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Note: This was submitted to Los Cerritos Community Newspaper from Eileen Blagden, former Principal at Cecil Stowers Elementary School in Cerritos. The opinions in this letter are those of Ms. Blagden. — Editor
By Eileen Blagden
It’s been over two years since I made the decision to defy a direct order from my superiors at the ABC Unified School District to keep my mouth shut about suicide and murder threats from one of my kindergarten teachers. A decision that cost me my job as principal of Stowers Elementary School in Cerritos but probably saved the lives of two teachers and countless students—and I have no regrets.
Schools are where our children come to grow and to learn. It is our responsibility as educators and administrators to keep their environment safe from all forms of danger—even when that danger is coming from a teacher.
So when one of my kindergarten teachers—a teacher who had just returned from a leave of absence after two charges of lewd and lascivious behavior and one conviction for trespassing—came to me looking disheveled, stressed, and with blood visibly on his body, I took his threat to commit suicide and kill two of my other teachers seriously.
In the wake of the Miramonte Elementary School and Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandals coupled with the Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Seal Beach tragedies, none of us entrusted with the safety of children can afford to guess at the genuineness of the threat when danger presents itself.
I never expected that my actions would have resulted in my demotion back to teacher and banishment from Stowers as well as the school district offering the teacher who made the threats a cash settlement to leave quietly. I expected the school district to back me up, notify the local authorities, and to keep the safety of the children and staff as their number one priority.
But they didn’t, and now two years later, after much speculation and whispering, I am finally breaking my silence as I prepare to move forward to vindicate my name, reputation, and actions on that day in a court of law.
The recent decision by an Assembly committee to reject a bill that would have protected students from sexual predators, further reminds us all that something is seriously wrong when we, as adults, can’t take the steps needed in order to protect children and allow the process to do just the opposite—leave our children vulnerable to random attacks from mentally unstable teachers.
Union regulations and the “politically correct” have paved the way for situations where you can have a kindergarten teacher in the classroom with students who at the same time is banned from all public places, including parks, beaches, and libraries after 6 p.m. in Long Beach.
I am not an activist. I am an educator. I don’t consider what I did as whistle blowing. I considered myself taking the appropriate actions to protect hundreds of kids and dozens of teachers who might have been lost in the crossfire had that teacher taken action on his threats.
If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t change anything that I did because at the end of the day, it’s our job to keep schools safe—even from the dangers within.
If through the shame, hurt, and humiliation I have suffered as a result of all of this has to be the catalyst through which we start to have honest and real conversations about school safety, then let’s start talking.
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