Multiple parents provided statements and evidence that threats and violence have taken place over an extended period of time at Lacamas Lake Elementary School
For Clark County Today
Parents and area residents flooded the Zellerbach Administration Building for Monday’s Camas School Board meeting for a variety of reasons, including national DECA achievements and other student success stories. Not all topics were positive, however, as two parents stood up and spoke about death threats being made – at an elementary school, no less.
One such parent was John Hahn, who spoke of his third grade student, who was enrolled in Lacamas Lake Elementary (LLE). Hahn, a licensed family and marriage counselor, pulled his student from the school after a death threat was made against him by another student. Hahn said that the decision to remove his student was to keep him safe, as the school’s handling of the situation was unacceptable.
“This has been commonplace for Lacamas Lake for years,” Hahn said, adding that his is not the first family to have gone through a violent or threat of violence situation at the school. “Roughly three dozen families have told us that they, too, have had experiences of their child getting bullied, threatened, or physically injured at LLE. Parents [recalled] the classroom being cleared due to students becoming out of control, and the teachers’ only option has been to remove other students from the chaos of the classroom; the students would hide under desks … or be pulled out [of the classroom].
“This violence predates COVID-19,” Hahn continued. “And it’s occurring in grades other than my son’s third grade class. It involved various students …”
Hahn described what he called three common themes after talking to so many families.
“Number one, violence has been going on for years; two, there’s a lack of follow through and consequences from the staff …; and three, a lack of communication from the school to the family. When you’re bullied, harassed…or physically threatened, it can be terrifying. It’s equally damaging to the students when the adults are not protecting them. That is the theme: Nothing has been done.”
Hahn pleaded with the board, “If they aren’t able to implement the policies that are meant to keep our kids safe, remove them and find those who can.”
Another speaker, Jennifer Cheshire, began her three-minute allotted public comment time by laying down 12 pages of stories that she’d acquired from approximately 40 families. The stories all pertain to incidents of threats, or, in some cases, the acts of violence actually being carried out. The worst cases listed by Cheshire were a “broken collar bone, a child being thrown down the stairs, a child being dragged through the mud, a broken wrist, a broken ankle, contusions, bruises, scrapes, pinch marks, death threats, screaming, chair throwing, threats of being stabbed, kids punched in the face and stomach, objects thrown at children’s faces, kids hiding under desks out of fear, kids peeing their pants out of fear.”
Cheshire recounted her family’s own incident.
“On May 3,” Cheshire said, “a child at Lacamas Lake Elementary screamed at my eight-year-old son, ‘I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill your family. I’m going to put you in a box.’ I want you to imagine [these threats were just made against you.] How much learning do you think you’d be capable of for the rest of the day? You can’t learn when you’re scared.”
Cheshire went on to say that despite her “best efforts, absolutely no services have been offered” to her son or her family.
“No safety plan,” she said, “[has been made] other than that the school staff will try to keep the offending child away from [my son]. After years of bullying, harassment, physical injury and trauma, this death threat was the final straw. We withdrew him from the school. He would never feel safe there.”
Lacamas Lake Principal Julie Mueller did not respond to Clark County Today’s request for comment at the time of this writing. Camas School Board President Corey McEnry responded to questions on an investigation into the matter.
“The safety of our students is our highest priority,’’ McEnry stated. “We are absolutely aware that student behavior needs have increased in recent years, not only in Camas but nationwide. When conflicts arise, staff members investigate to determine next steps, which can include utilizing the expertise of our Student Resource Officers and potentially a threat-assessment process. When issues are brought to the board’s attention, the administration looks into concerns to ensure they are addressed thoughtfully and thoroughly. To better meet the needs of all students, we will continue to focus on the level of support for students and teachers through targeted interventions. This will ensure the students who need this level of intervention will be better accommodated across the district.”
Superintendent Dr. John Anzalone told Clark County Today to speak with Communications Director Doreen McKercher for answers on questions asked, such as protocols and policies in place to deal with student violence, parent communication, and follow up with both victim and offending students. McKercher has not responded at the time of this writing.
Another topic discussed by public comment was a workshop put on by the district for families of students in the LGBTQ community. School board member Erika Cox said that she received positive feedback from families who attended the workshop. “Anytime we can support our families and students,” Cox said, “and tell them that we see you, we will.”
A parent of two Camas School District students and former public school teacher, Shawna Posey, had made it known on social media before the meeting that she was going to speak against this workshop, which she said was exclusive to families of students who did not suffer from gender dysphoria.
“If the board really wanted to help kids who were likely to be suffering from traumatic circumstances,” Posey told Clark County Today, “they would focus on the families who have students who are going through or have gone through divorce. The national divorce rate for people aged 24-49 is 24 per 1,000 people, which means that for the approximate 7,000 students in the Camas School District, about 168 will have divorced parents. Conversely, it’s estimated that roughly one in 10,000 biological males and three out of every 100,000 biological females are someday diagnosed with gender dysphoria. This means that it affects an extremely minimal number of students in the district. So where’s the workshop for Camas families dealing with co-parenting or single-parent households?”
Posey said that she had also mentioned on social media that she and others would be meeting to pray in the parking lot before the meeting began to give her courage to speak. One man, who identified himself only as “Dan R.,” followed Posey and the four women who were with her, including this reporter, around the parking lot as they attempted to pray. He had a megaphone with him as well as a sign with the Bible verse Matthew 6:5-6 written on it.
“He was attempting to shame us,” Posey said, “because that verse is about not praying in public. Of course, he totally took it out of context to intimidate us into not praying. And he followed us – every time we moved to get away from him, he moved to within several feet of us. I don’t know this guy, none of us did; it was pretty scary. We didn’t know his intentions or whether he was going to call other people over with his megaphone to surround us or something. So, we got in my friend’s car and prayed there. He doesn’t get to stop us from praying, I would never do that to someone even if it was a different religion. In fact, any other religion and that would have been hate-motivated harassment, but no one cares if it’s intimidation of a Christian. That’s the way it goes.”
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