A month ago, I posted an article about an In-School Alternative Program the Capital School District Board of Education would be voting on at upcoming board meeting. When I read the contract and heard the board audio recording, I had several questions about the program. I do understand the Christina School District runs the same program but I had some concerns for it in Capital’s middle schools and high school. Continue reading
On Tuesday, a student with disabilities was beat up very badly in the Caesar Rodney High School cafeteria. According to WDEL’s Amy Cherry, this was not related to the racial slur associated with the high school mascot that shook the Caesar Rodney community this week.
The boy’s parents contacted their advocate, Diane Eastburn, because of the punishment meted out to their son who was massively beat up. He was charged by the school with “offensive touching” even though he is not seen on the video punching the other student. The word “bitch” was thrown around prior to the fight. The disabled student received two days of in-school suspension but his parents do not feel the punishment should have been given to their child since he wasn’t fighting. The parents and Eastburn contacted WDEL yesterday. In fairness, I sent Eastburn to WDEL because I was uncomfortable posting the video with minors on it. The video is very graphic as described by Cherry:
The student was repeatedly being punched in the back of the head as he used his hands to cover his head. The victim student suffered bumps and bruises to his head and face in the assault.
This has Eastburn wondering what is going on at Caesar Rodney High School since these two unrelated incidents happened in the same week:
“There seems to be an underlying hostility in that building,” alleged Eastburn. “And if they’re having problems they need to address it quickly. To be quite honest, they can’t afford not to. If they start having fights like this, someone’s going to get hurt or worse. These are lawsuits waiting to happen if they don’t start dealing with the undercurrent in that building.”
These are questions the district are going to have to look at. I sincerely hope the disabled child does not have a concussion or any lasting damage done in this brutal assault. I don’t think any student who is attacked should get a punishment like that, whether they are disabled or not. If words are said, let the punishment fit that category. But using a poor choice of words is not the same thing as offensive touching in any world.
Updated, 3:15pm: Caesar Rodney School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald issued the following statement regarding this incident on the district website-
STATEMENT FROM DR. FITZGERALD REGARDING CRHS CAFETERIA INCIDENT
“Recently a fight that previously took place in the Caesar Rodney High School cafeteria has been posted to the internet. This situation in no way is related to the recent mascot post. After an investigation by the school administration and the Delaware State Police, disciplinary action was taken and an arrest was made. Fights of this nature, while rare are unacceptable and are not tolerated in Caesar Rodney. The District will continue to work hard to insure the safety of our students.”
This legislation hasn’t even been filed. It was sent to me anonymously. I have very mixed feelings about this. There are many things kids are suspended for and probably shouldn’t be. But to limit suspension rates over bodily injury, threats of bodily injury or death but not in self-defense, or bringing weapons to school.
What about racial epithets? Or swearing at a teacher? Or throwing furniture but not causing bodily injury? Or making sexually suggestive comments to a student? Those are all things that would have given me a ticket home when I was in school. Bullying isn’t addressed in this unless it is physical. If we have zero tolerance for bullying under any circumstances why isn’t this included?
What if a student abuses the new system? Continuously? My fear with this type of bill is students trying to get out of class and knowing they won’t be suspended for it. As well, if a student gets in-school suspension, the parents should be notified right away.
Perhaps the biggest part of this bill concerns students with disabilities. Under the federal IDEA law, a manifestation determination hearing must be held if a student is suspended a certain amount of time. If the student isn’t suspended but still showing the behavior that would have caused the suspension prior to the implementation of this law, how can an IEP team have the manifestation determination hearing? The purpose of these is to develop a Behavior Intervention Plan after the school psychologist develops a functional behavioral analysis. That is federal law. State law does not trump federal law. But if the state does away with the catalyst for the federal law, isn’t it essentially taking away rights for students with disabilities? And does restorative justice replace what is in a developed IEP?
I’ll be honest, restorative justice wasn’t around when I was a kid. Maybe it is great. But is it known to work? In my opinion, all the restorative justice in the world is not going to cure what comes in from a home environment. If a student comes from a broken home or violence, it may temper the behavior but it doesn’t get rid of the outside of school problems that could be a very big reason for the behavior. I would caution our legislators on passing this bill as written. There are too many factors at play here that haven’t been looked at yet. Which could be why it wasn’t filed yet.
Restorative Justice came about in prisons. I have no problem with anyone making amends. But it is for criminal behavior. By using this in schools, are we making some issues bigger than they are?
On the other hand, this law would reduce many suspensions that are completely unnecessary. When I hear about the reasons some kids are suspended, I shake my head. But then again, sometimes suspensions dealing with weapons brought to school could be seen as overreaching depending on the circumstances. We need consistency but we also need common sense. There are never easy answers. But I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Keep in mind, this bill hasn’t even been filed yet.
The Delaware Met’s code of conduct is very confusing. While it states they are using restorative justice, I am not hearing about it actually being used. Restorative justice is defined as examining the harm done to an individual or a group and using that in lieu of punishment. This sounds good in theory, but certain actions will still warrant suspension or other disciplinary measures.
Where it gets very tricky is if the student may not agree to the harm done to others. If a student believes someone else started something, and they reacted (even if the reaction was stronger than the previous action), they may not see it as completely being their fault. Where Delaware Met is most likely having issues (if they are even following this philosophy) would be what happens after the student disagrees with the restorative justice discussion. The student may be suspended for additional days. Where this becomes a bigger mess is if the student has an IEP. Federal IDEA law states that if a student is suspended for ten days (whether from one punishment or cumulative punishments), a manifestation determination hearing must occur. The purpose of this is to determine whether the behavior or actions are a manifestation of the student’s disability.
A parent commented on an article from yesterday about her daughter being out of school for a month. The shenanigans stemming from this are not surprising given everything I have heard about this school. Even the Delaware DOE is not seeing restorative justice happening at Delaware Met. Even more concerning are allegations of “confinement”. Whether that is an in-school suspension or some other type of disciplinary measure is yet to be determined, but those in authority in the state are looking into this.
To read Delaware Met’s code of conduct, please read the below document: