Letter To The Editor
by Colleen Hargrove
Editor’s Note: Ms. Hargrove spoke before the Board of Education and the Town Council regarding the Johnson House Academy assault, and she submitted her presentations to the Letter To The Editor for publication.
My name is Colleen Hargrove. I’ve been a resident of Stratford for 3 years now: living with my wife, 3 children and my granddaughter who is a 7-year-old first grader at Johnson House Academy. She is sassy, outgoing and very honest. So, it was no surprise to us that when she came home from school mid-October giving us details about a little boy in her class who just wasn’t “very nice”. She’d explain to us childlike behavior he would display during class or on the playground; things like pushing, punching children (including herself) in the arm, and kicking them in the shin. She would tell us about incidences where the entire class would have to evacuate due to his erratic behavior towards them and even the teacher. As seasoned parents having raised 4 children between the two of us, who are all well into their 20s; we chalked this up to “kids being kids” and felt as though these were minor incidents that were being dealt with by staff timely and accordingly.
That changed when in January of 2023 she ended up getting kicked in her what we called at the time her “good arm” due to her other one being in a cast. We did not receive a phone call about it from the principal or his assistant, but rather heard it from her when she came home that night. My wife and I decided it was finally time to call the school ourselves and ask what exactly they are doing to not only ensure the safety of our granddaughter, but the class as a whole; including the teacher and make sure that their education is not further compromised. I was told a “safety plan” was being put in place and I would no longer have to worry about outbursts or physical abuse like this moving forward.
Not too long after this conversation, sometime in February, our granddaughter came home after school to tell us that she was hit in the face by a wooden bathroom pass as result of this same little boy swinging the lanyard it was on, around his head. Although she was not the only person in the room affected by this, I was furious. Not only am I hearing about this again from my child, and not administration, but I was told a few short weeks ago this was “under control” and it became very clear to me in this moment, it was not. In the time between this incident and the next, I began to religiously show up to the school looking for answers: Why is this continuing to happen? If the safety plan isn’t working, what are the next steps? Instead of answers, I was told that administration was too busy to speak with me; but not to worry because everything was being “handled”.
After countless attempts to work with the principal and his team, I decided it was time to go over his head. I sent out dozens of emails, and on March 24th, 2023 – I met with Dr. Daniels; the Director of School Leadership and Accountability here in Stratford, who seemed to have the same goal in mind: make my child’s classroom a safe and fun place to learn again. After talking with her, it was brought to my attention that the school’s admins had dropped the ball on this so-called safety plan, but to give her two weeks and she’d have a permanent solution to this ongoing problem.
Three days after that conversation was had, this child targeted my granddaughter by throwing an orange traffic cone at her. Again, no call from administration. Between then and now, the abuse has not only continued but escalated. My child has been kicked in the legs, hit in the back of the head, and as of recently: sucker punched in the face. Which is now all being downplayed by every adult involved, including those in the Superintendent’s office who told me that “every child, including my child, should have access to a safe and inclusive learning environment”. If you ask me, nothing that has transpired in the last 7 months is considered safe. Not only is our child’s education being compromised, but so is the education of her peers, and how much is the abuser learning if he cannot sit through an entire class without an outburst?
In that past 7 months this has gone from “kids being kids” to physical assault. In 7 months, I’ve heard more stories about how my child’s classroom had to be evacuated, than I heard about what she’s learned that day. In 7 months, my independent and outspoken first grader now wakes up in the middle of the night in a panic, she’s asked to sleep in our bed more times than she’s had in the last three years, and when asked about her day, puts her head down and goes mute. Not only is this showing my wife and I that our child’s past traumas are resurfacing, but also a sign that the abuse she is experiencing is affecting her everyday life and mental health. And their solution: move my granddaughter away from her friends and closer to the teacher. So now at the age of seven, my child is being taught that it’s okay for a little boy to hit girls. We’re teaching her and every other child in that classroom that there are no consequences to their actions, and admins are showing these kids that no matter who you tell or how much; the victims are to blame.
If 7 months ago there was any effort to make the situation better, I do not believe I’d be standing in front of you all tonight. Instead, my wife and I have been fed lies and were given false hope that this situation was under control. Now, our child who once loved school and was excited to learn – dreads going. And all because every adult involved, apart from our child’s teacher and school nurse, has failed her.
05/19/2023 Just a little update for you all who keep downplaying this ON-GOING issue: my granddaughter was GRABBED by the back of the head today at lunch today by the same little boy who BIT THE TEACHER and was left screaming and crying IN FRONT OF HER PEERS because YOU ALL did not take PROPER action when necessary! I am beyond furious and beyond heartbroken for MY CHILD who is continuously traumatized on YOUR WATCH, so save the empathy speeches.
I am heading to the school now with the police, you all can do what you want with that information.
05/21/2023 I have to address the issue lies once again on the BOE and the super of this town. Whether these parents of children like this are not being
made aware of their rights and or central office is not doing what is right for these children! This child should have been out placed a long time ago!
He bit one of your staff members! He disrupts the class on a daily! He destroys the classroom making it a total mess! He attacks the adults and children around him daily! And one day this past week he did all three of these things and was still allowed to remain in the classroom why was he not sent home? Shit trickles downward!
So, the super is to blame here! He actually called me Friday night and he might have well just not have made that phone call! He was short he was rude and just wanted me to know from his mouth like that holds any weight here at this point that they were taking swift action! He already assured me of that Friday afternoon! His words the super ” I just wanted you to hear it from my mouth that we are taking swift action have a great night!” That was all he said, I said excuse me that’s all you got? Not once did he show concern for my granddaughter and ask how she was! He is totally unprofessional, not experienced in handling a district like we have with the issues we have!
What will you the BOE do about this? I am slowly learning of the divide here in town and let me voice that. The divide here in town has no place in these seats you all sit in as BOE members! Your personal issues, your ego, your personal agendas need to be left out of your discussion’s when it comes to ALL THE CHILDREN HERE IN STRATFORD! I have had many conversations with plenty people in town to come to my conclusion on this issue I am addressing here THE DIVIDE! If you all cannot have a productive and proactive conversations and come up with solutions for these very serious issues and come up with a solution for all the children here then get off the BOE and let people who all want the same thing done and who will consider things they don’t believe in but are able to compromise on because They want what is right for ALL CHILDREN HERE IN STRATFORD hold the seats! Your political views have NO ROOM TO PLAY APART HERE AS BOE MEMBERS!
SO, I WILL CHALLANGE YOU ALL ONCE AGAIN WILL YOU CONTINUE TO BE APART OF THE PROBLEM OR PART OF THE SOLUTION?
BECAUSE RIGHT NOW YOU ALL ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!