Oak Lawn Community High School District 229 Addresses Numerous Statement Inaccuracies by Board Member Robert Cruz

January 11, 2022 02:20 PM
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Oak Lawn Community High School District 229 Addresses Numerous Statement Inaccuracies by Board Member Robert Cruz
January 11, 2022
Michael J. Riordan, Superintendent
 
OLCHS District 229 Board of Education Member Robert Cruz issued a press statement this morning that includes numerous inaccuracies.  Mr. Cruz’s assertions unfairly and inaccurately portray the actions of the Board of Education, the work of the OLCHS staff, and the character of our OLCHS students.
 
Listed below are statements from Mr. Cruz that cannot go unanswered.
 
Cruz Statement:
“Our board president has decided to side with Governor Pritzker”
The Truth
No member of the Board of Education (other than Mr. Cruz) has “sided” with or against the Governor at any time.   OLCHS has ensured that all students, staff, and visitors are as safe as possible while in our school.  This commitment includes following the guidance as issued by the CDC and the IDPH.  Additionally, the Board’s possible action against Mr. Cruz is due to violations of his Oath of Office, School Board Policy, and state laws, NOT because of his opposition of the Governor.
 
Cruz Statement:
“As a board, we voted on July 21st, on the recommendation of the administration to be mask-optional”.
The Truth
The Board of Education took no such action on July 21st or at any other point in time.  At the July 21st Regular Meeting of the Board, the administration briefed the Board on the Fall 2021 school reopening planning.  The CDC and IDPH guidance at that time stated that vaccinated individuals did not need to wear masks and that unvaccinated individuals were recommended (but not required) to wear masks.  The administration indicated that OLCHS would be strictly following this guidance.  At no time did the administration state that masks would be “optional”.
 
Cruz Statement:
“We (the BOE) collectively agreed that Bill 2789 (giving the health department and the governor’s office authority over private and public-school openings, during a time of an emergency) was not in District 229’s best interest.”
The Truth:  
At the July 21st Board meeting, Mr. Cruz stated his opposition to Bill 2789.  There was no action taken by the Board on this issue and no consensus was established.
 
Cruz Statement:
“At our school alone, the mental health aspects have been overwhelming.”
The Truth:
Increased stress and anxiety have been observed in all walks of life and in all schools in Illinois and the country, not OLCHS alone.  To address the growing social, emotional, and mental needs of our students that the pandemic has created, OLCHS added staffing and support programs to assist our students and their families.  We have enhanced our student mental health screening program.  We implemented a rigorous “return to school” acclimation program at the start of the school year.  We know that our students need help, and we are using all available resources to provide that help. 
 
Cruz Statement:
“We have had increased drug use (to the point where bathrooms have had to be shut down during school hours), double digit increases in kids seeking help at the counselor’s offices and fighting to the point of expulsion.”
The Truth
Our data indicates the frequency of major infractions of our student discipline code (drugs, fighting, vandalism, etc.) are statistically equal to the data prior to the pandemic. We have recently closed a few bathrooms due to a staff shortage to ensure proper supervision at all times.  Students always have access to most bathrooms.
 
Cruz Statement:
“I am being targeted because I refuse to accept government overreach in America.”
The Truth:
The Board of Education is considering action against Mr. Cruz due to violations of his Oath of Office, School Board Policy, and state laws, not because of his political beliefs or positions.
 
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