DISD finds problems at elementary school, but won't elaborate

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on February 17, 2012 at 11:46 PM

DALLAS - A heavily redacted DISD report released Friday admits it found "troubling" problems at Dallas’ Ebby Halliday Elementary.

The five-month investigation found 11 of 22 allegations of misconduct to be true, although district officials refused to reveal the details of the problems.
 
"There was some inappropriate means of disciplining students, and then some lax reporting of suspected child abuse," said district spokesperson Jon Dahlander.
 
He declined to elaborate.

Dozens of pages from the report were blacked out, and the district has asked the Texas Attorney General whether more can eventually be made public.
 
Yet insiders insist the abuse was not physical, and that problems were along the lines of employees shouting at students or teachers not properly reporting complaints.
 
"Really what it boils down to, is improper classroom management," Dahlander said.
 
In the fall, parents held meetings where they tearfully recounted how teachers were hitting children, denying them bathroom breaks and making them eat without using their hands.

All of it false, officials now insist.
 
Investigators say rumors grew and spread, partly because school administrators did not speak Spanish, leading to "confusion, hostility and distrust" according to a news release. Three out of four of Halliday’s 582 students are Hispanic.
 
The district disciplined 20 school employees, and three were suspected without pay.

Yet no one from the school was fired. The principal, Kamalia Cotton, was transferred to another campus and will lead Martin Weiss Elementary next year.
 
"My concern is if we don’t start getting rid of bad apples in DISD, it’s going to continue," said Beatrice Martinez, LULAC’s deputy director in Texas, who strongly criticized the report and the district’s actions. "With DISD, they just shift the problems!"
 
The district says none of the problems it found justified firing teachers. The staff is being trained, and administrators insist conditions have improved at that school.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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