Parents raising concerns about lack of transparency at P.E.M public schools

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(ABC 6 News) – Parents in the Plainview-Elgin-Millville Public School District are growing increasingly concerned and frustrated at what they call a lack of transparency from school officials.

This comes just weeks after administration canceled multiple homecoming festivities, including the parade and pep fest, at PEM due to an alleged hazing incident involving a group of students.

On a video sent to ABC 6 News, viewers can see the victim with his legs duct taped together while other students can be heard telling him to put his arms behind his back.

Multiple parents took their concerns to the PEM school board meeting Monday night, expressing frustration with a lack of answers from officials.

Plainview Police Dept. says that they are wrapping up their investigation into the incident and that criminal charges are possible.

One father who stepped forward and spoke with ABC 6 News about his concerns. He asked to stay anonymous due to his fears of retaliation from the school district.

“It made me really upset and made me wonder why kids think that this is okay,” the PEM parent said. “People are putting up cameras outside to watch what’s really going on. When I grew up, there was no cameras outside, everyone knew everybody. It was a fun, loving community but now everyone’s afraid.”

While his identity is being hidden, he says he could not stay silent.

“I want to make sure that those students that were involved understand what they did wasn’t just a funny prank, it is a huge impact on everyone’s mental health, security and safety,” the PEM parent added.

Plainview Police Chief Jason Timm says his department is still actively investigating the disturbing incident, although it is taking a bit longer than he anticipated.

“There’s a lot of rumors out there that we will be able to dispel. Unfortunately, at this part of the investigation, until we have it done and until we meet with the county attorney, I’m a little reluctant as to giving out facts,” said Chief Timm. “Because we still do have a handful of kids to talk to yet, and other individuals of interest that we need to interview.”

Chief Timm stated police have narrowed it down to about 15-25 students being involved.

In the mean time, many parents called on the school to be more transparent with what their actions to bring justice to the victim and keep this from happening to anyone else.

“I think how the district is handling it is not the greatest,” said the anonymous PEM parent. “They could have came out and said there was an incident right away as soon as it came out, instead of brushing it under the rug. Everyone else finding out through media and friends. From there, they still kind of covered it up.”

PEM Superintendent Darrin Strosahl has repeatedly refused to do an interview with ABC 6 News.

But in a statement, Strosahl says that the district has hired an independent investigator.

We started the process to bring in an outside investigator.  The reason we are bringing in an outside investigator for the homecoming issues is because I feel we need the best end result for our district to heal in the future. Trust has to be intentionally built and I don’t want the district to lose any public trust because of rumors, false information, or personal attacks.  I’ve sent letters out to families to be as transparent as possible and, as you know, we are bound by student data privacy laws. 

We all agree student behavior was unacceptable, thus corrective action was taken. 

The police have a public safety responsibility to determine if any crimes have been committed, and the District will cooperate with the police in any way it can.  At the same time, it is the District’s responsibility to ensure a safe and secure environment at school for students and staff alike. Please know that the safety and security of students and staff is the District’s highest priority and we will continue to strive to meet that responsibility. In doing so, the District expects and welcomes police assistance in helping the District continue to provide a safe and healthy educational environment for all. 

We have wonderful students working with caring staff and our commitment is to continue to support all students as they strive to reach their full potential.

– Supt. Darrin Strosahl, PEM Public Schools

Some parents in the district, however, disagree and say it has not been enough.

“If they have to suspend students, then suspend students. Don’t just worry about the school or just worry about sports, worry about students lives,” the anonymous PEM parent said.

Strosahl says he is not sure how long the district’s independent investigation will take.

Chief Timm says his department will wrap up their investigation and expects to bring their findings to the county attorney by the end of next week.

Strosahl says that there was a closed school board meeting last Monday on Oct. 9, but that no information could be disclosed regarding the meeting due