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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Give Sudbury Residents Answers Before Non-Residents

Parent Christine Hogan says her repeated questions to Lisa Gutch and other members of Sudbury Public Schools Committee regarding policy toward the interrogation of students have been ignored.

Last Friday, Lisa Gutch responded to a comment made by Thomas Schmidt, a Patch reader, who asserts that he has been researching our school system.  In her response, Ms. Gutch states that she is the Vice Chair of the Sudbury School committee.  Furthermore, she offered to provide Mr. Schimdt with an "accurate account" of what has been happening in Sudbury (Public Schools) in recent months. 

Since Ms. Gutch represents herself as the Vice Chair of the SPSC and not as resident, taxpayer, or parent, I find her offer of information to be improper at best. If she is speaking with Mr. Schmidt in an official capacity and not as a town resident, it implies that she will be sharing more information regarding SPSC matters than she has with the parents, teachers and taxpayers that have been attending SPSC meetings since last spring. 

I have attended and posed questions at several of the aforementioned meetings. Therefore, as a resident of Sudbury and parent of children affected by the actions of the SPSC and administration last spring I am writing this letter.

I am hopeful that Ms. Gutch, in her position as Vice Chair would kindly follow up on my repeated requests which I first presented to her, the SPSC and Dr. Wilson last June.  To date I have not received a response pertaining to very specific questions I posed regarding policy.

In particular, I would like Ms. Gutch to address the written policies as they pertain to the questioning of children by administrators, teachers or staff and the notification of parents/guardians. If there are no policies at present, I highly suggest that it be made a priority that some be put in place. It was made clear nearly five months ago that this is a pressing issue. 

The policies should at the very least include stipulations as to when parents/guardians should be offered the opportunity to be present with their children during questioning. Many parents feel that it can be highly traumatizing to have small children interrogated by administrators about matters of a serious nature, particularly those which could potentially determine the need for the filing of a 51A and dismissal of a teacher or administrator. 

Parents of children included in this interrogation practice last May raised their concerns to the administration in a meeting on June 5. When asked why parents were not contacted prior to the questioning of their children by the principal and vice principal (even though many parents were in the school building during the interrogations) the principal said they “question students regarding incidents all the time.”

I maintain that the “incident” that ultimately led to a teacher’s dismissal and Superintendent Dr. Wilson filing a 51A 18 days later was not an everyday event. This is what prompted my request for clarification on the policies that are, or should be in place regarding the questioning of children.

I am confident Ms. Gutch agrees that parents ultimately have the most rights where the well-being of their children is concerned. Since it is the position of the administration that “the safety and well-being of our students is our highest priority” I am certain that this subject has been given due consideration by her and the SPSC. 

I do not see any downside to having a clear and reassuring policy as it would protect not only the children who have been described as the highest priority, but teachers, staff, administration, the SPSC and the taxpayers (from possible lawsuits) as well.

Since it has been more than five months since "the event" took place and more than for months since I first asked the question of Ms. Gutch, Dr. Wilson and the other SPSC members, I would greatly appreciate it if Ms. Gutch would kindly respond to my request regarding written policy in this situation since she has availed herself to another Patch reader.  I look forward to Ms. Gutch, the other members of the SPSC and Dr. Wilson responding to all of Sudbury as to what the policy is and when we can expect to see it in the handbook. 

Thank you you for your prompt attention to this highly important matter.  

Christine Hogan
49 Blueberry Hill Lane
christine@hogans.org

arbly October 22, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Cue the SPSC crickets
Scott Nassa October 22, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Great letter Christine. I for one would like clarification from SPS on couple issues. 1. Will there be policy moving forward on the questioning of children. Personally I would like to be notified before my daughter is questioned in any way. That being said at the very least I would like to be notified by the end of the day she was questioned to include what questions she was asked. I don't believe either was the case in the Mrs. J incident. If it was please feel free to correct me. 2. I am eager to hear what the SPS policy is for teachers breaking up fights. We heard from Rich Robison during an SPS meeting that the Mrs J. incident had nothing to do with a fight yet documents have been provided to the contrary. Personally if I was a teacher I would be afraid to break up a fight moving forward in fear of my job. If there is not currently an enforceable policy, SPS needs to establish one ASAP to protect our teachers from doing the wrong thing and to protect our children from getting injured during a fight that is allowed to continue. The fact that no information was given on the actual "legal" details of the case is understandable. The fact that no information at all has been provided is laughable. We need somebody from SPS to emerge as a leader and give parents some explanation as to what happened that day so that parents, children, teachers, administrators, Anne Wilson as well as the committee may learn from it.
Sudbury Citizen October 22, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Lisa Gutch please resign. You are bad for SPS and bad for Sudbury. Please resign now.
JJoseph October 22, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Since when did Lisa Gutch become the official spokesperson for Sudbury? She will talk with Mr. Schmidt but she gives the people who voted for her the cold shoulder. Lisa Gutch does not represent the people in Sudbury.
Seeking Transparency October 22, 2012 at 01:46 PM
I attended many of the meetings last spring and remember Mrs. Hogan asking for clarification or declaration of policies relating to student questioning. This request was/is not specifically related to a single incident and I see no reason why SPSC cannot respond to this request. It is shameful that a taxpayers request for simple information cannot be responded to while Ms. Gutch is willing to go out of her way to share details of events related to the administrations poor handling of personnel issues.
joanne October 22, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Wonderful letter Christine- I think the SPSC should put this on their next agenda. Lisa Gutch needs to explain herself- As to why she would appoint herself spokesperson of Sudbury, and why she can answer questions from an out of towner. She opened the door, now let us in-
UserName October 22, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I am struggling to understand what the big deal is about notifying parents when their children are being interrogated about serious issues? Why can't they just place a quick call? I know they will throw out the idea that they are legally entitled to do so - but it doesn't make it morally correct. Shouldn't we aim a little higher than such a mediocre standard in Sudbury? I agree with Mrs. Hogan - of course parents should have the most rights where their children are concerned. A few unlucky first graders got caught in the crossfire of a political fight between grown-ups. Why not just admit that and say it won't happen again? To put it simply, if you need permission to photograph our children - you should obviously have permission to interrogate them on adult personnel matters. This should be really easy.
Edward Stark October 22, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Typical Lisa Gutch. It's easier to blame the posts on Sudbury Patch rather than take responsibility for the actual actions that have tainted our town. We had an after hours party at Lavenders with two of the three selectman and town manager present. We had a town employee leave Lavenders smashed on way to her third OUI. We had a teacher get fired and we still have no idea as to why. We had children questioned without their parents being notified. We had a 51A filed on one of our administrators, yet the public still has no idea why. We have a town planner who's husband represents MA builders but never seems to recuse herself from a discussion involving these very same builders. Never fear, none of these issues have anything to do with Sudbury's image. It's all about the Sudbury Patch posts. Robert for Sudbury's sake can you please shut down your website so Sudbury can go back to being the hunky dory town that Lisa accuses you and the commenters of ruining?
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ October 22, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Sudbury's "problems" are hilarious. We should all be thankful this town doesn't have any actual problems like drugs or whatever. (pot doesn't count as a drug problem, we all know that's not a real issue) Anyway, ranting about all of these "conspiracies" and what not aren't good for y'alls health.
sudburyguy November 01, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Christine, what you and the others fail to realize is that is the minds of those who run our schools the rights of the parents are few. There are inconvenient privacy issues such as what makes it necessary to get releases for photographs, etc. but when it comes to communication with, and discipline and curriculum for our children, the schools feel the parents rights are quite limited. Our kids are, in fact, while in the four walls of the school, essentially "their" children. Try challenging the schools on this and you will quickly see that there are no limits to what they'll do to preserve this. Look at the case of David Parker in Lexington. http://davidparkerfund.org/html/lawsuit.html While you may feel this is extreme with the "diversity issue" it does show that these people see parents as a minor player in the legal dynamic of parental notification, etc. Parents lost many of their rights a long time ago. The only way to return them is to continue railing at those who restrict our rights. For that, Christine, you should be commended.
sudburyguy November 01, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Oh, and I failed to mention........ Cited in this lawsuit against the school of Lexington: http://davidparkerfund.org/html/lawsuit.html .......is Joni Jay......now the principal of the Nixon school. Think about it.

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