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Sunday, August 7, 2022

School violence in Redwood City

school bullying

Cameras do not work and authorities never have time to attend to parents

By Lorena Segovia

Bullying has always existed, but perhaps because of the isolation by COVID-19, students were cut off from each other. I am a resident of Redwood City and my daughter was telling me how her lunch was taken away from her in kindergarten. How is it possible for children to do this, I wondered after several incidents my daughter suffered during her life as a student who, for privacy reasons of a minor, her identity was not disclosed.

Recently, in January of this year, my daughter was, once again, a victim of bullying at McKinley Institute of Technology, part of the Redwood City School District. 

I thought that, by obligation, all schools in the district should have security cameras and CCTV to identify any problem of bullying, a phenomenon that is more frequent in recent generations.

"Your daughter was touched inappropriately," the doctor who treated my child told me after the incident. I didn't know until then. I knew that a student had struggled and pushed my daughter, but not where he had touched her. My daughter points to the chest area, so the doctor concludes it was a sexual assault.

I immediately contacted the authorities of the McKinley Institute of TechnologyThe school staff attributed the refusal to the lack of maintenance of the closed circuit; however, in addition, there are not enough security personnel inside the schools. 

Nothing is being done to try to fix it...it is disturbing, the cameras are just for show, and I suspect that the security cameras were in operation when my daughter was being harassed. How can a parent check their operation if there is no response from the responsible authorities?

My daughter felt abandoned. In addition, the school is unable to identify students' emotional problems, which creates an unstable learning environment. 

There are many, many cases of children with emotional problems, such as depression and anxiety attacks, however, the assistant principal and the psychologist with whom my daughter spoke immediately after the incident minimized what happened.

"I don't want to go anymore, I don't feel safe at school," was what my daughter told me after the bullying attack inside McKinley Institute of Technology. On top of that, two months later, they contacted me to renew her enrollment, otherwise, I was told, the student would lose her enrollment with the false promise of getting more support from the educational staff. 

I regret the fact that I can't do more about it for my daughter's safety, because it meant losing her place at McKinley Institute of Technology and hurting her education. 

What is going to happen? That is why many people are afraid to speak out in this and other cases of bullying within this and other schools.

They don't want to tell you, they don't tell you anything. I tried to interview witnesses who might have seen something, but they all prefer to remain silent. 

I ask for clarification of my daughter's bullying case, but no authority, both McKinley Institute of Technology and Student Services officials, have been willing to make the case official, investigate it and resolve it. "Nothing happened," they answered me; on top of that, they proposed to "wipe the slate clean."

There are people - students and teachers - who know the minor who assaulted my daughter; however, the school denies having recognized the aggressor, so he has not received any warning. 

In talking with other parents, I realize that my daughter's is not the only case of school violence in Redwood City. 

Another, of many examples, is the one that occurred in November 2021 at Orion School, where a 7-year-old minor suffered a wound that required five stitches. According to the school, the minor tripped and that is how he was injured. However, again the cameras allegedly did not work. A fortnight after the incident, the child fell again and there were no cameras either. 

The school authorities hide behind the excuse that, for COVID-19 reasons, they cannot receive parents in person. In addition, the principal of McKinley Institute of Technology, Sara Shackel, is also the principal of North Star Academy, because she does not have the time to provide the necessary attention to parents. 

I have been able to identify at least five other cases of school bullying in the Latino community. Many times, language barriers hold us back as a community.

This also makes it difficult for parents to get help in other ways. Therefore, it is easier for school authorities to say that the security cameras inside the schools do not work.

These are cases that need to be talked about. The aggressor never waits for the victim to react; if you react, speak up and call attention to the moment of the aggression, many people will realize what is happening. If you keep quiet, no one will know.

*Lorena Segovia is a Redwood City resident and part of the Peninsula 360 Press Community Journalism Workshop. This article was written with the support of Cristian Castro.

You may be interested in: Redwood City School District offers tools for families to cope with violent events


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