Student transfers out of Madison school district; family concerned about safety
By CHUCK CLEMENT, Staff Reporter
Neisha Bjorklund's young son started attending classes at a new school on Thursday after his family wasn't satisfied with the actions of officials in the Madison Central School District regarding threats to his safety by another student.|
Bjorklund made fully public her concerns about her elementary-age son's safety in a letter to the editor sent to the Madison Daily Leader; it was published on Monday. As far as she is concerned, her family wanted to have school district policies followed. Bjorklund wasn't satisfied with the responses from school officials after an incident in which her son received a threat involving a knife and a knife was found on school grounds among the belongings of the other student who made the threat.
The boy found having a knife was placed on eight days suspension from Madison Elementary School for violating school policies. Despite that disciplinary action, Bjorklund doesn't believe that enough was done in response to breaking the school's rules. She pointed out a separate incident in which a student was found to have a prohibited item at the school and that child was expelled.
According to Bjorklund, the student was given an eight-day suspension partly because the knife wasn't in his immediate possession. She said the elementary principal also judged that the originally-reported threat wasn't a serious statement.
"(The principal) didn't feel that his intentions were serious," Bjorklund said.
Bjorklund said the knife-related incident occurred one morning before classes when her son was in the serving line for the school's cafeteria breakfast. He made a comment while getting his food that Bjorklund said was heard by the other student who had just entered the school building. Bjorklund's son had explained to her that the other student had taken the comment as directed at him and took offense. She said the boys got into a verbal argument that escalated into a threat from the other student.
"I was told that the kid had said, `Would you like to take this up with my knife'?" Bjorklund said.
According to Bjorklund, the difficulties between the two boys grew earlier during the fall semester when her son became friends with a third male student who is in the same grade level and studies in her son's classroom.
The third boy was also a friend to the suspended student. Bjorklund believes the student who was suspended had apparently developed jealousy about sharing the friendship.
According to Bjorklund, friction between the two boys grew into a physical altercation on the school playground that occurred a couple of weeks before the cafeteria argument. Bjorklund said that Dan Walsh, the elementary school principal, had worked on getting the two boys to reconcile partly by having them eat lunch together in the school's office area. Bjorklund said she wasn't immediately notified about the playground incident, but she didn't object to the principal's attempt to work out the differences between the two boys. She added that any reconciliation between the boys didn't last.
"I thought that things had improved for a little bit, but then it got worse," Bjorklund said.
Bjorklund said that an alleged additional threat spoken during the cafeteria incident provided additional concern for her. Her son and several other students had later told the adults that the suspended student had made a direct threat to use the knife.
According to Bjorklund, the student's suspension provided some relief for her son.
"The eight days that the boy was gone, they were the best time for my son," Bjorklund said.
Bjorklund took her concerns to Madison Superintendent Vince Schaefer, and the Madison School Board held a special meeting on the morning of Dec. 17 that dealt with the school incidents and eight-day suspension. Bjorklund said the special session was held on the same morning that the suspended boy returned to classes. She said that the school board determined that the disciplinary action was appropriate.
Bjorklund had concerns that the boy wasn't suspended. She and her family also hadn't received much from the school officials about the weapon that was found and any related information. Bjorklund said that the only information that she received about the knife was that it was found among the student's belongings and that it wasn't a "Swiss Army knife."
Bjorklund said that she wants to know why the student wasn't expelled and why the police weren't notified about the weapon.
The incident and disciplinary action wasn't completely kept behind closed doors because Bjorklund said many other parents have asked her about the incident. She said other parents also have concerns.
"I see them in the grocery store or other places in town, and they would like to know some of the answers, too," Bjorklund said.
When contacted by the Daily Leader, Principal Walsh said that he couldn't speak to the situation relating to Bjorklund's concerns, stating that it was a "confidential matter dealing with a student." Superintendent Schaefer expressed no interest in discussing security as related to weapons on school property.
Tom Farrell, president of the Madison School Board, was contacted Friday. Farrell said that he was out of town earlier this week and had not read Bjorklund's letter to the editor. He declined to speak on the subject, saying he would not comment without reading the letter.