A Beaumont mother is exasperated and unsure of her next move if her daughter can’t get another transfer within Beaumont Independent School District after claims of bullying and a fight caught on a camera phone prompted an earlier transfer.
La’Toyya Ozane, a 35-year-old mother of three daughters, said she’s concerned about her 14-year-old daughter’s welfare heading into high school – if she goes – following what’s been a tumultuous middle school existence. Ozane would like for her daughter, Tierra Turner, who completed eighth grade at Marshall Middle School this past school year, to enroll at West Brook for the 2012-13 school year. Turner is slated to go to Central High School based on where the family lives; however, the girl that Ozane said has bullied her daughter is already at Central and she doesn’t want her daughter to have to go through the heartache all over again.“It’s been a difficult three years,” said Ozane, who had to apply four times for Turner to get a transfer to Marshall Middle School from Smith Middle School before it was finally approved following a fight between Turner and the girl – who’s a year older – in the Smith School hallway that was caught on camera by another student’s phone.
“It’s too bad that’s what it took in the first place before they finally did something,” said Ozane. Turner, then a seventh-grader, can be seen fighting another girl in a rather grainy video while scores of students looking on can be heard yelling and screaming.
“She had no choice but to fight,” said Ozane, who added her daughter is an introverted type and unfortunately, like so many other kids, is not immune to being bullied. Ozane had attempted to get a transfer for her daughter prior to her attending Smith because she had concerns about the quality of education at the school. After one attempt in fifth grade, and two in sixth and finally in seventh grade, the transfer was approved.
According to Ozane, the bullying, which consisted of constant pushing, hitting and disparaging remarks about Turner, also involved a boy who allegedly choked and touched her inappropriately.
Craig Eichhorn, communications specialist for the district, said in an e-mail that unfortunately for Ozane, there were only 20 transfer slots available to West Brook for the upcoming school year and Ozane’s request was number 64 on the list. “Transfers are granted on a first-come, first-serve basis if there is space available at the campus,” said Eichhorn.
Ozane said her daughter’s situation is different and that the school district already acknowledged as much by granting the first transfer, so why wouldn’t they allow Turner to transfer again, especially since the girl who bullied Turner in middle school is at Central already?
“I talked to Dr. (Carrol) Thomas last Thursday, and I was very disappointed,” said Ozane, who had met with the outgoing superintendent last year and he personally approved the transfer from Smith to Marshall. According to Ozane, he was less than familiar with her situation at their latest meeting.
“He looked at me and acted like he had no idea who I was,” she said. Thomas went on to tell her that if he “granted my daughter’s transfer, he’d have to do it for everyone else,” she said.
It remains unclear if the district allows exceptions to its transfer rule. An e-mail sent to the district about possible exceptions to the transfer rule was not returned.
After speaking at a board meeting on Monday, June 18, Ozane said she was optimistic that something would be done regarding her daughter’s transfer. Nothing was. In the meantime, she’ll continue to prod the district into allowing her daughter to transfer because with the anxiety she’s suffered over the possibility of going to Central next year, Turner will probably have to repeat eighth grade again at Marshall thanks to substandard grades and test scores.
But she would like go to West Brook. And home schooling remains an option, if push comes to shove.
“I went to West Brook, and I know it’s different there from Ozen and Central,” said Ozane, who said she doesn’t think her daughter would be bullied at West Brook. She maintains that her stated motivations for seeking a transfer are sincere, saying she isn’t trying to castigate the district and doesn’t want to pursue legal options.
“I’m not doing this for financial gain,” said Ozane. “I’m doing what’s best for my baby.”