yet had been able to meet with the Parade organizers to discuss future events but I understand that this was an unauthorized parade entry and not approved by them. The city will work with the organizers to ensure that only authorized and appropriate  entrants will be able to join the parade in the future.