05/18/04 — Parents protest at Warsaw school

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Parents protest at Warsaw school

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on May 18, 2004 1:58 PM

WARSAW -- The day before end-of-grade testing was to begin, about a dozen relatives of students attending Warsaw Elementary School waved picket signs and shouted slogans.

The protesters on Monday said they wanted the school to hire a full-time nurse and an exterminator, and they want the minority children treated fairly. One of them said she saw a rat at the school.

Rebecca King

Rebecca King

"No assistance from the Board of Education," said a sign held by Tammy Armstrong-Vann, whose daughter is in the third grade and "doesn't want to come to school."

"Students of color treated unfairly," says another sign. Brenda Faison said her 6-year-old granddaughter was sent home for wearing flip-flops, while other children and some of the adults wear them. "It's just a big old mess, and I don't like it," she said. "Some children they like, and other children they just don't like them."

Patrinia Philyaw organized the group of a dozen protesters after her grandson was injured in April and school officials didn't notify his mother. She said she asked the teacher why she was not notified, and the teacher said she was "too busy."

Claud Morrisey, director of special programs and minority achievement at the school administration office, said the teacher and principal have apologized to the family. It was an oversight, he said. "It doesn't normally happen. We have a form they fill out, and the school nurse checks it at the end of the school year."

Morrisey said he has seen no signs of discrimination against minority children at the school. "This is the same group that had a problem four years ago. I don't know the details, but I believe they were concerned about the treatment of students."

The school has had two principals since that time, and Morrisey said Rebecca King is doing a great job. "We don't have a problem with the parents speaking their heart. I just don't know what they're upset about. We try to do what's best for the children and hope the children have a good school experience."

Meanwhile, other parents were inside the school in support of the teachers.

The timing of the protest was bad in relation to the end-of-grade tests, said Betty Smith, a member of the school advisory board and volunteer at the school. "There are no mice or rats. I come out here real often to have lunch with my son. ... I don't see any difference in the discipline."

This is Rebecca King's second year as principal at Warsaw Elementary. The school practices an open-door policy allowing parents to voice their concerns, she said. "Our faculty, staff and students are very proud of what our school has accomplished," she said. "We could not have done it without the support of our parents, community, central office staff and the board of education."

In response to the allegations, she said the following:

She has only been notified of two mice on campus and an exterminator was called.

She said it is the goal at her school to always maintain the dignity of the students and treat them fairly.

And the school shares a nurse with three other schools.