Parents demand change after Anaheim middle school principal is assaulted while protecting student

Jessica De Nova Image
Saturday, April 22, 2023
Parents demand change after middle school principal was assaulted
Parents are demanding change after the principal of Sycamore Junior High School was assaulted while stepping in to protect a student from individuals who do not attend the school.

ANAHEIM, Calif. (KABC) -- Nearly a month after the principal at Sycamore Junior High School was assaulted, many parents continue to be outraged.

It all came to a head at a community forum on April 12, when parents who were feeling silenced took over the meeting. Parents expressed their frustrations and said it was time for change and if not, it would be time to remove those in power.

One of the mothers present was Sofia Romero. She has a child attending the school.

"We're demanding our district superintendent, Michael Matsuda, to take action -- not to speak to us and promise this and promise that. We need action," Romero said.

According to a spokesperson with the Anaheim Union High School District, the attack happened on March 24. That's when the principal of Sycamore Junior High School, Nancy Cortez, was assaulted after stepping in to protect one of her students from individuals who do not attend the school.

In a letter to Sycamore families, Cortez said she was physically healed, though she was working through it mentally and emotionally.

Below is the AUHSD's complete statement and Principal Cortez's letter to Sycamore families:

On March 24, 2023 there was an altercation at Sycamore Junior High School near the entrance of Sycamore's main office. During the altercation, Principal Cortez was assaulted while heroically trying to protect one of her students from individuals that do not attend Sycamore.

Anaheim Police Department was immediately contacted and responded to the site. The ongoing investigation with the Anaheim Police Department has so far resulted in the arrest of individuals due to security cameras and community vigilance/information.

APD will continue to be visible and show a presence around our campus, along with our on-campus security, and OCPS to help patrol and supervise.

AUHSD/Sycamore is taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of our students, staff, and visitors to the campus including updated fencing, updated cameras, and campus security.

On 4/12 we had a Community Forum, where we invited all families, staff, students, and community members. The purpose of this forum was to address the incident that occurred after school on 3/24 and safety and security of the campus.

There were updates from Anaheim police and the school district leadership addressing safety and security.

The district credited surveillance video, information from the community and the ongoing police investigation for the arrests made so far, but these mothers said this was just one example of the culture of bullying, violence, sexual assault and drug use prevalent at the school.

Parents shared stories of children left beat up on the ground.

Linda Martinez, a mother and school volunteer, said she filed a police report after her daughter was assaulted.

"Every day, I have to be constantly thinking, 'Is my kid okay? Is everything going to be alright? I had a different perception of how school should function, but just looking at Sycamore -- and I came here to school -- this is a nightmare school," Martinez said. "I don't recommend anybody bringing their kids here."

Many parents argued a lack of transparency and open communication across the district allowed this dangerous environment to thrive.

"Kids are afraid. They're going through anxiety," Romero said. "Some kids don't even want to show up. The district gets mad if we don't send our students in, but they don't get mad because we're not here. They get mad because they're going to lose budget. So they need to take action if they want to see every student to show up to school."