Threats, misbehavior reportedly continue at Kivalina school

Posted: Monday, April 01, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Two weeks after the school was reopened in the Northwest Alaska village of Kivalina, educators report a resumption of student misbehavior, including a threat against a teacher, profanity and vandalism.

The McQueen School in Kivalina was closed Feb. 27 after teachers complained that they were being harassed and threatened physically and verbally. Teachers said students were openly defiant and out of control. Five of the schools 10 teachers transferred to other schools.

The school reopened March 18 with five new teachers and a security officer. But, according to a memo sent to district officials last week by school principal Betty Wallace, it appears little has changed at the school.

The memo was obtained by the Anchorage Daily News. Wallace said that there have been fights, profanity has been used against teachers and students and carved into school property, and one student told a teacher, ''I'll kill your dogs.''

The school's new security guard, Larry Wallace, said there is a discipline problem at the school. Wallace, who is not related to principal Betty Wallace, is a retired Kotzebue police captain who has worked in the region for 25 years.

''Schools are intended to educate children, not rear them. There's the gap. They don't get disciplined at home. And there are some students who are sent here who aren't prepared to go to school,'' he said.

Wallace said he has dished out about a dozen disruptive-student notices to kids who have violated school rules. The violations have run the gamut from minor offenses to serious theft and vandalism.

Someone stole the hard drive from the school computer lab's network server. The theft means the school will be late issuing its third-quarter report cards and entering attendance data into the district's main system.

Last week, someone ripped a railing off an outdoor school staircase and used it to barricade the gym doors, trapping children inside and posing a fire risk, Wallace said. And a middle school student ''was heard to mutter to a teacher, I know where you live, and I'll kill your dogs,' '' Larry Wallace said.

It's not a light threat. A dog belonging to a teacher was killed in late January. The crime horrified many people in the village. Troopers turned the case over to juvenile justice officials, and an investigation is ongoing.

''I don't think the two-week closure would have or was ever thought to fix this school,'' Larry Wallace said. ''It took a long time to get this school into this situation it is in, and it's going to take a long time to dig it out. And I think the school district and the teachers and the community are going to have to work together for a long time to fix this.''

Documents distributed throughout the village and to school and district officials last October and in January warned of out-of-control students and rock-bottom test scores.

Harassment of Bush teachers is not unheard of. In Selawik on March 18, a 15-year-old was arrested after he stole a teacher's snowmachine and then rammed the teacher, who was on a second machine.

The two teachers at Karluk School on Kodiak Island resigned March 1, citing lack of support from parents that made disciplining the school's 10 students impossible.

But state education officials said Kivalina stands apart because trouble festered for so long and rose to a level so potentially dangerous that Northwest Arctic Borough School District officials feared for the safety of teachers and closed the school.

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