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Brushton-Moira officials acknowledge discipline wrong

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By OLIVIA PEPE

BRUSHTON - Brushton-Moira school officials have apologized to the parents of several children who were punished for signing a petition in December voicing their opposition to an assigned seating policy in the school’s cafeteria.

Nearly a dozen parents were present at a meeting this week where Brushton-Moira Shared Superintendent Beverly Ouderkirk apologized on behalf of high school Principal Nenette Greeno for not checking the cafeteria cameras shortly after the children began their petition against assigned seating in the cafeteria. At the time, the students were punished for causing a disturbance, but they contended that they had been acting within school rules when they signed the petition.

“When we viewed the video, there were some things we did not expect to see and we did not see some things that we expected to see,” Ms. Ouderkirk said.

“She [Greeno] apologized to me personally when I was in a private meeting with her about her not looking at the video before she acted,” according to Malinda Collins, the mother of one of the children who signed the petition.

It turned out that when the video was viewed, the children who signed the petition where not the ones causing the disturbance in the cafeteria, according to Ms. Collins.

But the children who signed the petition were the ones penalized.

Ms. Greeno had apologized to the students involved in the incident.

“I would have liked to have seen her step up and apologize, instead of Ouderkirk doing it for her,” Ms. Collins said. “She [Greeno] was devastated when she saw what really happened on the cameras.”

Ms. Ouderkirk assured the parents that the punishments would not be reflected from the students’ permanent records.

“It has been expunged from their records,” Ms. Ouderkirk said. “I know that was in a lot of your heads.”

Ms. Collins said she was not concerned with the detentions or the in-school suspensions, but the fact that this was just another blow to students communication abilities.

“I’m afraid our children are not going to know how to speak up,” she said. “All they do is Facebook and text; they don’t know how to communicate face to face.”

In her eyes, the petition was a big step for the students.

“Since talking about it, they have gotten their confidence back,” Ms. Collins said. “But I don’t think that’s enough.”

Ms. Ouderkirk said there had been positive conversations with the children who signed the petition.

“The honesty of children is incredible, most of the time,” Ms. Ouderkirk said.

Ms. Ouderkirk mentioned that one student had pointed out the fact that parents had been bickering over the situation.

Both students and staff wrote rules they wanted posted in the cafeteria.

“The students came up with more rules than the adults,” Ms. Greeno said.

Some of the rules include: no running, students must raise their hand for assistance, students must be quiet when the lights are turned off, students must use an inside voice and assigned seating if any rowdiness occurs.

“It’s their time to socialize ... We have seen an improvement,” Ms. Ouderkirk said.

Vitaline LePage, mother of another student who signed the petition, said she was happy with the outcome from the board.

“I’ve taught my daughter that everyone is responsible - adults and children,” she said. “I don’t think a resolution would have been made without the board’s involvement.”

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