FAIRFIELD — A parent says his protest Thursday at Rolling Hills Elementary School – about what he says are traffic-related dangers to children that he tried to address by ending parking violations and other problems before the school principal ended his work – brought a threat to have police remove him.
Stephen Feudner, 53, said Principal Robin Stewart told him Thursday morning to remove a sign reading “Please ask me if I think my children are safe at Rolling Hills School” before he went on school property.
The principal said if the sign wasn’t removed that she’d be forced to call police and have Feudner removed from school property. Feudner, who had left in the morning after picking up one of his children from school, said police came to his home around noon and tried to resolve the matter.
He returned Thursday afternoon to the school without incident and stood with his sign on the sidewalk. But he said the traffic dangers warrant bringing the protest to Rolling Hills.
“I’m going to go inside the principal’s office when it comes to school safety,” Feudner said.
He said he was exercising his First Amendment rights with the protest and that the principal’s statements were unwarranted. Feudner spoke about his nearly 30 years as a corrections officer for state prisons along with earlier law enforcement work as a police officer in El Cerrito and said he doesn’t blame Fairfield police for the traffic safety problems he sees at the school.
“It’s not their fault,” Feudner said, citing the demands on the Police Department and limited staff.
Kris Corey, superintendent of the Fairfield-Suisun School District, said Rolling Hills is safe and Feudner’s constitutional rights were not violated.
“He does have a First Amendment right as long as he’s not on our property,” Corey said.
“It’s unfortunate he feels this is the best way to handle the situation,” the superintendent said of Feudner’s actions Thursday. “This is a situation where there were just some misunderstandings.”
Feudner may have been overzealous in dealing with drivers around the school, Corey said.
Feudner said he worked 19 hours between Oct. 9 and Tuesday when he was terminated after the principal told him a parent complained about Feudner’s contacting the parent for illegal parking. Feudner said he spoke with drivers and asked them to move cars. If they didn’t, he took down license plate numbers that were included on a form provided by the school, he said. He filled out about a half-dozen forms, which the school sent to the Police Department, during his time at the school, Feudner said.
Several parents stood near him Thursday to support his protest about traffic at the school on Fieldcrest Avenue near the Manuel Campos Parkway. Stacy Baines, whose two children attend Rolling Hills, said drivers run stop signs and that more crossing guards are needed. The school needs to improve conditions before someone is hurt, Baines said.
Those concerns earned a “ditto” from Sharan Rai Mann, who said drivers need to slow down and not park in red zones.
Ernest Bradford, 79, a retired Marine, said he regrets that Feudner – committed to making things safer for children – lost his job.
Feudner said Thursday evening that he’s satisfied with his protest.
“I think I got the word out,” he said. “I just wanted things to be known.”
Still, he said, the situation has not concluded and school traffic safety must be improved.
“I’m going to consider myself a whistleblower,” Feudner said.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.