Mountain View parents say they are fed up with a fourth grade teacher at Huff Elementary School who they claim is not being disciplined by the district despite numerous complaints of abuse and misconduct.
The parents say students in Patty Polifrone's class are scared to go because she often ridicules or yells at them. They say numerous parents have filed complaints against Polifrone dating back to when she was a teacher at Slater School several years ago.
The complaints may already have come to a head, however, since Stephanie Totter, the Mountain View Whisman School District's director of administrative services, "escorted Polifrone off the Huff campus" earlier this month, the parents said. With rumors now circulating that Polifrone will return to the classroom this week, they say the district should terminate her once and for all or they will take the matter to the school board.
According to parents, administrators told families only that Polifrone is on personal leave and will resume teaching soon. They say the class has had a substitute teacher in the interim.
Totter reportedly returned to Huff last week to interview students in groups of three about the allegations. Because Polifrone has tenure, the parents say, it is difficult for the district to discipline her appropriately. She was transferred from Slater to Huff after parents tried to take legal action against her there, they added.
Polifrone was not immediately available for comment. District administrators referred all questions about Polifrone to Totter, who replied by e-mail, saying only: "Tenured teachers have significant due process rights. This covers every tenured teacher in the state. It is inappropriate to comment on any particular employee."
Four parents contacted the Voice about Polifrone -- some with children in her class, others whose children have taken Polifrone's class in the past and whose younger children will start fourth grade at Huff in the fall. All but one, Christine Fortes, said they were afraid Polifrone would punish their children if they spoke on the record.
"This abuse has done so much damage to so many students and no one seems to want to do anything to take action," Fortes said in an e-mail to the Voice.
All of the parents had similar stories about Polifrone: They said she targeted students for ridicule, discussed her personal life in class, and insulted the principal, other teachers and the U.S. president in front of students. Overall, they said, their children lost interest in school while in her class. Fortes says her daughter's test scores dropped from the 90th percentile to the 40th.
"My son was scared to go to school," one parent told the Voice. "I do not see her as a good role model for children."
"Before he used to be an excellent reader," said another parent, who currently has a son in Polifrone's class. "Now he doesn't read."
All four parents said they complained to Polifrone about her behavior, and filed complaints with the principal and then with district administrators, but were told their only option was to transfer schools. Several parents did eventually transfer their children.
One mother said that after talking to Polifrone about an inappropriate comment made in class, the teacher told the student, "You shouldn't have your mom fight your battles. Grow up!"
She said she spent $900 on therapy on her child, who went from being "a happy, studious, well-behaved student to a worried, self-deprecating boy that hates school."
Polifrone allegedly told one parent volunteer that "When I yell, they get it better than when I speak to them nicely. I like to nip it in the bud."
When Polifrone was teaching at Slater one of her students brought a tape recorder to school because he had trouble taking notes. He would replay it at night and review what he learned in school. After hearing Polifrone on the tape, his parents hired a lawyer, but the case never went to court.
Parents say they hope this time the district will take action.
"I can't believe they haven't done anything," Fortes said.