While parents send their kids to Clovis Unified schools to receive a superior education, the No. 1 priority of the district is ensuring children are safe while they are on and around campus.
While each school’s responsibility to its students’ safety during the school day is understood—for example all guests, even parents, must sign in the office before going on campus—those safety lines blur a little when school is out for the day as that responsibility shifts from the school site to the parent.
Recently, one such parent wrote a letter to The Roundup, expressing her opinion that the school’s responsibility ends once the bell rings and she arrives to pick up her son.
At the end of April, Doenella Lucas said she had difficulty picking up her first-grade son, a student at Clovis Elementary School, because his teacher would not let him walk to where her car was parked. She pulled up alongside the curb on the correct side of the street, she explains, because the parking lot was full. Though she was in plain sight of her son’s teacher, he was prevented from walking to the vehicle. This happened not on one but two occasions and the second, she said, was traumatic for her son who was brought to the office. Ultimately, Lucas had to wait to park and walk to the office to pick up her son on both occasions, an ordeal for her as she is pregnant and was advised by doctors not to do much strenuous activity. Additionally, she says she has two younger children who were with her, who she had to take out of their car seats.
The two occasions, according to Lucas, were made all the worse as her son was verbally scolded for attempting to walk to meet her, and on the second occasion, she says he was pulled by the arm to the office—an event that made her son dread going to school the next day.
“He has been changed since this event and has had nightmares and crying fits,” Lucas said. “He protests that he wants to be homeschooled numerous times a day now as well. He is a changed boy. I myself experienced a panic attack while watching the assault and kidnapping [forcing him to the office] and hearing the screams of my son … I am pregnant and feel that my health has been compromised by this stressful event.”
CUSD’s Chief Communications officer Kelly Avants could not comment on the specific situation with Lucas and her son but clarifies that it is in fact the district’s practice to only release younger students to the parking lot.
“Our practice related to preschool through first grade students is to only release them to parents in the parking lot because we have had several near misses when little ones are expected to run to parents who are parked on or across the street,” Avants said. “This policy is 100 percent driven by concern for the safety of our students.”
Although that is the policy, Avants said the district understands that parking lots do fill up quickly and sometimes parents are unable to leave their vehicle easily, as in Lucas’ case, due to a medical condition or pregnancy or because they are accompanied by several toddlers and/or babies. Each school site, she said, can work with parents in such scenarios to find a solution.
“Should a parent have extenuating circumstances that don’t allow him or her to leave their vehicle, we routinely work with parents to offer multiple options to have a staff member walk a student to the parking lot pickup area. But [we] cannot pull staff from their other supervision duties to leave campus to deliver a child to a car parked off campus,” Avants said.
As students get older, Avants said, the pickup policy becomes less stringent.
“Once you get into grades second through sixth, students are released from classes and we have supervision on the perimeter of campus to oversee drop off,” Avants said. “Students are able to leave campus to walk home and/or meet a parent. Because we are well aware that traffic around schools is difficult, we are constantly working to encourage parents to obey traffic laws and take advantage of safe pick-up and drop-off zones before and after school. We also recognize that there are a number of students who walk home from school and every school site will work with parents to offer options to help in those situations.”
“We very much hope that parents understand the rationale for this practice and respect our efforts to keep all of the hundreds of kids released from an elementary school at the end of the day safe from harm,” Avants added.