Teachers, Staff, Students, and Trauma
Good Evening Dr. Hite, Commissioners, (and welcome to Commissioner Richman.) My name is Kristin Luebbert, I am a public school teacher, community member, PFT member, and member of the Caucus of Working Educators.
I would like to speak to you tonight about the chilling effect the District’s blind complicity with uninvestigated, unproven abuse allegations against school staff members will have—and is having—on our schools and students. The District’s naïve acceptance of allegations by DHS, an agency with a well-documented record of inconsistent competency, is actually making our schools less safe for our most vulnerable students.
Many of our students—through no fault of their own—come to school every day suffering from the effects of trauma. Because trauma can cause children’s brains to be in a near perpetual “fight or flight” state, many of our students are physically and emotionally reactive to even the simplest school routines. Most teachers can tell you that having some students run out of rooms; fling themselves into floors, walls, doors, or windows; and attempting to hurt themselves or other students is becoming ever more common in all our classrooms. This problem exists in some degree in every school in our country.
At the same time that we have been receiving more and more children suffering from the effects of trauma, our schools have been systematically defunded and underfunded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the SRC. Social workers for each school, NTAs, and other supports have been taken from our buildings. More than ever before, teachers and other school staff—who naturally care about and strive to help children—have been forced into the roles of social-workers and mental health counselors.
Teachers rarely think twice before stepping into the breach to, for example, cradle the head of a child who is banging his head into the floor, gently corral an overwhelmed student who is running from the room, or stepping between two children who are about to fight. However, now that the district and the SRC are blindly accepting unsubstantiated, uninvestigated claims of abuse from DHS– removing teachers and staff from their work with no due process–a teacher must think twice before moving to assist a child in distress. This is anathema to our nature and our calling. If our true impulse to help and protect may cause us to lose our profession and our livelihood, how can we freely and ethically do our jobs?
I urge you to stand behind your dedicated and overworked school staffs by insisting that due process for all DHS accusations against SDP employees be stringently upheld. Spurious accusations that lead to ethically and legally questionable, lightning-fast, and dire consequences actually make our schools and classrooms a less safe environment for all of our students. I do not believe that is what any of us would want.
Kristin R. Luebbert, M.Ed, MS.Ed