Parents protest students’ discipline

The parents and legal guardians of an East Union Attendance Center special-needs student went before the Union County School Board Monday to seek answers regarding what the district plans to do to prevent a repeat of events that occurred on Friday, Feb. 25.

That was the day that East Union student Dylan Randle was punched in the face by another student in the school’s gymnasium.  A video of the event, recorded by another student on a cell phone, was later posted to Facebook and Youtube.
“We came here tonight to let the board know that we’re not satisfied with the five-day suspension that these students received,” Randle’s father, Brian Randle told reporters before the meeting.  “We want the board to take the necessary action to make sure this doesn’t happen to our son again.”
The two students that were suspended last week are due to be back in school today.
Both father and son were joined by other family members, including his stepmother, Suzanne Randle, as well as his legal guardian and aunt, Amy Randle Snyder.  Approximately 45 other people from the community also gathered outside the school district administrative offices to show their support to the family through prayer and encouragement.
Just after calling the meeting to order, the school board went into executive session to allow the Randles to air their grievances.  Approximately 20 minutes after the meeting was closed to the public, the Randles emerged feeling unsatisfied with the answers they received.
“We were told that there were three options for discipline: suspension, alternative school or expulsion,” Brian Randle said.  “They said that, in accordance with the school’s policy on bullying, this incident does not fall under that category because the student who hit him had no prior history of bullying.”
In fact, according to the district’s bullying policy, bullying is defined as “any pattern of gestures or written, electronic or verbal communications, or any physical act or threatening communication, or any act reasonably perceived as being motivated by an actual or perceived differentiating characteristic that (a) places a student or school employee in actual and reasonable fear or harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property, or (b) creates or is certain to create a hostile environment by substantially interfering with or impairing a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits.”
Union County School District Superintendent Ken Basil said that Randle’s situation did not fall under a pattern of bullying, according to the current policy.
“What we as educators have to look at is if there is a pattern of past behavior,” Basil said.  “In this case, we investigated and found no evidence that [Dylan Randle] had been harassed or bullied in the past.”
Snyder said that she interpreted the policy differently than the board.
“I feel that, under the policy, any physical act of violence should be considered bullying,” Snyder said.  “This was assault.”
Basil said that the board was sympathetic to the Randle family during the hearing.
“We all hated that this happened and we’re doing our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Basil said.  “We used suspension as the form of discipline in this case and we consider it a closed deal.  If discipline does what it’s supposed to do, then it works.  If these students come back and it hasn’t worked, then it’s my fault and my responsibility.”
Basil went on to say that the board gave him the authority to begin work on a revision of the bullying policy that would possibly include tougher consequences, should this type of incident happen again.
Randle said he would see the matter through to the end, whether through legal action, legislation or other means.
“I will never stop until this issue is resolved,” Randle said.