By Marc Garman
For over 60 days, VIB researcher Robert Schussel, Ph.D has been attempting to obtain documents related to the California Healthy Kids Survey, which is a study regarding the safety and environment on school campuses in Vallejo. Students participate in the study and rate various factors such as safety, drug use, interactions with staff, and their overall mental and physical well being. The original purpose of his request was to obtain documents as research for an upcoming VIB article on conditions in the schools and programs by the district. At this point, the attempt to merely acquire public documents from the district has become a story in itself.
“They’ve been stonewalling me,” says Schussel regarding the terms of his request (below)
Of particular note is the fact that the findings in the Healthy Kids Survey are largely in line with a report and findings from the Solano County Grand Jury (of which Schussel was a member), that was published after the release of the state findings. Members of the Vallejo School Board and administration were highly dismissive of the Grand Jury findings while at the same time the district was in possession of a state report that indicated similar VERY NEGATIVE data several years running. No apparent effort was made by the VCUSD (Vallejo City Unified School District) to make members of the public aware of the state findings. Suppression through omission would appear to be an accurate description of the action, or lack thereof by VCUSD. The action by several school board members was to publicly deny the veracity of the findings in the Grand Jury report.
The findings from both studies are damning. The attempt to keep the public out of the loop is both indecent, and at this point possibly illegal. Did the district actually take any constructive action based on the state report? Or merely keep it in a black box? At this point we don’t know. We do know that some $40,000 was spent by the district on the now infamous “Celebration Report,” to put a positive PR spin on the schools in spite of both studies findings.
Call it a cover up, a snow job, or an effort to wag the dog on the part of the VCUSD board and administrators, the push to put a shiny face on the problems in our troubled schools is evident. Schussel believes, “the public deserves to be made aware,” of how the district proceeded in light of the findings. Dr. Schussel’s request for public information has been delayed for an unreasonable length of time and in violation of sections of the California Public Records Act according to Schussel. He is preparing to pursue legal action with the help of Vallejo attorney Stephen Hallett.
VIB will keep you posted as more information becomes available…one way or another.
Links to the various related reports and documents are below:
Information on the “Celebration Report” courtesy Marianne Kearney-Brown