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Front Page » September 25, 2007 » Opinion » Staff editorial: When the inmates run the asylum
Published 2,399 days ago

Staff editorial: When the inmates run the asylum


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

While a minority in our society should have rights, definite, specific and protected rights, when the majority is used as the whipping boy for these rights, there is something definitely wrong.

While I came to this conclusion many years ago, a recent story I heard from a friend of mine who works in a metropolitan school district along the Wasatch Front related a story to me about a situation in a school she works at. I have included no names in this story to protect the innocent, the guilty and the stupid as well.

On the opening day of school a kindergartener was brought in to register for classes at her school. The little boy was assigned to one of the best kindergarten teachers in the district, an instructor who is asked for repeatedly by parents who have had kids in her class before. However the young boy was also presented to the principal by his father and was told "I had better not hear of you people mistreating my boy or things will happen."

Right from the outset the young student had behavior problems. He would be doing a task with other kids and then jump up on the table they were working at and start bouncing up and down and beating his chest with his fists. Every time the class got started on any kind of project he would get up and run around the room making noise. At recess all the other kids would be playing on the swings and he would be throwing gravel at them. When recess was over, he wouldn't come in the building, and would stand outside yelling.

By the end of the first week the teacher had used every kind of technique possible (in this day of fear of litigation and job loss) to get this kid to behave. But he just seemed to get worse. The special services team at the school was called in to help. The principal assigned an aide to work just with this child, all day long. She soon became fed up with him. When a psychologist tried to do an assessment on the lad to see what could be done to improve his behavior, he resisted all efforts to cooperate and again played Tarzan on the table. At one point during the second week of school, six adults within the building worked with him or watched him all day long.

At least one time when he had to be coerced back into the building after recess he ran down the hall screaming at the top of his lungs disturbing all the classes and was confronted by a very tall and commanding fourth grade male teacher, who hovered over him. The teacher was consequently kicked in the shin. The kid obviously is not intimidated by anyone or anything.

The parents were contacted during that time and they said he didn't do any of that stuff at home. But when the father was observed with the boy during a conference with school personnel he was very physical with the child, or in other words he was thumping the kids gourd constantly in one way or another. Obviously that is something the school personnel cannot do.

A special education assessment person was brought in to make suggestions on how to proceed. Her advice didn't work at all, and to make matters worse because of a program the district follows, the people handling the situation at the school were told never to touch him, no matter what he did. That meant when he stayed on the playground and wouldn't come in after recess, they couldn't physically bring him in; but an adult would have to stay out with him to make sure he didn't run away or disappear. They were told if he disrupted a classroom, the class should be removed from the room, not him. And there were all kinds of other suggestions that sounded just as ridiculous involving other matters.

In this case here is a great teacher, a school special services staff and some other district personnel tied up taking care of one little boy while the education of all the others in his classroom are suffering, because of his bad behavior. According to my friend, it will take at least six to eight weeks of this for the kid to finally be assessed to the point that he will be put in a behavior disorders program.

Imagine if the parents had placed this kid in a private school at the beginning of the year. How long would they put up with this? He probably would have been out of the school the first day and sent either to another unsuspecting private school or more than likely to a public school, where they can't so readily get rid of problems that disrupt their students learning.

This type of situation has come about because the laws and regulations guaranteeing every child an equal education have gone way too far. In this case the school district is denying the other students in his room (and for that matter in the school considering how many adults are committed to dealing with the situation) a fair education during the time it takes to figure out what to do because of his behavior and the attention that must be paid to him.

This is just a case of rules, regulations and the fear of lawyers driving our public educational process. It's no wonder we can't get anyone to go into teaching when they find out they have to deal with these kinds of situations, with literally no way out.

The next time our legislature and congress meet about what to do about faltering public education and the lack of young people going into teaching, maybe they should look at more than just money. They should look at the bureaucracy and the impossible situations they and the courts have created for those who only want to mold young lives.



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