Kenwood playground fallout: School leaders vow to adapt, others

The Clark County Prosecutor’s Office filed a motion to seal the complaints until the conclusion of the cases, and the court approved that Feb. 23.

The basis for the motion stated that “due to the nature of the offense and due to the ongoing investigation by law enforcement, the State is requesting the Court to seal the above matter in order to preserve the fairness of the investigation and the criminal proceeding,” according to information from the Clark County Juvenile Court obtained by the newspaper through a public records request.

In a 17-minute surveillance video the newspaper received through a public records request, a few students are shown pulling their classmates across the playground. In a huddle a few times during the recess period, two or three students are spotted pushing other students on their knees, carrying students across the playground and shoving students.

The school district released a statement after the footage was released, saying that due to privacy laws like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), it would not disclose personally identifiable information of students involved in the incident.

Parent: “They know how to get a hold of me.”

Kenwood Elementary parent Amy Ramirez said she learned that her child was involved in the incident not from school leaders, but another student who happened to be in the office when she was attending a meeting for her child the week after the incident.

After asking her child about what happened, he told her he was forced onto his knees on the playground and asked to say “Black Lives Matter.”

The first communication she received from the school district was weeks following the incident, in the form of an email sent to her and other parents who had children involved in the incident.

“This is the school that called me when one of my kids put slime in a girl’s hair,” Ramirez said. “They know how to get a hold of me.”

She said following the incident in February, her son was sad while attending school because several classmates who were also involved in the incident – including his best friend – were missing school.

“He was so sad to go to school every day and not have his best friend there,” Ramirez said. “He missed him so much, and that was really tough on him.”

School discipline unclear

The Springfield Police Division was called to the school the Monday after the playground incident. The division announced in February that it was pursuing charges related to the incident.

The school district said in a statement in March that it would follow its board’s policy.

That policy’s text related to student conduct stipulates that a” student’s failure to comply with the requirements for conduct outlined in the student handbooks may result in the student being disciplined.”

“The student may lose all rights to participate in school-related social events or extracurricular activities for a period of time determined by the principal,” the board policy reads. “Depending on the seriousness of the offense committed by the student, suspension or expulsion may also result.”

A school district spokesperson said all staff have been trained on the district’s policy on anti-bullying, and school counselors work with students on “counter behaviors.” Several schools have adopted “restorative practices’” as a method of conflict resolution for students and staff.

“It is certainly the district’s intention to build upon those, as well as our experience with this specific incident,” the spokesperson said.

The district also will ask the board of education to approve the “Leader in Me” process.

Leader in Me is a nationally recognized, evidence-based education model crafted by a group of educators that focuses on the development of a student as a whole, teaching leadership skills to every student.

BLM founder offers help

Springfield NAACP president Denise Williams declined to comment about the situation at Kenwood Elementary School.

When asked what adaptations the school district would make following February’s incident, a district spokesperson said the district plans to work closely with the Springfield NAACP.

“The SCSD has a long-standing and positive relationship with the NAACP, as President Williams and Dr. Hill converse frequently,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Black Lives Matter of Dayton founder Carlos Buford said he also offered his support to Springfield City Schools. He had not heard back from any school officials as of this week.

He said he and his Black Lives Matter Dayton team responded to the situation with concern when they learned of it in February. He said the chapter does not condone what happened at the school, nor does it condone the misrepresentation of the phrase.

The start to a resolution to the incident lies in communication with the community and families involved, Buford said.

“We’re at this pivotal moment here,” he said. “We’re talking about kids here, OK? They’re looking at us for guidance, how to handle situations, and we’re not doing our part.”

He said after the situation, he hopes the school district takes an opportunity to further evaluate the make-up of its classrooms, and he encouraged the use of mental health professionals to help facilitate healing for students, staff and families involved.

“It’s not about what makes us different, it’s what makes us unique,” he said.

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