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Opinion: Why Parents Are Leaving Amity

Opinion: Why Parents Are Leaving Amity

Toxic Culture, Weak Leadership, and Declining Education

Last month, I published data directly from the Amity Board of Education on the accelerating declines in enrollment at Amity. I then sought out the people behind the data to find out exactly why so many families are leaving, and received more than 70 survey responses. When asked, “Why did you leave Amity?,” three categories come up most repeatedly: culture, administration, and academics. Below is a summary with quotes pulled directly from survey responses.

TOXIC CULTURE

One word came up repeatedly in describing the culture at Amity: TOXIC. There are repeated reports of bullying that goes either completely unchecked, ignored even when reported, or minimally punished. Parents reported instances of sexual assault in the school hallway, ongoing sexual harassment, inability to use the bathrooms “without being surrounded by vapers,” and classes “constantly disrupted by behavioral issues.”

Parents reported “students in Amity who are not liberal, were made to feel they could not express their views.” When one student asked her teacher why they were only assigned CNN clips, the teacher got upset and called her parents. “One student called my family racist for supporting the police.” A parent shared they “want teachers to teach the subject they are certified in, not their political views.”

One said they “left because of an increasingly worrisome community climate,” and while not the school’s fault, they felt neighbors against DEI efforts were “in favor almost of racism and homophobia.”

Another parent indicated they left after “a video regarding gender and transitions was shown to some students without any parental consent. Only ½ of the grade saw the video as parents raised concerns and the video didn’t continue. Students were uncomfortable with the content and asked to be excused and they were REFUSED. They were trying to do the right thing and were ridiculed and not allowed to leave – they walked out and ended up in trouble.”

ADMINISTRATION’S WEAK LEADERSHIP

Many responses cited issues with administration – mostly referencing principals and the superintendent. In many of the concerns around bullying, sexual harassment and even sexual assault, reports were made to principals and the superintendent with minimal, if any, punishments. In some cases, Board of Education policies and state laws, were not followed.

One parent shared that their child and friends “told me the administration ALWAYS KNOWS WHO the problem kids are, and the bullies are KNOWN but not punished severely – ‘it is a joke’ was a common phrase.”

Other parents reported “the hallways and parking lots are not monitored sufficiently and there is a lot of crazy behavior being ignored by the faculty and staff.”

Another parent reported “Leadership was extremely weak. They didn’t seem to have control over the poor behavior demonstrated by many of the students.” Yet another parent shared, “My child was bullied and harassed the entire year while in Middle school by peers. Teachers did nothing, administration did nothing (including the superintendent). Bullying form was submitted with evidence and denied. Given that it was the same superintendent for the following year and same students and nothing happened, I withdrew my child.”

A parent considering leaving the district over concerns her son’s needs were not being met in middle school met with the superintendent: “Her position was that she needs to provide education to 2500 students, and they won’t be looking at any child separately.”

ACADEMIC SHORTFALLS

Academic shortcomings was the third most cited concern. There is a repetitive sentiment that if your child does not have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or is not in honors classes they are “left aside” and easily “slip through the cracks.” One parent shared that they “feel there is little focus on those students. He easily gets lost, and there is minimal teacher support. Almost a “learn if you want” mentality in our experience.”

Many cited the lack of concentration on academics like math, sciences, language, reading and writing, while praising better academics in private schools:

“Overall, I appreciated the culture: a focus on learning instead of performing, a general acceptance of standardized tests as a poor indicator of capability or success, and the freedom to teach (within the liberal arts) what interests you as an educator.  I found that teachers who were passionate about the history they were sharing or the books selected for their literature class were far more likely to inspire passion in my child. I like that the teachers could take risks and challenge my children in a way that may be frowned upon in a public school setting.”

SUMMARY

Based on survey feedback, parents leaving feel Amity is not meeting basic expectations. Amity administration does not enforce basic discipline and academics are declining, while they spend more instructional time and funding on controversial curriculum.

Despite the Board of Ed stressing no DEI curriculum has yet been voted on or approved, elements of it have clearly been implemented. And yet, no one feels comfortable at Amity: not left or right, straight or LGBTQ+, any religious affiliation, or race. We have brought the most contentious topics of the day into our public school, under the context that teaching these topics will bring our community together. This approach is failing.

What is Amity’s goal here? I did share preliminary survey results with the entire Amity Board of Education and Superintendent weeks ago and to date received no response.

However, I’ve received countless responses from parents thanking me for not being afraid to speak up. There are Board of Ed members, teachers, and parents in our towns, who FEAR speaking up and openly talking about these concerns – for their jobs, ramifications to their children at Amity, and even for their safety. And that should scare all of us.

By Meghan Rabuse, Alternate, Orange Board of Finance & Mother of 3

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