SMCISD responds to parent grievance regarding student threats

Amira Van Leeuwen | Staff Reporter

The names of SMCISD staff have been removed at the request of the district. The source for this article, Lucia Muniz, goes by the last name Muniz and Rodriguez.

On February 28, a fifth-grade student from Mendez Elementary School came home anxious after receiving a threat with a knife from another fifth-grader. The concerned parent, Lucia Muniz-Rodriguez, filed for a Level 1 dispute resolution conference on March 25 after feeling the school mishandled the threat. The district responded in a letter to Muniz-Rodriguez on March 31.

In SMCISD’s Executive Director of Leadership’s disposition, he said student safety is a “number one priority” for the district. 

“Principals and teachers will continue to be provided timely training and expectations around safety procedures and protocols as they are modified and updated throughout the year,” the director said.

Regarding Muniz-Rodriguez’s concern with proper communication between the school and parents when safety incidents occur, the director said principals and all campus administration would be provided with a “reminder” of expectations around timely parent communication regarding any incident or concern involving their student.

The director denied Muniz-Rodriguez’s request to have the Mendez Elementary Principal removed from her position.

“It is clear from both written and verbal statements that communication to you from the principal should have been handled differently and that opportunities for clarification and support were missed,” the director said. “It is also evident that following the initial concern, the principal made additional attempts to support you and your student toward a resolution.”

He also addressed Muniz-Rodriguez’s concern about racial discrimination regarding her family being treated differently than a “white student involved in a similar situation.”

Although the director found no evidence to support Muniz-Rodriguez’s claim, he emphasized that the district takes “all claims of perceived racism seriously and will continue to do so.”

According to the SMCISD Student Handbook, the district “strives” to prevent bullying and encourages reporting bullying incidents. The handbook says bullying is prohibited by the district and could include hazing, threats, taunting, assault, etc.

The handbook also says, “Any retaliation against a student who reports an incident of bullying is prohibited. Upon recommendation of the administration, the board may transfer a student found to have engaged in bullying to another classroom at the campus. In consultation with the student’s parent, the board may transfer the student to another campus in the district.”

Muniz-Rodriguez said she was unhappy with the district’s response and is moving to file a grievance Level 2.

“Their response was ridiculous,” Muniz-Rodriguez said.

According to the SMCISD’s Chief of Communications Andrew Fernandez, the district will not comment during the grievance process.

“We will not comment any further to avoid interrupting the grievance process,” Fernandez said.

Muniz-Rodriguez contacted her appointed investigator on behalf of the district, Stephanie Munoz, on April 14. Munoz has also opened an investigation against the SMCISD Superindentent’s Secretary’s comments on social media, will be interviewing other staff members and parents, and speak to the parents of the other children involved in the incident. Muniz-Rodriguez is currently waiting on a response. 

They also scheduled a meeting to discuss Muniz-Rodriguez’s concerns on April 20. Munoz discussed Muniz-Rodriguez’s concerns regarding student confidentiality, unprofessional communication, and failing to contact Muniz-Rodriguez after the safety incident due to the race of her child.

“I was told that my grievance Level 2 is going to be paused until she [Munoz] completed her investigation. If I don’t like the outcome, I can continue my grievance two,” Muniz-Rodriguez said.

Muniz-Rodriguez also received a letter on April 12 from SMCISD’s Legal Counsel, J. Cruz and Associates, LLC. SMCISD’s Legal Counsel said that they’ve read several of Muniz-Rodriguez’s social media posts against school district employees, which were “uncalled for and needs to cease immediately.”

According to the letter, SMCISD does not condone Muniz-Rodriguez’s “disparaging comments” against the targeted employees.

“The District and/or its employee’s reserve the right to take action against you should your [Muniz-Rodriguez] disparaging, hostile commentary in public continue,” the statement said. 

Muniz-Rodriguez said she believes SMCISD is using the letter to intimidate and scare her because she has voiced her concerns against the district.

“I am disappointed as I feel like the district cares more about protecting their staff rather than their own students. I do not feel it is fair for me to receive this type of threat just because I voiced my concerns about the neglect of my child at school,” Muniz-Rodriguez said.

This is a developing story, San Marcos Corridor News will provide updates as they are made available.

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