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Students march for threatened school teacher

January 27, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
School officials in Norco have a real dilemma: A popular teacher was allegedly threatened by a special-needs student there. Students at John F. Kennedy Middle College High School held a rally and protest march Thursday morning. They want their teacher back.

For the past 54 school days, a substitute teacher has been teaching Heather Ellis's 11th-grade English class. Ellis's students say it's unfair, and it's time for their teacher to return to the classroom.

At least 150 students packed the Corona-Norco Unified School District parking lot after walking out of John F. Kennedy Middle College High School Thursday morning.

Their demand was simple: Bring back beloved junior English teacher Mrs. Heather Ellis.

"We are protesting because a teacher was harassed and threatened and nothing was done about it," said Avery Smith, a senior at the school.

Students marched a mile to the district office in protest over a death threat their teacher allegedly received in October.

Students say the classmate who sent the threat was suspended for seven days but the teacher, fearing for her safety, has not returned to the classroom.

District Assistant Superintendent Thomas Pike says he cannot discuss the incident because of privacy issues.

"With respect to specific incidences, we take that very seriously, we look at it very closely," said Pike.

Oscar Ruiz's daughter attends the high school. He came out to the demonstration with a few of his own questions for the school's principal.

"What is he doing to protect my daughter and all the kids? What is he doing to protect the teachers from kids that are not fit to be in school? And if he needs help, send him to get some help," said Ruiz.

Students say the district is not following its own policies when it comes to protecting their campus because they say the student in question has mental health issues.

During a two-hour meeting students broke up into groups with school administrators to voice their concern and to demand action.

"Our parents always tell us follow the rules and do what's right -- well, they are not following the rules or doing what's right," said Avery Smith.

"I feel like we got our message across and now they understand what we want, but for the most part they avoided most of our questions," said senior Ammon Cruz.

Ellis was reached by phone Thursday. She said she could not comment on the incident that took place, she said that she was deeply moved by the support that students are showing.

A school board meeting scheduled for Tuesday is expected to be jam-packed with students, parents and teachers voicing their concern over this incident.