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News & Noteworthy

Bullied teen’s family: Officials still not cooperating

Thursday, April 14, 2011 2:08 AM EDT
By CLAIRE MICAHLEWICZ, Press Staff

MIDDLETOWN — A Wesleyan student and tutor, a blogger and a bullied teen’s uncle have stepped up to speak out against the treatment of 13-year-old Monique McClain.

Home from school since January because of bullying from her classmates, the seventh-grader and her family are pushing the Board of Education to let her continue her education in another environment.

So far, the McClains say, they haven’t had any luck in placing her in another school.

Monique McClain’s mother, Alycia, pulled her out of Woodrow Wilson School in January after she said the 13-year-old endured months of bullying from her classmates. School administrators, Alycia McClain said, failed to protect her daughter from the bullies. Alycia’s mother, Alexa McClain, accused Superintendent of Schools Michael Frechette of blocking her from attending another school.

McClain said she had spoken with staff at Thomas Edison Magnet Middle School in Meriden, who explained that students apply for spots at the school through their home school district.

But, McClain said, Frechette never told Alycia McClain that her daughter could submit an application through the Middletown Board of Education.

“He left stuff out,” she said. “He never told Alycia that she had to submit any application to him!” Instead, she said, Frechette said there were no options for Monique.

Alycia brought the issue up at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, claiming that Frechette misinformed her about magnet school admissions.

“You guys keep trying to cover up your tracks,” she said.

Confidentiality rules prevent school employees and Board of Education members from speaking about individual student cases, but Frechette explained that Associate Superintendent Barbara Senges handles applications to magnet schools. Students submit applications to her, Frechette explained, and up to 120 of them are placed in schools throughout the state.

Until Monique can attend another school, the McClains have been pushing for the Board of Education to provide a tutor for her, since she’s been trying to keep up with her school work from home. As of this week, McClain has a new tutor, provided through the North End Action Team. Matt Donahue, a student at Wesleyan University, volunteered his time to work with her so she doesn’t fall behind in school.

The McClains’ attorney, Sally Roberts, said she has had no luck getting the Board of Education to provide a tutor for Monique, or even to turn over her school work. Moreover, she said, she hadn’t heard anything from the state Department of Education about the investigation she demanded into Middletown schools.

Last week, blogger Aldon Hynes submitted an open letter to state Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz, urging her to investigate several Middletown school administrators for their handling of McClain’s case.

Hynes, who writes at www.orient-lodge.com, said he heard about McClain’s situation through newspaper articles, and decided to contact the DCF after he heard that school administrators had called the DCF to report Alycia McClain for truancy.

“I thought, ‘That’s just not right,’” Hynes said. “By all accounts that I’ve seen, that seems to be an abusive environment. There needs to be some resolution provided, other than trying to force Monique back to school.”

DCF Spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said he hadn’t heard of Hynes’ request for an investigation, but explained that the DCF looks into any reports of child abuse or neglect it receives. Kleeblatt said all investigations are kept confidential, so he couldn’t confirm if the school system or the McClain family is being investigated.

At Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, Alexa McClain fought back tears as she addressed the board.

“I’m struggling to maintain what’s left of my own principles of respect,” she said. “In some of you, I can see compassion trying to escape, but where there should be the strength to stand up for what is right, there is only a void.”

But, despite the difficulties she and her family have been through in recent months, McClain said she was inspired by the courage of her daughter and granddaughter.

“You’ve had the opportunity to learn from a 13-year-old what courage really is,” she said. “She is being taught principles. You have only strengthened my family.”

Alycia’s brother, Douglas McClain, also spoke, urging the Board to have her placed in another school. He pointed out that his family wasn’t even asking the school to stop the bullying anymore, but only to place Monique in a safe environment.

“I think we can fix the problem of her being at home because she’s afraid of going to a certain school,” Douglas McClain said. “Get her a tutor or something.”

Donahue also spoke up, explaining that he had volunteered to tutor Monique because he heard about her story and wanted to help. The school system, he said, is responsible for providing a safe environment.

“You are not doing so,” he said. “We’re all ashamed up at Wesleyan.”
Donahue said more Wesleyan students may attend the next board meeting to speak out about McClain’s case.

Meanwhile, Monique’s family said they plan to continue their fight to put her in another school.
“The McClains will not back down,” Alycia McClain said.

 

© 2011 middletownpress.com, a Journal Register Property

                                      

 


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