About 20 parents rallied outside a Bernal Heights school Thursday, demanding the removal of its principal for an array of alleged actions that included physical punishment of students and restrictive bathroom policies.
The parents allege that Sheila Sammon, who took over at Paul Revere K-8 School in 2010, discriminates against black and Hispanic families and has instituted a harsh discipline policy involving silent lunches and recesses in the school’s basement.
Some parents said they filed police reports after Sammon allegedly restrained or manhandled their children. Alicia Singleton, reached by telephone, said Sammon and another employee held her 6-year-old face down on the floor.
“His skin was all red, his arms were scratched up,” Singleton said.
Others criticized the bathroom policy.
“She does not allow kids during class time to use the bathroom,” said Emma Velasquez, mother of an 11-year-old girl. Speaking in Spanish with a fellow parent translating, Velasquez said that led to humiliating experiences for children, especially menstruating girls.
“They wouldn’t let them go to the bathroom and let the kids pee in their pants,” parent Eveling Marenco said. “The kids poo and pee because they won’t let them go to the bathroom.”
A 2010 San Francisco Unified School District policy says students should be allowed to use the bathroom whenever necessary.
Sammon denied the allegations. She said she was hired under a federal School Improvement Grant to oversee reforms, including a disciplinary approach in which children are required to sit and think about their misbehavior — sometimes during lunch and recess.
“It’s a time for them to be reflective and complete a reflection sheet,” she said.
However, Sammon said the detention occurs in classrooms and not the basement.
Assistant Superintendent Patricia Gray called the protesters a minority of the school’s families and said their anger was an overreaction to changes at the school. Sammon and Gray said the reform efforts are working and will lead to improved state test scores.
“There’s wonderful things going on at Paul Revere,” Sammon said.
Parent Florida Barellas agreed.
“I feel that the changes they have made have helped my son tremendously,” said Barellas, whose 7-year-old attends the school. “All the changes they’ve made have been for the benefit of the students.”
Nonetheless, protest organizer Phillip Pierce said more than 100 parent signatures have been gathered on a petition demanding Sammon’s removal.
Examiner Staff Writer Giselle Velazquez contributed to this report.