An incident involving a FFA pig that was tortured and killed in cold blood at Delhi High School this weekend not only caused an immediate outcry in the community, but also shone a harsh light on greater disciplinary issues involving alcohol, drug use and violence on campus that some teachers claim have increased in frequency and severity since last year.
Two educators at DHS, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisal, said students have been caught in alcohol-related offenses, one of which happened earlier this year when two students were allegedly caught intoxicated on campus and had to be taken to the hospital. Both students were said to have been dealt with minor suspensions, marking the second offense for one of the students who had been previously caught with drugs. One of the teachers claimed that another student posted a picture of himself at a lake with an alcoholic bottle in hand during last year’s “senior ditch day” and only got one or two days of suspension when it should have been five days.
While the Delhi Unified School District Board Policy for alcohol and drug-related offenses does not outline specific disciplinary actions, it stated that the superintendent or designee “shall take appropriate action to eliminate possession, use or sale of alcohol and other drugs and related paraphernalia on school grounds or at school-sponsored activities.”
“Nothing is being done discipline-wise. It’s a joke and people are so fed up that they don’t even fight anymore. The morale is so low on this campus,” said one teacher. “We just want to do our job and teach the kids that want to be here, but some students are unruly and don’t do anything in class.”
Students have also engaged in acts of violence on the high school campus, according to both teachers, who said that three weeks ago a female student hit the school’s vice principal in the head. While the incident was posted on Snapchat, a popular mobile application that allows users to send and receive photos and videos, the teachers claimed that she was not disciplined. Another student allegedly hit one of his peers in the back of the head with a shovel during class after he did not like the sound of a garden device the student was operating.
One teacher claimed that another student this year also engaged in “catfishing,” which is the act of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona, to convince male students at the school to send him pictures of their genitalia. The student later posted the pictures on social media and was only given a few days of suspension when he should have been expelled, according to the teacher.
Similar to the DUSD Board Policy about alcohol and drug-related offenses, the policy that addresses bullying, which includes cyberbullying or actions that cause bodily injury, does not include a particular disciplinary procedure. Rather it stated that any student who engages in bullying “shall be subject to discipline, which may include suspension or expulsion, in accordance with district policies and regulations.
Both teachers added that students are not held accountable for their attendance — or lack thereof — at the high school either. A student who missed over 100 school days was still allegedly able to graduate, while another student who accrued more than 15 tardy slips was supposedly never disciplined. Another student who was failing two of a teacher’s classes was claimed to be taken out during the last two weeks of school just so he could graduate.
“Let’s put it this way — a diploma from Delhi High School is a joke,” one teacher said.
When asked if he agreed with these teachers’ claims that there has been an increase in disciplinary issues over the past year, Delhi Unified School District Superintendent Adolfo Melara said that the number of suspendable incidents at the high school has actually decreased by 46 percent. Since the beginning of the second semester, 14 DHS students and one continuation high school student have been suspended. He said that the top five disciplinary incidents from this year all fall into minor offense categories, including tardies, lack of materials, detention or other miscellaneous school violations, which are non-suspendable.
The DHS campus has undergone many changes this year, one of which happened on Feb. 13 when the continuation high school program that was formerly housed at the Shattuck Educational Park relocated to the DHS campus. Melara said that the reasoning behind this move was to provide more resources to the 36 Shattuck continuation high school students.
“The high school campus has state-of-the-art facilities — such as science labs, full service library, full service cafeteria, to name a few — that the Shattuck Educational Park does not have,” said Melara. “We believe that all of our students, regardless of the instructional program they follow, deserve the very best resources.”
Melara said that he believes these facilities have played a significant role in the success of DHS students, who were ranked No. 1 among Merced County high schools in English and Science in the 2016 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress. He added that the graduation rates at DHS continue to approach 100 percent.
As an alternative to a comprehensive high school, continuation high school is an option for students who are behind schedule on graduation requirements and is not necessarily for students with disciplinary issues. With nearly 700 students currently enrolled at DHS, Melara said that the continuation high school students make up less than 3 percent of the entire high school student population.
Although the continuation high school students are housed at the DHS campus, they have a separate principal, secretary, counselor, four teachers and three classrooms dedicated solely to them. Melara said that the continuation high school is broken up in two sessions, with 21 students in the morning and 15 students in the afternoon.
“We have set up procedures to accommodate the students from Shattuck,” said Melara. “We have set up procedures to ensure our continuation and independent study students enter the campus in an orderly manner, procedures as to how they interact with the larger high school campus, and how they exit campus.”
One teacher said that DHS also recently tapped in former assistant principal Brett Nickelsen to replace principal Vincent Gonzalez. The teacher added that Vincent Hoke will keep his role as assistant principal and Malena Morriston, who was the learning site coordinator at Schendel Elementary School, will serve as a second, interim assistant principal.
“I don’t think the dilemma is going to get any better,” the teacher said. “We never could find the principal on the campus when he was here. There was an actual fire alarm that went off and we couldn’t even find him. He was off campus.”
The same teacher added that the continuation high school program at SEP was relocated to the DHS campus not to provide more resources to students, but because of budget cuts. The teacher claimed that these cuts not only affected the closure of SEP, but the jobs of teachers throughout the district, who were dealt warnings when they returned from winter break in January.
“It just doesn’t make sense. We ended up getting a $8.5 million grant and 20-plus teachers are losing their jobs,” the teacher said. “That’s only going to impact the size of the classrooms that are already popping at the seams.”
“Where did the money go?” the teacher asked.