McKinley parents allege intimidation
Several parents who are working to have a charter company take over a low-performing Compton elementary school alleged Tuesday that they and their children are being threatened and intimidated by teachers and other school personnel.
The allegations come in the wake of an effort organized by the nonprofit reform group Parent Revolution to force the Compton Unified School District to bring in a charter operator to run McKinley Elementary School, which has struggled for years to raise student test scores.
Charters are independently run, publicly financed schools that are mostly non-unionized.
Last week, supporters presented the district with a petition signed by 62% of McKinley parents in the first use of California’s new “parent trigger” law, under which a majority of parents can force sweeping changes at a school.
But at a news conference held at a local church, several parents who signed the petition said that they have been harassed, threatened with deportation and told that the charter would not accept children with low potential or special needs.
Marlene Romero said that her son’s third-grade teacher asked to speak to her about his education and then spent an hour telling her why she shouldn’t support the petition drive.
“I want the principal and all the teachers to stop intimidating parents and especially our kids,” Romero said. “It’s really sad. My son told me he hated me for what I’m doing. I told him that I’m doing this for his future.”
The parents were joined by Michelle Rhee, the former Washington, D.C., public schools chancellor who heads the recently-formed reform group Students First. She urged district administrators to create ground rules for acceptable and unacceptable behavior by employees.
“If [educators] are saying that parents need to get more involved ... we cannot create a hostile environment” when parents speak up, Rhee said.
Neither district officials nor McKinley Principal Fleming Robinson returned calls seeking comment. In a statement issued last week, Robinson said some parents who signed the petition reported that they were harassed and misinformed by organizers.
“Some have said they signed the petition but were harassed or signed under false pretenses, which included beautifying the school,” Robinson said. “A lot of parents weren’t given clear information on what the petition was for.”
He said the school is working closely with parents and the community to increase student achievement.
-- Carla Rivera