By Cheryl Ortega
On Friday, Nov 29 at 6:00 PM about 200 parents and neighborhood council members attended a meeting at Mayberry Elementary School in Silver Lake/Echo Park that had been requested by petition to Roberto Martinez, LAUSD Local Superintendent, through 40 school parents called Mayberry Amigos.
The parents asserted that over some months there had been half a dozen incidents involving students as young as 5 that caused the principal, Jessica Niessen, to call the police ON THE STUDENTS. The incident that actually triggered the petition was when a 5 year old boy who lowered his pants and exposed himself to his classmates was taken away by LAPD. The meeting, organized by parent Tatiana Ramirez, whose son is a classmate of the boy in question, was facilitated by LAUSD in spite of the fact that it was a parent-called meeting.
One parent, Elizabeth Kibbee, reported that she had contacted the ACLU and had been advised that minors may not be taken by police without notifying their parents. Other stated concerns were that the principal resists communication with parents and has not provided translation at parent meetings. Some 80% of the students are Hispanic and many parents do not speak English. Mayberry ES, as both a magnet school and having a dual language program, is also experiencing issues of competition between the two specialty programs.
Then the meeting took a very odd turn. Other parents took the mic to claim that they had a very fine relationship with Ms. Niessen and that any problems were the fault of the complaining parents. The faculty, one after another, stood and defended her as being an outstanding administrator. They criticized the parents who had complained. Ms. Niessen offered the “apology” that she was sorry if anyone had been offended by her unintentional behavior.
The District representatives were not helpful in suggesting remedies other that that “everyone should try to cooperate for the sake of the children and the school.” It did not seem to occur to anyone to apologize to parents who feel that they and their children are not respected, or, in fact, not safe.
No remedies were offered, no mediation. If I were one of the complaining parents, I would not have felt validated or even listened to. I heard no next steps offered to help this situation. But all were thanked for coming to the meeting.
Clearly there are some issues to resolve at Mayberry.
More coverage of this issue can be found in La Opinion “Padres acusan a directora de Mayberry St. Elementary por discriminacion y hostigamiento [harrassment].” Nov 28, 2018.