MOORPARK : Union Wants Schools Declared as Unsafe


In the wake of several violent encounters between teachers and students, the Moorpark teachers’ union is sending out a letter today asking state and county officials to declare their schools unsafe working environments.

But administrators and school board members dismissed the union’s move as an attempt to gain leverage in protracted and bitter contract negotiations. Board members rushed to reassure parents that their children are safe in the classroom.

“Moorpark schools are safe,” said board member Greg Barker, who teaches high school in Thousand Oaks. “What we have is a union making an effort to create and inflate issues that don’t exist to gain ground in negotiations and public sympathy. I think this will backfire on them.”


But union representatives have cited a recent series of violent incidents, including one two weeks ago when a middle school student tried to break a teacher’s fingers. Union President Richard Gillis said teachers have been assaulted on two other occasions. Also, he said the school board was not taking a strong enough stand against weapons on campus.

Gillis cited a recent incident in which a 12-year-old middle school student was caught with a knife on campus and then not expelled by the board. More than 200 teachers, parents and staff members signed a petition asking for a “zero tolerance” policy, under which students caught with weapons would automatically be expelled. Board members oppose the idea as too rigid.

“We’re also asking the district to accept the remedies we think could correct this,” Gillis said, adding that corrective measures include the zero-tolerance policy.

District Supt. Tom Duffy said the union was giving a false impression of Moorpark schools.

He said a recent survey showed the top priorities for students at Moorpark High School are their grades and their appearance.

“If they didn’t already feel safe I don’t think they would be answering that way,” he said.

“I would welcome a state representative or anyone else to come see what fine campuses we have here.”