RIPON - It was all about “The Wall” disciplinary action at Weston Elementary School that drew the ire of one mom who spoke her mind to the Ripon Unified School Board Monday night after putting up a three-page website online defending her stand.
Mary Ann Fiedler called for a change in school board policy that allows teachers to take recess privileges away from students when they fail to return signed report cards and school work that was sent home for a parent’s signature. She further argued that her 6-year-old daughter was disciplined without due process.
When the mother walked up to the microphone to address the board, she was told she had the usual three minutes to present her protest by board President Larry Stewart. She demanded more saying that she needed a full 20 minutes. She was given 10 minutes for her presentation and 10 for a question and answer period.
Tuesday morning Felder posted on her website that Stewart had interrupted her in the middle of her presentation and then opened the microphone to public comment with several other speakers coming forward.
Those speakers included elementary school teacher Debra Newberg and two Ripon High School students who had experience themselves in being disciplined years earlier for not returning school work and having to sit at the wall during their morning recess.
Newberg said that in her last 24 years of teaching in the district, the wall discipline at recess time has been used when school work and report cards were not returned to the teacher in a timely manner. She added that Fiedler has had three of her six children in school previously and should have become familiar with the policy before now.
Ripon High School student Seth Lawler told trustees that he feels from his own elementary school experience that the wall discipline is “perfectly acceptable.” He added that he believes it helps students learn responsibility for their actions and develops respect for the teachers at the same time.
Another high school student, who had attended Weston Elementary School, said, “The wall really did teach us we had to show up with our signed school work. The wall is not a negative aspect but one to make us learn responsibility.”
California Teachers Association (CTA) representative Vicky Marien also took issue with the wall discipline controversy. She noted that she had taught elementary school in Lodi for 25 years and also used the wall at recess time to make a point with her students.
Both Marien and Newberg opposed the notion by Fiedler that the teachers should call parents when students overlook returning school work that has been sent home for the signature of a parent.
Newberg had said the lack of time in a teacher’s day prevents such maintenance calls to the home. Marien agreed saying Lodi had 31,000 students and it would have been beyond comprehension to make calls to the ones who had forgotten their obligations.
School trustee Mike Fisher said he was in the same situation last October when he failed to return his son’s interim report card. He remembered his son had brought it home and he looked at it, thinking it was his to keep.
“He came home and said he had to sit on the wall – I signed it and he took it back to school,” Fisher said. That’s all there was to it, he added.
“What is this world coming to? This is over the top!” He added that this matter shouldn’t take this kind of attention.
Fiedler argued that the Weston School student handbook “loss of recess” section is not consistent with current governing school board policies under AR 6154, AR 5133, AR 5144 and California
Education Code Section 35291.
In her posting on her website Tuesday she claims the action of the Ripon board in turning down her request to change discipline policy, and even to review evidence she brought to the table, violated the RUSD bylaws and due process under California’s Constitution, statutes and regulations.
She also voiced a need to repeal Weston’s school handbook rules and procedures regarding the loss of recess for students failing to turn in school forms or homework, because they do not align with governing school board policies.