DRACUT -- Dracut High School parent Victor Martinez informed the School Committee that his freshman daughter was slapped in the face by a male freshman in class last week, and Martinez said he plans to press charges of assault because he was not satisfied with the "inadequate" punishment meted out by the school.
Martinez reported the April 9 incident to the School Committee during the public-input segment of Monday's meeting, which also included a legislative update from state Rep. Colleen Garry, a discussion of the legal counsel vacancy created by Kevin Murphy taking the Lowell city-manager job, and board vote to approve a new three-year contract with the school-cafeteria workers union.
"As stated by my daughter, a student that is known to have violent outbursts slapped her in the face while she was sitting in her seat doing her classwork with a couple of her friends," Martinez reported to the board.
When one of two teachers in the room realized what had happened, "the para simply took the student out of class, and brought him for a 'walk,' yes, a walk because he was getting 'antsy,' " said Martinez, recounting the description of the incident given to him by his daughter, who he described as a good student and three-sport athlete with a perfect attendance record.
"I do not understand why at that moment, or soon thereafter, he was not brought to the principal's office for immediate discipline," he said.
After a series of phone calls, Martinez said he learned the student was given only a one-day suspension that was served by the student Thursday before he returned to his daughter's classroom Friday.
Martinez accepted the administration's offer to have his daughter meet with School Resource Officer Jim Quealy at their home on Saturday to give him their written statement about the incident.
Following phone conversations Monday with Dracut High Principal Richard Manley and Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone that Martinez says left him dissatisfied, he felt the need to further publicize the matter to hold the district accountable for future potential incidents involving the same student, he said.
Stone said after the meeting the incident was properly addressed.
"It's been handled, and I followed up with the high school and they're handling the situation," Stone said. "As always, there are a lot of complicated (elements of the story) unsaid. We handled this according to the handbook."
Martinez said he is a career educator and former high school dean of discipline, who recently returned to the classroom to teach American Government at Greater Lawrence Technical High School. He cited recent reports of school violence, including "the stabbing of 20 students last week, and incident in Peabody this past winter" as reasons why Dracut's administrators should have taken the school assault on his daughter more seriously.
"Personally, I would have given him an automatic 10-day suspension, and expulsion hearing for a student that has a track record," said Martinez. "Let's protect our kids; that's all I'm asking. I hope you do put it in the paper, because it needs to get out. You can't have these kinds of things going on and pretend it's not happening. You can't run away and say. 'We didn't see this coming.'"
In other business, the board tabled until their next meeting naming a permanent replacement for Kevin Murphy as legal counsel.
"I'd like to congratulate attorney Murphy and have us send him well wishes and thank him in a letter from the board for all his good work on behalf of the Dracut schools," School Committee member Joe Wilkie said of Murphy, who was sworn in as Lowell City manager earlier Monday.
Longtime Dracut Public School cafeteria worker Dorothea Patenaude representing her union of about 22 members signed a new three-year contract agreement with the district containing no increases overall, School Committee Chairman Michael McNamara said.
"They have really worked hard and done a great job with the food service, and we really appreciate it," said Stone, praising Patenaude and her coworkers.
Also during Monday night's meeting, the board honored Lakeview Junior High School seventh-grader Megan Tyler for her second-place winning entry in Middlesex County in the state fire marshal's fire safety poster contest. Megan, with her parents Kim and Steven Tyler and art teacher Lynne Shepherd, presented the board with copies of her poster advising the public of 10 fire-safety activities the public can do, including not leaving a fire in a fireplace, or a burning candle unattended.
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