A Montclair parent detailed an incident that occurred off campus Friday, involving MHS students allegedly attacking her daughter and six other students on Mission Street, during public comment at Wednesday’s Montclair BOE meeting. The parent, who appreciated Superintendent Kendra Johnson’s actions so far, wanted to inform the board publicly, both to ensure that Dr. Johnson would have their support and to bring attention to the incident to a larger audience.
The parent said the incident had first started at school last Friday and she was called by a guidance counselor, but was not informed of the “magnitude or the level of what the incident was.” Had she known, she said she would have been able to make a more educated decision of what to do with her child and her friends.
“I’ve never would have expected my child to be beaten, kicked in the head and one child to be taken away in an ambulance and my child to be taken to the ER,” the parent said.
The parent said her child is traumatized and that she didn’t even know the students. She added that the students involved are still in school, even after a police report had been filed. She also stated that cyber-bullying occurred after the attack, by way of video from the beating incident, set to music. She said her daughter was also taunted by the girls in school after the incident. She wanted to know why she wasn’t notified of incident reports that had been turned in previously, adding that there was also a previous incident involving other students at Ruthie’s.
Superintendent Johnson responded to the questions raised by the parent following public comment.
“As it pertains to the unfortunate incident last Friday, my heart, my soul is very, very heavy and I’m definitely concerned about what transpired in the community. We have to be mindful of the scope and the role of the superintendent and principal in terms of restricting students access to the instructional program. I’m in consult with legal counsel to make sure that we do everything we can to have students who are victims feel safe in our high school, but the assault did not happen in our campus and we have some limitations in how we can go back and give consequences or exclude, so we are proceeding cautiously because all students as it pertains to education have a right to be educated in the school. Not withstanding that, every single victim’s parents, who reached out to me, we are going to work diligently with the safety plans if students are interested in returning and if not, we are working diligently with other options.”
Johnson added that for any incidents that are occurring on campus, consequences will be given, and she is working in collaboration with Montclair Police Department, to make sure all the criminal activity that occurred on Friday is being documented. She reiterated that MHS is an open campus and the district is using additional security to ensure every student feels safe.
Another parent, Tony Ianuale, raised an issue with reduced instructional time in the new double rotating drop schedule proposed for Montclair High School in the fall, saying that it would result in shortened instructional time per class, adding up to three week’s less time per class over the course of the year. Ianuale added that the schools Montclair High School looked at when planning the schedule have a longer school day and therefore can provide more instructional time. The loss of zero period was also mentioned.
Johnson responded that a briefing document would be prepared to address and clarify the schedule.
“I was under the impression that zero period was remaining, so we need to make sure we clarify that for you,” Johnson said.
Johnson also responded to safety concerns raised by parent Nicole Farjani regarding all high school students leaving for lunch at the same time and that popular local food vendors had not been notified of this change.
“We will be as transparent as possible and will list out the vendors that have been contacted,” Johnson said.
Johnson also reiterated that she had never issued any statement about closing CGI and that Principal Grosso had also never issued any statement about closing CGI.
BOE President Eve Robinson announced at the start of the meeting, that after a long mediation session lasting until 5 a.m., the contract negotiation team had reached a tentative agreement with the Montclair Education Association (MEA).
“I don’t have any other details, but I can say a tentative agreement was reached and there will be more details when ratified,” said Robinson.
Robinson also stated that the public comment portion of the meeting was “a most important part of the agenda in a lot of ways.”
The next meeting of the Montclair Board of Education is Monday, June 17.