Union advises campus supervisors to avoid direct intervention after Modesto High worker's firing

naustin@modbee.comNovember 19, 2013 

Campus supervisors for Modesto City Schools have been told to step back from breaking up student fights after the firing of Modesto High’s Jackie Munn for stepping in “when she was not ‘directed’ to intervene.”

That memo, as well as a findings of fact prepared by the school district at last week’s board meeting, were released Tuesday afternoon.

The California School Employees Association’s Modesto chapter president, Aaron Castro, said last week that the union has advised its members to stop direct intervention, except in cases when a student is in immediate danger, because of the Munn case. The union sent the memo to the district a day later.

In part, it says: “In the course of the campus supervisor’s day, if a fight were to occur at a site, and in light of the district terminating an employee because she was not ‘directed’ to intervene, CSEA is encouraging our members to adhere to their job description and intervene in situations – example fights – by verbally asking the students to stop and communicating via the school radio to administration for direction on next steps.”

The memo goes on to note that school administrators often turn down their radios, which could be a safety issue.

The district said Tuesday that campus supervisors should intervene “in situations likely to result in disruption or injury” and direct students to stop. “Our expectation is that district employees will exercise professional judgment in performing their duties in accordance with state law,” Craig Rydquist, head of human resources, said by email.

Munn, a 19-year veteran at Modesto High, lost her bid for reinstatement Nov. 12 after a March incident in which she slightly injured a combative student. The student already was restrained and under the supervision of two unnamed male campus supervisors when Munn arrived and escalated the situation, according to the findings of fact at the closed door board meeting, released to The Bee in response to a California Public Records Act request.

According to the redacted document, the boy was calm and Assistant Principal Alfredo Gonzalez was speaking to him. Munn reached across and pulled a contraband lighter from the boy’s pants pocket, then “taunted” him, causing him to become enraged. Munn stood over the boy, held him by the back of the neck and shoved his face to the cement. Gonzalez ordered her to get off the student, and Munn “eventually complied,” the account says.

Earlier documents and accounts said the boy, a special education student, struck a girl after she called him names and threw food on him. The 110-pound boy then ran off. The girl and two friends told Munn the boy had attacked the girl. In what the district described as taunting, Munn said, “So you like to hit girls?” before striking the boy’s head on the ground.

The boy remains on home study, forbidden to return to campus until January. The district has not named the girl or said if any action was taken in her case.

Munn was on paid leave from March 19 until her dismissal, effective Oct. 22. The grounds for her firing were listed in the statement as neglect of duty, insubordination to Gonzalez and violation of statute by using corporal punishment. Munn brought “disorder to a situation that was under control,” the statement says.

The board took into consideration her long employment, positive work evaluations and many character witnesses, the statement says in summary. “However, (Munn’s) violent action toward the male student and her failure to acknowledge the wrongfulness of her actions demonstrate that dismissal is the only appropriate remedy,” the statement reads.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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