The troubled Crowell Elementary School and Principal Linda Alaniz have yet again become the center of controversy in Turlock Unified School District.
Jean Marquez, the mother of an autistic third-grade boy who was enrolled at Crowell last school year, says her son was allegedly sexually assaulted sometime after the holiday break. The assault allegedly occurred during a recess period when a mainstream female classmate allegedly touched the boy’s privates and allegedly forced him to touch her in the privates. Marquez says the classmate also allegedly forced him to kiss both boys and girls.
On April 30 of this year, the Marquez family’s private counselor and a mandated reporter filed a report with the Turlock Police Department, who took a statement from the boy but the police report made no determination or outcome for the event.
Marquez, whose own mother is a 23-year TUSD teacher, said she was first notified of the alleged sexual assault weeks after it occurred by Alaniz, who allegedly “brushed it off.”
“Linda should have filed a report, she is a mandated reporter,” said Marquez.
In a July 17 letter addressed to Alaniz, along with district officials including Superintendent Sonny Da Marto, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Heidi Lawler, Director of Student Services Gil Ogden and Director of Special Education Jeff Santos, Marquez writes, “I was not immediately notified by the teacher or principal. When pressed about the incident the principal (Alaniz) responded to me that ‘kids will be kids.’ Later, the principal denied to Special Education that any incident had occurred with my son. (My son) has been examined by a physician, a psychiatrist and a private counselor, and was interrogated by the police when my (private) counselor reported the incident to CPS. (My son’s) testimony has been consistent and never changed, and the evidence supports that (my son) is telling the truth.”
Marquez said her son is incapable of lying due to his autism and could not make up the incident.
A source, who did not want to be named for fear of their employment but has direct knowledge of the boy’s cognitive capability, explained, “he is high functioning academically, but he is very autistic socially and would do whatever someone told him to even if he was scared or didn’t want to. He would probably say ‘I don’t want to,’ but if she (the girl) persisted he’d do it reluctantly and be upset.”
The source went on to explain that children with autism generally don’t even know what lying is. They are unfiltered and not aware enough socially to know how to lie or even how to process a social outcome of a lie.
Marquez said that the sexual assault occurred because her son was left unsupervised with mainstream students. In her son’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) it mandates he is to be supervised at all times during recess and lunchtime by an aide.
“The aides are always on their phones or huddled together talking and not paying attention,” said Marquez. “You can see that if you just drive by the school.”
The sexual assault was just the tip of the iceberg at Crowell, explained Marquez, who said Crowell Elementary “is like Lord of the Flies.”
When contacted Tuesday by TurlockCityNews.com TUSD Board of Trustees Bob Weaver, Frank Lima and Jennifer Carter were unaware of both the letter hand-delivered to district administation, or any specific details of the allegations, despite a history of problems at Crowell Elementary. The letter was delivered July 17 and the Board has met several times since that date in closed session meetings. Other trustees were unable to be contacted.
Troubles Began After Boy’s Classroom Transfer
In October 2013, Marquez’ son was transferred from the classroom of Sally Dickinson, a teacher with 22 years of experience (15 with TUSD), to a teacher in her first year.
Dickinson spoke with TurlocCityNews.com and said the boy was transferred and “used like a pawn” as part of a vendetta by Alaniz to get her terminated. Dickinson is now teaching in Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District after she resigned from Crowell citing Alaniz’s treatment of her as the specific reason.
Marquez was not pleased with the transfer and wrote in her letter, “I was informed that (my son) was going to be removed from Mrs. Dickinson’s classroom. I was told by Linda Alaniz that he was being removed for the follow reasons: 1) Mrs. Dickinson had illegally filmed him during a melt-down. 2) The data collected by Special Education staff indicated that he was not meeting his on-task behavior goals. 3) Mrs. Dickinson and the class were not a ‘stable’ environment for him.”
She continued, “I did not want my son removed. Mrs. Dickinson was a good teacher. Upon his transfer, his behavior immediately deteriorated and was pronounced. I would characterize his experience since the transfer as horrific for my son.”
Marquez went on to explain that in his new class with an inexperienced teacher, her son was routinely bullied, harassed and the Crowell administration was not supportive. She wrote that several bullies told him they were going to “burn his (expletive).”
Dickinson was given a “notice of unprofessional conduct,” the first step in termination proceedings, for filming the boy, however Marquez had specifically given Dickinson permission to film him.
In the boy’s IEP, obtained by TurlockCityNews.com, it clearly specifies that Dickinson was allowed to film him. “Team discussed video taping (name omitted) in class as part of class general activities and parent agreed to permission to video/photograph and signed permission form.”
The Notice of Unprofessional Conduct said Alaniz had conducted an investigation and determined “(Dickinson) failed to uphold the rights to privacy of the student who demonstrates a disability and is supported by an IEP.”
Dickinson said Alaniz, along with Lawler, evidently “never looked at the his IEP during their investigation.”
During the last week of school Marquez pulled her son from Crowell.
Mother Wants Accountability, Apology
Marquez said she was told by both Ogden and Santos that TUSD administration “will never give you an apology.”
“They keep trying to make it go away by saying suggestive things like, ‘Let’s forget about last year and let’s focus on the positive for this year at (his new school)’,” said Marquez.
“I’m not going to let it go away. I no longer have confidence that the TUSD has my son’s best interest in mind. I want accountability for what happened to my son. I wish he never went to Crowell,” she said. “The district says their motto is ‘Character Counts’ but if they are going to promote it then they need to practice it. Their little anti-bullying video on their website is a joke.”
She said no one from TUSD has ever addressed the sexual assault and that “both Alaniz and Crowell Special Education Director Amanda Silva make it seem like (my son) made up the incident”
“The only thing anyone has said to me was Santos and he said that the girl involved and the other kids in the class had no record or documentation of every harassing special needs students,” said Marquez. “But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It is a pattern of this school district to brush people off.”
Marquez said she will address the TUSD Board of Trustees at a public meeting on Aug. 19 at 6:30 p.m.
Troubled Campus, Mass Exodus of Teachers and Staff Leaving
For the last school year Crowell and Alaniz have been under intense scrutiny. In March a firestorm erupted at the school concerning an incident involving a 6-year-old boy who was allegedly stabbed by a classmate with a pencil in the throat. In response to the incident dozens of parents came forward claiming bullying was an on-going problem at the school.
Shortly after the stabbing incident, Alaniz was again in the news. She attempted to discipline a classified employee following a remark made on social media about a student. The remark did not offend the student’s mother or anyone other than Alaniz, apparently.
In May dozens of teachers held a silent protest at a TUSD Board of Trustees meeting and six teachers, including Dickinson, read remarks delivering the clear message they wanted Alaniz removed from her position as Principal of Crowell. Seven teachers filed grievances against Alaniz after being involuntarily transferred to new grade levels.
Turlock Teachers Association President Julie Shipman commented that Alaniz had created a hostile work environment through intimidation, bullying tactics, vendettas, favoritism, dishonesty, and throwing teachers under the bus. The relationship has led teachers to proclaim they “work in hell and the devil is their boss.”
Over the summer there has been an exodus of teachers, staff and administration personnel who have left Crowell.
Teachers who left Crowell for other schools include: Kelly Ashby (Walnut), Erin Moreno (Walnut), Kristin Wilson (Sylvan), Jill Norman (Cunningham), and Staci Isaac (another area). Cheryl Smith, secretary at Crowell, retired after the school year and Assistant Principal Terry Souza also transferred.
In addition, Crowell teachers Cindi Schetzer, Pattie Debora, Tara Quilici, Donna Feldman, Rhonda Blount were believed to be involuntarily transferred to different grade levels.
Editor’s note: At the request of Jean Marquez, TurlockCityNews.com has removed the photo of her son that had been submitted and approved by Marquez.