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"It's a lie." 2 Board members react to TUSD's denial of downplaying discipline

Posted at 7:59 PM, Jun 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-08 14:12:16-04
TUSD administration is working this month on a new Code of Conduct -- a discipline policy that affects the safety and learning of every TUSD student.
KGUN recently reported claims by insiders that the district's push to reduce suspensions and expulsions is causing district-wide disorder. 
Just last month three fights erupted at Booth-Fickett after the district showed the principal the door following an interview with KGUN9. He complained that major shifts in the discipline policy over the past two years have led to more aggressive misbehavior -- like assaults -- and the problem is escalating.
Then more insiders came forward to say the district downplays and under-reports severe discipline incidents and documents we obtained backed up their claims.
Board members Mark Stegeman and Michael Hicks say staff complained all school year that the district's discipline practices are too lenient, which created chaos on many campuses.
"Kids being beat up. Kids being bullied. Kids getting sexually harassed," said Stegeman.
"I can tell you my views on some of the kids I've talked to. They think it's a joke," said Hicks. 
Several insiders, including former Principal Bermudez, told KGUN9 that Central Administration is forcing principals to downplay and under-report student violations in the name of incident reduction.
We reported the case of a student who put a teacher in a choke hold, which is "aggravated assault" according to district policy, but it was labeled "disorderly conduct" and "endangerment" in the Incident Detail Report. "This is not a secret. This is an open secret. Everybody knows this is happening. I have heard that from too many different schools in too many different ways to have any doubts about it," said Stegeman.
Both Stegeman and Hicks say they've been told by Central Administration that there are no discipline problems.
"It's a lie. It's a flat out lie. I know it's a lie. I go to these schools all the time. I know the ones who get bulled all the time," said Hicks.
Both board members are not confident the district's revisions to the discipline policy will address the issues brought forward by the insiders. "There's not much I can do except vote no," said Stegeman. 
Cavazos asked Hicks, "So what are you going to do?" 
He replied, "Honestly, I wish there is something I can do, but as you know I'm on the backside of the board majority."

Cavazos reached out to the board majority, President Adelita Grijalva, Kristol Foster and Cam Juarez for their response -- written or on camera. Grijalva and Foster never responded back and Cam Juarez emailed "No Comment."

Cavazos reached out to the district about our investigation and received this response:
"The school board will hear more about the work to update the Code of Conduct in June and the Tucson Unified School District Communications department will keep KGUN and other local media outlets informed to ensure the community can be involved and up to date."