It is fair to say that something was definitely wrong at the Stanislaus Military Academy.
How often do a standing principal and a director both get moved away from their campus in the middle of the school year?
Yet that is exactly what happened, following TurlockCityNews.com's revelations of alleged ongoing misconduct at the Turlock school. Both Stanislaus Military Academy Principal Alberto Velarte and SMA Director of Community Services Fred Bigler were recently relocated to the Stanislaus County Office of Education's Downtown Modesto office.
Some poked fun at these allegations when TurlockCityNews.com revealed them. They considered them exaggerated whining, or disparaged those making the claims as poor and uneducated. Other media agencies even created videos singing the praises of SMA – writing off the myriad claims without giving the alleged victims the time of day.
But where there is smoke there is usually fire. It is typically uncommon for even two parents or students to make outlandish accusations about school administration, teachers or staff.
In SMA’s case there were more than a dozen parents, students and numerous other anonymous sources who made a wide-ranging litany of serious complaints and allegations. Those allegations ranged from physical assaults by administrators to verbal abuse from drill instructors and sexual misconduct by teachers. One troubled young girl took her own life after attending SMA, after administrators allegedly denied her access to counselors.
Were all of these parents the leaders of their church choirs? No, in fact many of the parents had many issues. But when so many come together at one time, there is a problem.
It's unsurprising that the “independent” investigation into one recent claim found the school to be faultless. After all, one must question the validity of any investigation in which the “independent investigator” is a direct employee of the law firm that represents SCOE.
The best possible outcome in this situation is for a truly independent, external investigation to be launched into all of the allegations. However, it is up to the parents to file the allegations with whichever agency or organization they deem appropriate.
With Velarde transferred and Bigler off-campus it is unlikely the entire truth will ever be known about what happened at SMA. But for the sake of the students and teachers there, TurlockCityNews.com hopes that it will become a better place.