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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | Simi Valley

District Probing Teacher's Comments

May 05, 2000|MIKE McCARTHY

School district officials are investigating whether a Simi Valley High School English teacher violated state confidentiality laws when she said members of the school's Academic Decathlon team skipped her classes.

"It is being looked into. We do not put our heads in the sand," school board President Carla Kurachi said. "We have to assure that proper rules and regulations are followed."

School Principal Dennis Rast confirmed that students of the state champion Academic Decathlon team had fallen behind in their studies. The team's coaches have been working with the students so they can get caught up, he said.

English teacher Virginia Stout said she stood by earlier statements that nine members of the team received excused absences from class so they could study for the national competition.

Officials acknowledge that the grades of some team members suffered while they were preparing for the national championship in San Antonio, where the team placed second last month. It won the state title in March.

Between the state and national competitions, team members studied as many as 14 hours a day.

District officials questioned Stout's decision to go public with her complaints.

"It would have been nice if [Stout] would have used the remedies within the district to resolve some of her concerns," said Cary Dritz, the assistant superintendent for personnel services.

Carolyn Pirillo, an attorney with the California Department of Education, said that questioning school policies about class attendance publicly would not violate educational codes.

It is against the law to reveal student records without parental consent, Pirillo said.

"If the students were excused from class, it is not an attendance record, it is school district policy," Pirillo said.

School district officials have the authority to discipline teachers for unprofessional conduct even if it is determined they did not break the law, Pirillo said.

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