Airing several complaints, a group of students at CIVA Charter Academy walked out of classes Wednesday and called for an outside investigation of operations, finances and practices.
“We’re not here to harp and chant; we’re here to inspire change in a school we hold so dear to our hearts,” said senior Jordan Garcia.
Students say they’re concerned about what they see as problems at CIVA, a 23-year-old arts-focused school authorized by Colorado Springs School District 11 with 179 ninth through 12th-graders.
“We’re trying to bring light to some of the safety issues,” said Taylor Vallance, a CIVA graduate who assisted with the protest.
Students said they’re concerned about security procedures, such as building doors being left open, and how emergencies are handled.
The administration’s response to what students described as an intruder in the building last year was to initiate a fire drill instead of a lockdown, Vallance said. One student said she was told to go look for the intruder, which scared her.
Students said a lack of a school nurse or a school psychologist makes them feel unsafe, particularly those who have physical and mental health issues.
Jordan Garcia’s mother, Racquel Garcia, said a student recently harmed himself inside the school and parents were not told, which as a suicide prevention specialist she thinks is wrong.
Randy Zimmerman, CIVA’s executive director and headmaster, said a counselor is on staff to assist with not only college preparation but also life concerns, and a psychologist is available once a week to work with students.
“We feel we’re meeting the needs of our students as well as public school funding allows us to meet the needs.”
Teachers are trained to speak with students who are having challenges, when the psychologist is not on site, he said. And students are “empowered to help each other,” he added.
The move to disband the boys’ Ultimate Frisbee team last Friday midseason is a decision the Garcias said was the last straw.
“They canceled sports with a 24-hour notice and no communication with parents,” Racquel Garcia said.
Jordan Garcia said he, his mom and others have complained at board meetings at the school and district levels but haven’t gotten a response.
“Something’s not right,” Racquel Garcia said.
Zimmerman said he supports students’ rights to exercise their freedom of speech and stands by the schools’ protocols and leadership.
Not all students supported the protest. Junior Hayden Snow said other students “need to stop spreading a lot of misinformation.”
“I’m not against all the complaints they have, but the walkout itself is overdramatic, and the trash talk and negative speak against people who are trying to do their best at the school is unwarranted,” he said.
One point he objects to is the complaint that the school does not have a nurse.
“I think it’s ridiculous people should think the school should make their mental health better,” Snow said. “There are so many people to go to who are receptive and willing to help you.”
Bullying, drug use among students and insufficient special-education services also were mentioned among those who demonstrated.
Zimmerman said the school has special-education programs and addresses complaints as they arise.
“The whole thing was initiated by one upset parent,” he said.
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