ANTIOCH -- Concerns over safety and student discipline have been bubbling up the past few months at Black Diamond Middle School.

They reached their boiling point last week.

Urging for help, about 40 teachers, parents and classified employees from the southeast Antioch campus attended a recent Antioch Unified board meeting, a dozen sharing tales about the school's lack of discipline and sense of low morale.

District administrators discussed what they heard the morning after the Dec. 18 meeting and plan to bring in an "expert" from outside the district as soon as school restarts in January to observe the climate of the campus, Superintendent Donald Gill said.

"We're going to hit the ground running and step up our level of support," Gill said. "We heard some pretty serious concerns."

Stories from speakers painted a picture of a campus hampered by increased incidents of fighting, verbal and physical threats and intimidation against faculty, disrespectful language, bullying and a lack of security.

"Is it going to take something terrible to happen before we all wake up to the fact that our school is unsafe for the staff and the kids that want to learn," said Frank De Luna, a full-time volunteer at the 699-student school.

Linda Jones-Rhymes, a 17-year teacher at Black Diamond, said that teachers excited at the beginning of the year are now taking leaves of absence because of stress.


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"We don't need more policing, we need leadership," she said. "Please stop this downhill slide. Changes need to be made as soon as possible."

Parent Rosie Hurtado said that her daughter has been bullied by one girl the entire year. On days Hurtado cannot volunteer in class because of work, her daughter calls after school to let her know she made it home safe.

"There's absolutely no respect to the teachers, to any adult, in there. The kids run the school," Hurtado said.

Gill said once the expert provides a thorough assessment of the situation and the "whole picture" of the campus, the district can put plans in place.

"We need to probe deeper, and find out what the dynamics of the campus are," Gill said. "What goes on in the cafeteria, in the classroom, how are kids being monitored, how does staff interact with students and vice-versa."

Robert Strickler, president of Antioch's teacher union, pointed out that district administrators have visited the campus and provided support help in the weeks leading up to the meeting.

"There are some things in the works, and that's the hope, to fix the problems at Black Diamond," he said. "It's a serious problem, and the sooner, the better."

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.