Saturday, January 16, 2010
Tudesko - Page 3
"I'm not a bad kid ..."
By Parisio's own admission, Tudesko is "A bright young man, but an average student, more from a lack of application than anything else."
His high-school grades range from above-average in vocational classes to below-average in math, and he attended summer school to make up missed credits in English and history.
Tudesko's hunting career includes successful hunts for deer, turkey and waterfowl.
His high-school career also includes two suspensions and roughly 25 "referrals" from seven different teachers, which are written references to classroom or on-campus behavior that teachers deem improper or detrimental to the classroom environment. In Tudesko's case, those referrals range from talking in class to using foul language toward a teacher.
"Gary talks too much in class, but he gets along great with people at school," Parisio says. "His teachers like him, his friends like him. He's a very easy young man to get along with."
At the November expulsion hearing, Geivett read into the public record every disciplinary referral from Tudesko's freshman, sophomore and junior years, which he says he did to establish a pattern of disregard for school rules.
"We're talking about no less than 25 referrals, some for what I consider to be very serious offenses," Geivett says. "I spent 10 to 15 minutes going over each one of those referrals, which range from calling a teacher foul names to just being generally disruptive.
"It's another thing that goes into this expulsion: We've done what we could do to try to get Gary to do the right things. Detention, Saturday school and counseling just haven't worked. When we've done what we felt necessary to fix the behavior, we can recommend for expulsion or placement elsewhere."
Geivett's assertion points to Education Code 48915(c) which states that a student may be expelled when "other means of correction are not feasible or have repeatedly failed to bring about proper conduct, or; due to the nature of the act, the presence of the pupil causes a continuing danger to the physical safety of the pupil or others but Michel believes that the junior's disciplinary record has no relation to the specific conditions of his expulsion.
"Gary's disciplinary record wasn't relevant," Michel says. "That was nothing more than an attempt to show that he was an ongoing threat, and that there were no other means of mitigating it. Even that, though, was non-sensical.
"There was nothing in his disciplinary record that indicated he was a danger to anybody. On none of those referrals did any of his teachers request intervention on behalf of Gary or the staff. He was a kid who had some detentions."
Parisio was admittedly taken aback by the insertion of Tudesko's school record into the expulsion hearing, and says she was not informed of its inclusion in the proceedings prior to the hearing.
"It really hit me how out of proportion (Geivett) took it," Parisio says. "In the transcript (of the hearing), it takes less than 1/3 of a page to go over Gary's past academic record, which was good. But when (Geivett) was reading page after painful page of the disciplinary record into the public record, it took 15 to 18 pages of the 96-page transcript. It was out of context and overblown. It was designed to embarrass Gary, and make him look like a bad kid. It was an attack."
It was at this point that Tudesko began to grasp the severity of the situation.
"The principal is up there talking about me like I'm such a horrible kid," Tudesko says. "People who don't know me must think I'm a bad kid. I might've said some bad words, but I'm not a bad kid. I get along with everybody, and I thought I got along with the principal and vice-principal."
The WUSD board entered private session at 2:45 p.m. to discuss Tudesko's fate, and by the 4:29 adjournment of the meeting, a 4-0 vote had been cast in favor of expelling him.
"I thought to myself 'Wow, this is really going farther than I thought it would'," Tudesko says simply.
Tudesko's appeal to the Glenn County board was originally scheduled to take place Jan. 15, and subsequently re-scheduled for Jan. 19. Michel and Green have requested that the board review the case "de novo," which essentially allows them to review evidence that was not available/presented at the November hearing.
"There were a lot of things that weren't brought to the district's attention at the original hearing," Green says. "There are some specific due-process rules for fair student hearings that were not followed at the expulsion hearing."
The Glenn County Office of Education has employed council from the Oakland-based firm of Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost, and former Oakland Schools' chief council Roy Combs, to educate its five board members on how to properly handle the review.
"This is a real high-profile case, and we wanted to make sure (the board) did everything by code to render the best decision based (on the information)," says Glenn County Superintendent of Schools Arturo Barrera.
The case has received national attention Tudesko and Parisio both appeared on "Fox and Friends" shortly after the expulsion, and Barrera says that the Glenn County administrative office has been inundated with calls "from all across the country" but nowhere is it more strongly debated than in the duck blinds and rural coffee shops of northern California.
"I'd say that the support on the street is overwhelmingly in favor of Gary Tudesko," Superintendent Barrera says. "You're talking about a rural farm community that has generations and generations of young people who hunt. Willows is a thoroughfare for waterfowl. I was born in this town (and) back in the day, nobody raised an eyebrow to see a high school boy drive on the school grounds with their shotguns in their gun racks in their window. And I don't mean 'Park on the street next to school', I mean on school grounds."
Both Tudesko and Parisio are cautiously optimistic that the expulsion will be reversed, and that Tudesko will be allowed to return to Willows High late this month.
"I find (the board) to be reasonable people, so I tend to think they're going to be reasonable in the way they look at this," Parisio says. "I'm hopeful: I just cannot imagine that they wouldn't overturn the expulsion."
Until then, 17-year-old Gary Tudesko spends his days in an odd sort of limbo.
He's not allowed to attend any school events, so the normal social trappings of a high school junior daily interaction with his peers, sporting events, the Willows High Winter Ball, his Future Farmers of America Harvest Banquet have been denied him. He's fallen a full three months behind in his classes, because, although he's completed homework packets for some of his Willows High classes, he's not allowed on campus to take tests.
Alternative schooling options in Willows are somewhat limited, but Tudesko enrolled in four core courses this week at the William Finch Charter School, a non-traditional public school administered by Glenn County.
Tudekso's biggest day-to-day battle for the last three months: boredom. He helps his step-father Bill Parisio at the family's composting business when needed and handles daily chores around the family's property, but, in his own words, most is his time is spent "at home, waiting".
"I try to go hunting when I can," he says. "I talk to a handful of my closest friends, but, really, just a few people." he says. "I want to go back to school, but right now, all I can do it just sit around and wait. "