Every once in a while, stories do get a happy ending. Continue reading “Smyrna School Board Welcomes J Back Into The Smyrna School District”
There was so much activity going on Sunday night/Monday morning with bills passing left and right, I didn’t realize a very important one passed the Senate. House Bill 176 passed the General Assembly and is waiting to be signed by Delaware Governor John Carney. Anyone who has been following this bill and the backstory behind it knows this started with one father’s fight against the Brandywine School District.
Pat Wahl’s son was alleged to have brought a weapon into school and was suspended. His father fought the charge but the Brandywine Board of Education voted on it and agreed to the administrator’s recommendation. Wahl appealed the decision with the State Board of Education and won. After a legal situation with the district, Wahl and Brandywine settled. The result of the settlement was Brandywine would change their zero tolerance policies. Wahl took it another step and spoke with State Rep. Deb Hudson. As a result, House Bill #176 was born. Congrats to Wahl, Brandywine, and State Rep. Hudson for taking what could have been a matter of sour grapes and actually creating something lasting for all Delaware Schools.
While HB #176 deals primarily with weapons, this could be the start of a whole new way of looking at school discipline. As I’ve been writing the series about what happened to J in Smyrna School District, I have heard from several parents about similar kinds of situations. It has become very transparent to me that the next leg of the Delaware 149th General Assembly needs some companion legislation to House Bill #176. Pat Wahl had the time and the means to take things as far as he did, but not all parents are so fortunate. Not to disparage Wahl in any way, but for every one of them, there are probably 25 parents who wouldn’t have the money, resources, or even knowledge to be able to fight these issues. Which is exactly why I am tackling them: to spread that knowledge and shine a light on what many are seeing as a very heavy hand on the part of some school districts when it comes to discipline.
In the meantime, I will take this victory and raise a glass in honor of Wahl. I look forward to Carney signing this and making this the law of the land in Delaware.
Consider this a glimpse into the future. This picture won’t make any sense now, but it will later. This is an end result of a battle that has gone on for well over a year and a half between a student at Smyrna Middle School and the district, led by now Superintendent Patrik Williams, and their refusal to bow down from zero tolerance policies in the district. This is ugly, but it doesn’t stop at the Smyrna School District. It gets bigger from there and involves the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Department of Justice, the police, and the Justice of the Peace in Delaware. Continue reading “Prelude: Patrik Williams & Smyrna School District’s Egregious Zero Tolerance Railroading Of Middle School Student”
Parent power is very real in Delaware! Look no further than House Bill 176, introduced today by State Rep. Deb Hudson! This bill would give school boards and administrators more discretion for what is considered a “deadly weapon” other than a gun. It even says in the synopsis of the bill .”this bill is a result of a recent case in the Brandywine School District.” You don’t have to be a genius to figure this one out folks. Wahl was down at Legislative Hall a couple of weeks ago for the PTA Day.
For some reason the PDF won’t download on Scribd so I will update it when it becomes available, but this would be the change to Delaware state code if the bill passes:
(6) In the event that an elementary or secondary school student possesses a deadly weapon other than a firearm in a Safe School and Recreation Zone in addition to any other penalties contained in this section, the student shall be suspended for a period of not less than 30 days unless otherwise provided for in federal or state law. The local school board or charter school board of directors may, on a case by case basis, modify the terms of the suspension.
Like I said, never underestimate parent power. Wahl fought for over two years to get his son’s discipline removed from his record. But he went a step further and as a result of a settlement with the district, a new policy was created in Brandywine. Now it looks like Wahl is taking it to the next level so this policy goes statewide! Congrats and thank you for your advocacy Pat Wahl!
Today, the White House released a very long report on school discipline entitled “The Continuing Need to Rethink Discipline”. The report has a plethora of recommendations for public schools in America. I agree with most of them based on a cursory glance, but like many reports of this nature that I write about, it fails to recognize the fact that Common Core State Standards or other similar standards along with the high-stakes testing environment accompanying those standards are causing more problems than they are worth in our schools. I will write more about this as I go through the report in the coming days.
The Every Student Succeeds Act addresses school discipline and how our schools carry out punishment for negative behaviors. On Monday evening, the ESSA Discussion Group I am a member of in Delaware addressed this very issue. As well, a Delaware newspaper is working on an extensive article about bullying in Delaware and how our schools respond to bullying reporting.
It remains unclear how the incoming Trump administration will view this report.
For now, please read the below report.
If we are to have a chance to reduce and reverse this type of behavior, it is necessary to begin early and to start in the home. Efforts must be made to reach out students and to provide them with positive new directions in elementary school. Several committee members pointed out that “middle school is too late.”
“If joining a gang is the only way to survive, the kids will join gangs,” one committee member said, adding, “A lot of teachers don’t know who gang members are. You, as a teacher, should know how to interact with kids and parents because kids and parents may not have the ability to interact with us.”
The committee discussed the possibility of cell phone bans in schools, but public schools in Delaware have not done so because parents want to be able to reach their children by phone.
These were just a few of the topics discussed in the Special Committee on Public Safety.
School safety. Two words that mean so many things to so many people. To some, it means making sure every single student and staff member is protected from violence. To some it means reporting requirements. Many think of Sandy Hook or Columbine. Others think of a mounting problem that can never be corrected.
Earlier this year, in the wake of two very violent deaths in Wilmington, a group was formed by Senator Robert Marshall. Marshall is the Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee. He formed a group that met twice to discuss school safety issues with various topics introduced. Out of these meetings, Senate Concurrent Resolution #83 formed a Special Committee on School Safety. The final report was given to the President Pro Tempore of the Delaware Senate and Governor Markell yesterday.
The below report has a great deal of information. It is very long but it is worth the read. Take the time to read it. Every single word. Whether you are for or against School Resource Officers or Constables in Delaware schools, it is important to know what is happening out there. It affects every single citizen of this state. Issues in schools can explode outside of schools often, but issues outside of schools are brought into schools all the time.
The one thing I took out of this report is there are no easy answers. Issues around funding and legality are some of the biggest obstacles to making schools safer. Trauma plays a huge role in our high-needs schools. Family issues outside of school are one of the biggest obstacles to safe schools.
There was one recommendation coming out of the final report that I didn’t see discussed anywhere in the meeting minutes.
Provide funding for the Delaware Department of Education to conduct a voluntary, statewide survey among students, parents, and teachers to get their thoughts on improving the learning environment and ways to make our schools safer.
It can’t be a report on education in Delaware without the Delaware Dept. of Education inserting something they want, which usually involves them getting more money. One important thing to take note of in this report is that Delaware Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques were both listed as members of this committee but neither went to any of the meetings on it or bothered to assign a designee to attend in their absence.
The parts about Senate Bill 207, which I also issued severe problems with, were echoed by many in regards to future under-reporting of incidents in schools. I thank God the House added an amendment to the bill that still requires mandatory reporting to the Delaware DOE. But there is one line about Senate Bill 207 in the final report which will give any Delaware citizen severe anxiety.
On Saturday, after I posted an article on Delaware Design-Lab High School’s major modification request, the Delaware DOE asked me to remove the parent complaints because of some student identifying information that was in that section of the article. The DOE has revised the complaints, so I am giving this its own article. Like I said in the original article, it is very disturbing to see this go on in any of our Delaware schools. It is more than obvious our new charters need much more training in discipline and due process…