Wed, Jun

Hard Times at Franklin High - Update

THE EASTSIDER - Subsequent to my last article on Franklin High, which you can find here, there have been at least two parent-principal meetings between the parents and Principal Regina Marquez-Martinez.  I am told by participants that there has been absolutely no progress on any of the critical issues raised by the parents. 

Remember, this is all about parents and their children in Franklin High School, where the students grow into adulthood, and the school has an immense impact on their growth. So, I think is would be useful to use this column as a forum to quote some of the mothers who have written the Principal, to no avail. 

As one mother wrote:

“I write with deep concern, shock, and anger about the beating that happened at Franklin High School on Friday 5/18/24 - this, after 3 SAFETY MEETINGS in the last month.  

Though the video is circulating amongst the parents, I personally refuse to watch that video, after hearing about how savagely that 9th grade girl was attacked, and stomped on while she was on the ground. No child under any circumstances deserves that treatment, and no child should ever witness violence inflicted upon another.  

The principal, Ms. Marquez-Martinez, and administration at FHS lack the competence and credibility to address school violence in a manner that restores calm and safety on campus. Rather than trying to make herself look good, a real leader would pro-actively advance a strategy to address and eliminate bullying. They would create a climate in which students feel a sense of dignity, pride, and community, and are motivated to support rather than savage each other. 

Principal Marquez Martinez’s actions and inaction leave me with ZERO trust in her ability to lead FHS - its staff, teachers, or students. I fear for each student’s individual safety as well as the educational climate of their school, when the principal’s utterly corrupt and morally bankrupt reaction is to sweep incidents like drugs, brawls, and beatings under the rug. 

In our home, we’ve had regular and lengthy discussions over the years with our sons about corruption and moral failure - how they show up and their effects on society. We did not expect that we were preparing them for going to high school in a living laboratory for learning those brutal realities firsthand.  

As a 20+ year member of this community, who lives mere blocks from FHS, I want to see the school and its students thrive. As I said at a prior meeting: these kids are our future teachers, doctors, journalists, and public servants (like students who came before them, and many of the parents whose children currently attend FHS). I want these students to succeed because they went to Franklin, not despite going to FHS. 

I don’t expect detailed discussions about “private incidents” per district policy, however we parents deserve to know immediately what is being done going forward to ensure our students’ physical and emotional safety. 

My hope and insistence are on you, the LAUSD leaders, to place Principal Marquez Martinez on administrative leave. Find a replacement immediately. We need a principal who cares more about children’s safety in body and mind, and who creates an environment that is built solely for them to thrive. Her leadership is failing our kids, and we cannot afford yet another incident of harm to come to our children. Please step up and turn this situation into a win for LAUSD, not an abject failure, 

and Mr Huerta,

There was another fight today at Franklin HS even though you have deployed enhanced support. I understand that AP López was standing by while the fight occurred, and it was stopped by a teacher with a whistle. I am so frustrated and concerned seeing this day after day at Franklin with no change. “Michelle” the aggressor had no problem or concern of getting into any kind of trouble. Which goes to show you that Mario’s statement about students having no respect for the Principal and admins is true. 

A leader has to have respect and the students know that there are no consequences like the other student stated in the meeting. What do we have to do to help you understand that this is not what our children deserve.  

I am not going to stop fighting for our children because I do not want them to be my clients in the future. I work with individuals that are incarcerated, homeless, suffer from mental illness and substance use. Our children need a fighting change to be successful and currently the environment at Franklin is not providing that for them. 

Attached is video proof of the abuse that took place today. I want the policy in writing for how these situations are handled and what staff like AP López are supposed to do when they see these things happen. 

Another mother wrote: 

“Mr. Huerta, Mr. Downing, Ms. Rivas, Mr. Moy & Mr. Martinez,

I am writing to you as a parent deeply invested in the safety and well-being of my child, and other students, expressing grave concerns regarding the recent announcement about additional safety measures being implemented at Franklin School. With a mix of frustration and disappointment regarding the recent announcement, it seems like once again, there are safety concerns brewing, and yet no one is willing to communicate what is actually happening on campus.

The lack of transparency surrounding these decisions is utterly frustrating. As a parent, I expect to be kept informed about matters concerning the safety and well-being of my child while they are at school. It's disheartening to see that there is a pattern of keeping parents in the dark about significant issues like this.

While I appreciate your commitment to prioritizing the safety of students and staff, the introduction of increased mental health and supervision staff, along with on-campus School Police staffing, has left me deeply troubled rather than reassured.

The presence of police in schools often exacerbates tensions and perpetuates a hostile environment, particularly for marginalized students. Instead of fostering a sense of security, it instills fear and apprehension among the student body. Moreover, the reliance on law enforcement to address behavioral and mental health issues raises serious questions about the underlying approach to discipline and support within our school community.

What exactly is happening on campus that warrants the sudden increase in police presence? Why weren't parents consulted or informed about these decisions beforehand? It's incredibly concerning to witness such a lack of communication and accountability from the school administration.

I am also deeply concerned about the funding for these measures. We have been informed on several occasions about budget cuts and insufficient funding, yet now there are additional police being added every day until the end of the school year. This sudden allocation of resources without transparent communication or collaboration with parents is distressing. It is apparent that there are significant safety concerns, but the lack of transparency and accountability only exacerbates the situation.

I urge you to reconsider this decision and explore alternative solutions that prioritize proactive, holistic approaches to safety and well-being. Investing in counseling services, restorative justice practices, and community-building initiatives would address the root causes of behavioral challenges and promote a healthier, more inclusive school climate.

I demand answers and transparency regarding these safety measures. Our children's safety should not be treated as a secondary concern. It's time for the school and the LAUSD to step up, communicate openly with parents, and address these safety concerns in a manner that fosters trust and confidence in the school community.

I expect a prompt response addressing these concerns and outlining the steps being taken to ensure the safety of all students at Franklin School. I’d also like a response to my last email. I don't appreciate being ignored.” 

Finally,  as I was finalizing this article, one of the parents sent me the following:

“Please note that I got a call from Gilberto Martinez, who informed me that they have to reschedule the June 6th safety meeting to the following week. They are looking at Thursday. Huerta has a graduation and Martinez has COVID and has not been at work and still is out of the office. They both feel it’s important for they attend the meetings. They don’t want us to feel as they are ignoring us or anything of that matter. He also stated that they would have  have even more updates. (Hopefully it will be what we are asking for). He is supposed to reply to my original email about the meeting and a notice should be sent out for us to share with our networks.” 

The Takeaway

As you can see from the parents interaction with the Principal, it is clear that Principal Marquez-Martinez intends to continue to blow off the parents and march on until the end of the school term, which is almost upon us. 

It may be that the only practical way to right the ship is to send public records requests for issues like a Bathroom Policy, a Policy on Fighting, Drugs on campus, and the like.  For some issues, there may not be formal policies, which would raise the obvious point of ‘why not?” 

In forcing School Policies to be public (it is a public institution), the parents have a right to know the rules that apply to their students. The next logical step would be to require the keeping of records for the times any of the policies are violated - and what if anything was done about it. 

Next term, assuming that Marquez-Martinez is still there, I’ll try to track any improvements by the Principal, and serve as a megaphone for parents, teachers, and students. ...In the meantime, please feel free to email me regarding Franklin High - my email is [email protected].

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.)