Lynda Rubin testimony before the SRC – February 16, 2016

lynda-rubin-pic-2-16-17

I am a retired teacher and counselor of 41 years.

At the Jan 19th SRC meeting, you adopted policy resolutions about disciplining out of control students. I was home sick that night, but watched the meeting on TV.

Mr. Green, you raised many relevant and necessary questions regarding the implementation of these policies that I don’t think were substantially answered before passage. You referred to Behavior Support policy 113.2 which actually, I believe, refers to students identified with disabilities, including IEPs and behavior support plans. You called the proposed policy, among other things, “subjective on top of subjective evaluation”. You said that “restraint shouldn’t be used, but if it has to be used…” and then you questioned the “training and application of the policy,” and cited the “vagueness of language in proposed policy,” “Training, how? What training?”. You said your concern, rightfully so, was “so people have what they need.”

The staff you were questioning, talked about de-escalating students and actually cited regular ed as well as special ed students and responded to you “if more support is needed, there will be more training.” Under your questioning they said it could take “a couple of years, maybe 3 years.” and then referred to “turn-around training” which I understand to be teachers trained for a few days then teaching others, which I find amazingly short-sighted. What’s a teacher to do in these circumstances? That’s a serious question. And, if it’s necessary to be taught, why is it going to be done in so haphazard a manner and take so long?

And then the policy was adopted.

I urge both the SRC and Dr. Hite to fully examine and report to all District staff just what teachers and other employees are to do when confronted with out of control students, regular or special ed, and brainstorm the possible outcomes when the child does something you haven’t anticipated. This list of possibilities could come from actual accounts from past school incidents AND interviewing teachers, counselors, psychologists, principals and mental health professionals. Don’t assume this couldn’t happen with 5, 6, 7, up to 10 year old children. They are actually more likely to pose such a threat, inadvertent or otherwise, because they tend to act out when they feel insecure, and when lashing out aren’t capable of imagining the possible results of their actions. I once had a small, thin kindergarten child throw a wrapped ream of paper, one-handed, all the way across the room at me. Another child took a wooden clip board and reduced it to pieces no larger than 1×3 inches. And then there’s the picture I have of a dent in the wall where a 6-year old threw a very large scissors, right above where my head was at the time. And, there’s always the very young child who’s attempted to or has run out of the school building, sometimes onto a very busy street. Oftentimes, such actions require a split-second response for the child’s or other children’s immediate safety. With the decrease of NTA’s, counselors, school psychologists, etc. teachers are left on their own.

All parents know how difficult it can be to deal with an embarrassingly out of control child. Again, when faced with these out of control students, what are we to do at that moment?

These children aren’t mean or evil; in fact, they can be sweet, loving and long for a life of security and safety and to do well in school. Often, years later, they shake their heads at their own previous behavior. However, make no mistake, many such traumatized or otherwise acting out children are UNIDENTIFIED AND ARE IN OUR SCHOOLS, and I’m not just talking about one lone student for whom we can bring all resources to bear at any given time. There are classrooms, even those comprised of regular ed students that have several students who can act out at one time or in response to one another. If we don’t have practical and meaningful policies, training and support systems and staff in place, we do those children, their families, the other children/families in the classroom or school as well as our teachers and support staff an extreme disservice and place innocent children and adults at risk.

Questions re: Reacting to Out-Of-Control Students, especially Without a Disability Designation, IEP or Behavior Plan?

 What, specifically, should a teacher, as the lone adult in the room, do in the following circumstances?

  • If a child is unrestrainedly running around, and/or overturning furniture, bookshelves, etc. onto other children in classroom?
  • If a child is throwing or waving objects, such as scissors, at other children/adults.
  • At the moment a child is about to, or has just run out of, the classroom? Besides calling the office and hoping for a quick response in light of reduced office staff, a teacher can’t be supervising students in two separate places. Teachers’ natural instincts are to pursue the young child out of control believing that child is less safe, but are caught in a quandary.
  • A child is attempting to run out of the school building, perhaps onto a busy street? (This happens more than you’d like to know, especially among the very young.)
  • A child assaults, kicks, spits at, etc. another student? How about when this is done on a regular basis? While the Team is “working on a plan, or seeking outside help/supports, students are being placed at risk and traumatized, and parents of those children may become very angry.
  • A child assaults, kicks, etc. an adult?
  • A child places themselves at risk by climbing onto ledges, etc. of stairways, furniture, etc.

Imagine these questions, and other situations, when dealing with

  • cooperative parents/families (some of whom may be in the lengthy process of cooperatively seeking answers from the school, school district, and outside agencies, sometimes to no avail),
  • absent parents,
  • uncooperative or defiant families, etc.
  • Outside agencies that have their own regulations and/or insurance interests at heart as well as personnel and financial challenges, sometimes at odds with the District’s.

Bottom Line: How do we best serve and protect the troubled students AND the students and adults impacted by the troubled students AND maintain a learning atmosphere?

These questions only point out some of the situations our students, families and teachers face. As educators of good will, we must at least address these realities and do our best to plan for how to equip our teachers with skills and supports to manage them as successfully and safely as possible. And we must be prepared to support our students, families and teachers when anyone, whether out of anger/despair, for press attention or monetary redress, etc. claim bad acts by staff/District, acting in best effort attempts to assuage the situation.

I would be willing to discuss these issues with any of the SRC or District for clarity or sharing thoughts on the matter.