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Parents up in arms over 'abusive' teacher

Original post made on Mar 20, 2009

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.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 20, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (24)

Posted by aaj, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 20, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Congratulations Christine

Now your daughter won't be the only one scoring in the 40th percentile!


Posted by Lee, a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 20, 2009 at 9:22 pm

This is one of the worst articles that I have ever read, even for a local newspaper. Where was the fact checking here? Or the fair - non biased- reporting? This is a one sided pathetic excuse of an article, Mrs. P may not be the most politically correct teacher in the world but that does not make her a bad teacher.
And, as for the 4 angry parents if your child is performing poorly then step up as a parent and encourage them to do better... The problem here is poor parenting not a poor teacher, and if anything the principle needs to be held accountable for her poor handling of an obvilously volitile situation


Posted by William, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 21, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Ok Lee, then WHAT is making her a bad teacher? And you think that 4 parents going public indicates they have poor parenting skills? Wow, you must know a a lot about these parents and the teacher and the situation AND the Principal, to make a judgment like that - online, no less. Thanks for your input


Posted by Ol Timer, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 22, 2009 at 5:44 pm

BRING THE INQUISITORS TO JUDGE HER, THEY WILL LOOSEN HER TOUNGE.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2009 at 10:29 pm

My children were in Ms.P's class when she was a teacher at Slater. She is the most wonderful and engaging teacher which they had while attending elementary school. The students were always working and learning and none of them were afraid of her. I question why Ms.P is being challenged by parents who may not understand how to evaluate a teacher correctly, when have they earned an administrative license? Parents need to understand that teaching is an art form, I have taught for ten years so I speak from experience not from feelings.


Posted by TMRJ, a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 22, 2009 at 11:05 pm

I'm one of Ms. Polifrone's former students from slater, I had her for both 2nd, and 3rd grade. I feel confident in saying that her teaching layed the foundation for my development as both a student, and as a human being. I never felt scared, or threatened by Ms. Polifrone, nor discouraged to learn. The setting that she established within the classroom I feel was a healthy learning environment for students. I agree ms. Polifrone isn't the most politically correct teacher, but I don't see how that affects her ability to teach. Personally, It seems to me like the parents who've brought her into question are too soft on their kids, so when they meet someone who won't take any guff from their student, its an issue. Obviously the administration has found Ms. Polifrone an adequate teacher, otherwise she wouldn't have even reached it to tenure, I mean they don't just hand that out. And I agree that this article is an abomination. Its entirely one sided reporting thats slanderous at best. I'm sure in this reporters process of getting information for this article, they must have come across at least one positive perspective on Polifrone's teaching. To report only one side is irresponsible, and conditions those who aren't familiar with Ms. Polifrone to a negative bias. I only have positive memories from my time in her classroom and am confident that if you were to inquire from my former classmates, their answers would be identical to mine.


Posted by Dawn, a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 23, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Dawn is a registered user.

My son is in first grade at Huff Elem. He will go to a private school before I allow him in this 4th grade classroom. Hopefully this poor excuse for a teacher will be gone by the time he reaches 4th grade. What I have heard described is abuse. Has a police report been filed? Those of us who work in healthcare must file police reports for abuse--physical and mental. Who is protecting our children in education?


Posted by Annie, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 23, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Wait ms. p taught pact they moved her out without a word of scandal.
The pact will do anything to protect its self.


Posted by trina, a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 23, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Ms. P was not moved out of PACT. Please get your facts straight, I was there when she decided to transfer to HUFF because of the horrible administration of Dr. Nikki Smith and the close minded teachers such as Bonnie Malouf and Laster who have no business what so ever in the teaching field. As for those parents who want to move their children to private school because of what they have heard instead of being a grown up and speaking to Ms. P I say good, be gone! It is one thing to form a judgment based upon interactions, through conversations and getting to know a person, but quite another to form an opinion based upon what one may have heard or read in a biased small town newspaper. I have read numerous pieces from former students who say they have loved Ms.P and her teaching styles! Since when does the opinion of a few parents who have never been educators over rule the experiences of students who have been in her classes? I advised Ms.P not to go to Huff because the parents live in a Never Never Land and don't teach their children the necessary skills to deal with life.


Posted by Salem Witch Trials?, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 23, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Can you say Salem Witch Trials? It seems like one person/parent makes an accusation and everyone jumps on the bandwagon/witch hunt.

Does anyone remember the McMartin pre-school trial in the early 1990s? The McMartin's were falsely accused, by one hysterical parent, of molesting a child. Many parents jumped on the bandwagon once the first accusation was made. The McMartin's were arrested and jailed while awaiting trial. Raymond Buckey spent five years in jail and his mom spent two and a half years in jail for what? Teaching and caring for children. The McMartin's lost their pre-school and their livelihoods because of false accusations. No one was found guilty and no evidence was found to back-up the claims of molestation. The pre-school was torn down to look for the alleged tunnels and secret rooms where children were allegedly molested, but nothing was found.

The trial was based on false accusations started by a woman who was mentally unstable. This woman had accused others, famous people not affiliated with the pre-school, with molestation too. Unfortunately, too many people were willing to jump to conclusions and destroy good people based on misinformation and/or assumptions.

No one paid the McMartin's for what they lost. The hardest thing to get back was their reputation once it had been sullied.

I do not know Patty Polifrone, but I do know that many students are out of control. Schools will not expel students regardless of their behavior and/or lack of performance. Schools will not retain students who do not do their work (flunk), so teachers inherit misbehaving students who cannot read, write, or do math. Moreover, if teachers resort to yelling, then we think teachers are abusive.

When I was in school, I learned the most from my "meanest" teachers. They had control of their classrooms, they had terrific lessons, and they were not afraid to put a student in his place. If I told my mom a teacher yelled at me, she would have said, "What did you do?!" I would have been punished and not the teacher.

Many bright, enthusiastic, excellent teachers leave the profession every year because the students are so out of control!

I have no doubt that Ms. Polifrone's students yell, scream, cuss, and try everything that they can to disrupt her classes. If Polifrone needs to yell at the students to get them under control, then good for her. I wish Ms. Polifrone and all teachers had the power to expel disruptive, unproductive students.

One mom was quoted in the article stating that Ms. Poliforne told her son, "You shouldn't have your mom fight your battles. Grow up!" The mom claimed her son needed therapy because of that encounter. The incident probably was not the first time the student had his mom "fight his battles." If the comment by Ms. Polifrone caused her son to go to therapy, then Ms. Polifrone is correct…he needs to grow up. Furthermore, if one comment by Ms. Polifrone caused her son to go to therapy, then the boy's problems run much deeper than Ms. Polifrone.
One parent claims her daughter lost interest in reading after the fourth grade. This should not be a news flash, but many students lose interest in school in or after the fourth grade. Students become more interested in beauty, the opposite sex, being cool, etc., and they lose interest in school.

Why is it that one so-called "bad" teacher can do so much damage, but many good teachers, year after year, cannot make any headway with misbehaving, lazy, unproductive students?

A fellow teacher was disciplined for telling a student, "Get your butt in your seat." If he had said, "Please sit down," the class probably would have laughed at him, the student probably would have said, "F… you," and the teacher would have been perceived as weak or a pushover. Why shouldn't teachers be allowed to yell and discipline unruly students? Have students become the new untouchables? Students can do no wrong?

One mother claimed that Ms. Polifrone pushed her daughter when her daughter walked into Ms. Polifrone's classroom, before Ms. Polifrone had dismissed the class. Why would a student walk into a teacher's classroom without permission and before the class was over? Didn't the girl learn any respect or manners? It is disrespectful and it disrupts learning to have students wander in whenever they feel like it. Often, if a teacher asks a student to wait outside until the class is over, the student starts arguing with the teacher. Many teachers lock their doors to avoid this unnecessary disruption and so they can end their classes promptly and properly. I don't know if Ms. Polifrone pushed anyone or if she gently guided the rude girl out of her classroom.

Many students have no respect for rules or authority. We have empowered students to believe the world revolves around them and they do not have to obey laws/rules or respect anyone. The lack of respect and lack of following rules has been disastrous for our schools and our society.

Ms. Polifrone probably wishes she did not have to yell in order to get her class under control. She probably loves teaching, but spends most of her time on discipline. I suspect that Ms. Polifrone is trying everything in her power to motivate her students and help them learn.

I challenge anyone in the community to teach for one week in the Mountain View Whisman schools.

Michael Lewis wrote a book called Coach. In the book, Michael describes a wonderful, high school, baseball coach who had winning teams. His former players wanted to build a new gym dedicated to him. The current players and parents were against dedicating anything to the coach. The current players and parents said that the coach is "mean" and "abusive" because he yells at his players and the workouts are too intense. The parents wanted the school to fire the coach. The coach had to tone down his behavior because it offended the current parents and players. The team is no longer a winning team it is a whining team.

What the parents did not realize is that the "old" coach helped his players mature into responsible young men.

Why can't we hold the students accountable? Why can't teachers yell at misbehaving, unruly, insubordinate students? We have become a nation of wimps and whiners and that is part of the reason our economy and country are in the toilet.


Posted by Mary O., a resident of Castro City
on Mar 24, 2009 at 2:07 pm

To Trina- Ms.P, Laster and Malouf are all pact teachers. Your right these teachers have no business teaching. It seems to me the parents that live in Never Neverland are PACT parents. As far as Dr. Smith she's the salt of the earth. I based these opinions on what I saw over 10 years at Slater and four principals.


Posted by Martha, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 25, 2009 at 2:54 pm

To Trina and Salem Witch Trials:

Having been a parent at Huff for 8 years, I have to say that neither of you have any idea what the school, its students, or its parents are like. Salem, you say "I have no doubt that Ms. Polifrone's students yell, scream, cuss, and try everything that they can to disrupt her classes." I have never heard the students in any of my kids classes, including Mrs. P's, yelling, screaming, or cussing at any of the teachers. Do kids sometimes get rambunctious? Yes. But the way you describe them? Not by a long shot. And not just because Huff is (supposedly, according to Trina) "Never Never Land." I also volunteered for several years at Castro School, and I found the students there to be equally friendly, polite, enthusiastic and well-behaved. No cussing, no screaming, they treated the teacher and the adults volunteers with respect. There are always a few kids with discipline or attention issues, etc., but the vast majority of the kids in our schools are not discipline problems.


Posted by slater, a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2009 at 9:07 am

Ms. Laster was not closed minded. Would you call a closed minded person a teacher that brings her gay adult child to school to educate young minds about the gay life style closed minded i think not.


Posted by Kenneth N., a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 26, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I can't believe you played the gay card.


Posted by blank, a resident of Castro City
on Mar 28, 2009 at 6:16 pm

first of all, salem witch trials
no one is going to read your little persuasive essay because it's long, diluted and no one cares. writing 8 paragraphs does not make your point more valid. secondly everyone just needs to wake up and face some facts. if a teacher verbally abuses a kid then that's um wrong, therefore they should be reprimanded. no amount of excuses and pseudo explanations are going to justify the ridicule and harassment of a 4th grader, and the fact that anyone would even try to rationalize that is ridiculous. the fact that multiple parents came forth over the years adds credibility to the idea that maybe, just maybe Mrs. P. needs to simmer down, stop yelling, grow up and be a role model. to all those former students that write in saying Mrs. P. changed my life, blah blah blah, k cool she wasn't mean to you, congratulations, but even if she made one kids life hell, that is one too many. and I can say this because I was a former student and the gold rush will forever be synonymous with a loud, abusive, mean teacher from New York who made 9 year olds cry.


Posted by blank, a resident of Castro City
on Mar 28, 2009 at 6:20 pm

and by the way what evidence do you have to say that these kids are lazy and unproductive salem witch trials? you are an adult. how dare you.


Posted by lolersk8s, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 31, 2009 at 12:34 pm

sounds to me like someones bitter that mrs. p wouldn't put up with any of your crap.


Posted by blank, a resident of Castro City
on Apr 1, 2009 at 2:47 am

really? does it sound like that? because I don't happen to be on your side and I express a different view point from you, that automatically means that Mrs. P. is the victim? and you know what I think is crap? Discussing your personal life to a class room of 4th graders. Making them run errands for you that are totally inappropriate and completely unrelated to learning. Or harassing children, calling them out in class in an attempt to humiliate them in front of there peers. No child is equipped to go toe to toe with an adult, no matter how many behavior issues they have, and they should never be expected to engage in a confrontation with an adult. All this stuff about how it's preparing them for real life, is total nonsense, and a cop out. She is mean, I don't care how out of control a child is, teachers are trained to handle it in a professional manner, a respectful and appropriate manner, and I see no rational justification for personally attacking a kid. and how is this at all a witch hunt. I would love to hear you all tell you kids, if they should ever complain about the bullying they endure from a teacher, to suck it up and deal with it. it's delusional, really.


Posted by lolersk8s, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Apr 2, 2009 at 4:31 am

yes, it really does sound like that. Its not that you're on the opposing side, its that I disagree with your beliefs in how a teacher should be allowed to interact with a child. you're the one the comes off with a disdainful tone, as though whatever the other person has to say is meaningless. And yes, I feel ms. Polifrone is a victim of parents who feel their child is so delicate that if someone speaks to them in any tone thats less than friendly, they are justified in ruining that persons career. what kind of unrelated errands would she have to students run? please give examples instead of vague claims. How often when mrs. P would call out a kid in class, would the kid be either goofing off, or actually having difficulty in the subject, so she was merely making an effort to help them with it? I don't believe for a second mrs. P would have ridiculed a child out of spite, as you've made clear, shes an adult, so I don't believe any child could provoke her into "harrasment". Children should never be expected to engage in a confrontation with an adult? Should we have other children teach them? How then do you expect them to grow up and develop if they aren't expected to confront adults? please explain how this is total nonsense and a "copout"? Just because someone doesn't teach in the style you wish for them to teach doesn't mean you can force them to do so. As for rational justification for personally attacking a kid? I agree. However I don't believe there have been any personal attacks, but complaints of discipline thats have been blown way out of proportion. If my child ever had an issue with a teacher bullying them, of course I would speak with the teacher, and make sure it in fact was bullying going on, but if my kid is out of line, my kid is out of line, and the teacher has my support. And please provide more of an argument basis than "Mr. P is mean" because its pretty. And support your claims with some decent evidence. If shes had such a negative impact on so many childrens lives, I'm sure you can scrounge up a specific account, or two.


Posted by lolersk8s, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Apr 2, 2009 at 4:35 am

And please provide more of an argument basis than "Mrs. P is mean" because its pretty weak.* sorry alot of typos.


Posted by blank, a resident of Castro City
on Apr 3, 2009 at 12:53 am

what evidence do you have that these kids were out of hand? and I stand by my statement that no child should have to stand there ground against a grown woman, who frankly should know better. I think that you are making the assumption that these kids even deserved to be punished. as a former student, I can recall multiple times where she would call out someone at random and attempt to humiliate them just to establish herself as the teacher, which is unnecessary. kids should be able to look at adults as role models and emulate there actions, having a teacher who is overly aggressive and constantly yelling will only teach kids that that kind of behavior is ok. you have no right to say that these kids were "delicate" you have no evidence of this, Mrs. P got complaints when she was at Slater, and now at Huff so the trend here seems to remain at a constant. using your authority as an attempt to instill fear into your class is not a beneficial teaching method. and even for those with behavioral issues there's a clear line between discipline and harassment. I think it's ridiculous to blame these parents for defending their children. a learning atmosphere should not be hostile and that's exactly what it was, my support for this, I was in her class. so I'd like to hear YOUR evidence regarding these students, how you know that they aren't little balls of sunshine. how can you make the assumption that they were causing any trouble? who are you? what kind of position are you in to make that judgment? and besides kids that act out need that extra encouragement to succeed, if we gave up and yelled at everyone who got on our nerves, they'd have no incentive to be better. you're argument is nonsensical, it's full of assumptions, vague ones at that.


Posted by mom, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 3, 2009 at 6:41 pm

well said blank you make me proud.


Posted by another mom, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 5, 2009 at 10:23 am

I agree with "blank". Discipline does NOT require yelling, rudeness and negativity. Teachers are extremely influential role models and should always act accordingly. Their job is to bring the best out of each and every child. Those who can be positive and caring, teach! Those who can't, stay away from our children!


Posted by another brick in the wall, a resident of Castro City
on Apr 5, 2009 at 10:26 am

No dark sarcasm in the classroom, teachers leave them kids alone!!


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