Disqus

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Criminalizing Child Behavior at School

Update: messaging from the Seattle Education Association via Facebook.  The teacher comments bring insight to the discussion.

end of update

An audiotape and police report has surfaced about an incident that occurred at Van Asselt Elementary School earlier this year.   Here's the story as the Seattle Times reported it.

Basically, a teacher was threatened with bodily harm by a 5th grade student who is less than 5 feet tall - only threatened but it appears he leaned into her using foul language -  after she denied his request to leave the classroom.  There was no weapon involved. It ended up with her calling the police after he was sent to the office. 

Before anything else I want to make clear - the teacher should not have called the police.  I'll say that again - she should not have called the police.  That the student was African-American (as is established in the police report) makes it much worse because of the disproportionality that we know exists for black children.  The teacher was a white woman.


I note that this story has gone national, with the story appearing in Education Week.  I also see that the Seattle Times - which has no stated policy on when they allow comments and when they don't - has no comment section for this story.

I also want to make clear that we are going to have a civil conversation.  Since this situation is so deeply upsetting, I am going to turn on comment moderation to keep things civil.

There are calls for this teacher to be fired.  That might seem an easy call but she is part of a union.

But the Number One action that should happen - and that means before school starts - is that every single person who works in the district should take racial equity and bias training.  Those who work directly with children should have training in deescalation techniques.

Why, in 2019, this isn't the district's policy, I don't know.  
We have a superintendent who had her Strategic Plan written to directly address issue of race and outcomes, specifically for African-American males, and yet, has not taken steps to bring that kind of understanding and practice about race and bias to the entire SPS staff.

There are Board members who continually bring up issues of racial justice - where is their initiative for this training to take place?

At the next Board meeting, there should be a discussion about this, when it IS going to happen and how to rearrange the budget to support it.  It's a lot more important than hiring a consultant to think up a new graphic to represent the district.

The Times' story says the district has hired staff to train for restorative justice.  Great but where's the overall plan for ALL staff?  I find it quite telling that the Board has taken two days of racial bias training - at their retreats - and yet the Superintendent doesn't require it for her own staff. 

The Board DOES have the power to direct the Superintendent to do this. 

We need to hear less talk, more action. 

It's that important.

As well, what else is coming up?  Teacher contract negotiations.  If the union wants to protect their members, this training needs to happen.  And that means writing it into the contract.  How can the district deny teachers the training that will help lessen disproportionality in discipline AND protect teachers?

I have heard numerous stories over the years about teachers who don't feel they have enough tools to counteract this kind of behavior.  I have received many emails from teachers and other staff about the fear they feel from some students (especially if they have already been physically attacked) and that their administration doesn't help them.

You can't expect teachers and staff to figure this out by themselves or you have the EXACT situation that just played out. 

Also, sometimes context adds explanation for behavior.  Doesn't make that behavior right but it you are truly trying to understand a situation, rather than react to it, it's helpful to ask a lot of questions.

Here's the audio and police report.  The police report states "no bias" but I don't know what that notation is based on.  It does appear from the police report that there may be another piece of evidence; I'll see if I can get ahold of it.

What we know:

- This happened in early May.
- Van Asselt is 40% black, 35.5% Asian, 11% Hispanic, 8% Bi-racial, and 3.5% white.
- The story got out probably because someone at the school told someone else who then recently got the police report which included the audio of the call made to police by the teacher.
- From the Times: Alma Alonzo and Megan Isakson, teachers at Van Asselt, serve on the school’s racial-equity team, and say the incident provided an avenue for discussion. Except for a friendly detective who comes in regularly to build relationships with students and help with chess club, the school doesn’t have regular contact with law enforcement.

Sequence of events (via the police report and the Times' story)

At 9:10 am, the child came into the classroom visibly agitated.  At 9:15, he tells the teacher he has to go.  (Tells is the word in the police report which would indicate to me that he didn't ask.) The teacher says no, he can't leave.  He said he would leave anyway and she again told him no.  He then verbally threatens to beat her up, saying he didn't care if she was a woman. 
(Times) When the teacher wouldn’t allow the student to leave her classroom, the student allegedly told his teacher that he was going to “beat the [expletive] out of her,” and that he didn’t care that she was a woman, according to a police report from the incident.

The student puffed his chest and walked toward her, the teacher said, but never raised his fists. She told the dispatcher the student was under control, but she said she still didn’t feel safe at the school.
The teacher says she believed he would follow-thru.  She reported the incident and the child was removed from the class and taken to the office.

Somewhere around 11:30 am, a call was made to police.  ( That's about two hours time; what was happening in those two hours is unknown.)

The police arrived at around noon to find the principal on the phone with the child's mother.  The police then talked to the mother on the phone and she asked them to do two things.  1) give her child a ride home and 2) not talk to her child without her being present.  The police tell her they have to check with their supervisor about the ride and they would not speak to her child without her.  (They later say they could not give him a ride home).

They stated that when they talked to the teacher she was "visibly upset" and that her voice "cracked" when speaking.  She said she didn't want to press charges because of possible "retaliation" from her administration.

According to the police report, the police were there nearly two and a half hours.

What don't we know

- Did the teacher say anything to the student when he first came to class and she knew he was upset?
 She might have said,  "Okay leave if you must but please go talk this over with the counselor.  I can see you are upset and that might help."  Maybe she said this but it's not in the police report.

- The district says the principal talked to the teacher about alternatives to calling the police. Did the principal tell the teacher she felt the teacher should not call police?

- Did the teacher call the police because she didn't believe that the principal would be firm in disciplining the child? 

- Did the teacher feel that a uniformed cop might give the student a "scared straight" kind of experience just by having the cop there, telling the boy to behave? I'm not sure I understand what outcome she wanted.

- I believe Van Asselt has a school counselor; what was that person's role in this situation?

What has the district said (from the Times' story):
In a statement, Seattle Public Schools spokesman Tim Robinson acknowledged that racial bias in discipline is an issue in schools and called it an “unfortunate” incident. He said the district’s discipline policy “outlines our collective commitment” to address disproportionality.

Robinson said the principal of the school recommended alternatives to law enforcement, but the teacher decided to call the police anyway — an action protected by her union’s contract. The district has a policy governing racially disproportionate discipline, but no official protocol for when schools should involve the police.
The district has no policy on when police should be called.  Manuela Slye, SCPTSA president, is calling for this.  Here is the SCPTSA's statement.
In an email, district spokesman Robinson said that the school “resolved” the issue with the family in early May. Robinson did not specify what that resolution entailed, though he did say it didn’t involve money. The district isn’t sure whether student is still enrolled because the district’s data-management system is being updated.
After a series of Seattle Times articles explored this gap in 2015, the School Board adopted a policy banning out-of-school suspensions for elementary-school students for disruptive behavior or rule-breaking. The district also has hired staff focused on restorative justice work.
 What the Board has said:
School Board President Leslie Harris said Wednesday that the district is conducting an investigation into the incident.  

School Board President Harris said she thinks training would serve the district better than a blanket policy on when to call police.
What the Principal, Huyen Lam, has said:
This Monday, Huyen Lam, the school’s principal, sent a letter to school staff and families saying she was “aware that the incident was being held up as an example of racial bias in the community.” After the event, she wrote, the staff discussed the implications of involving police and the school’s responsibility to disrupt racist systems.
What Should Have Happened
Sean Goode, director of Choose 180, a diversion program that works with teens who have committed misdemeanors and kids at risk of discipline in schools, said educators should view disruptive student behavior through the lens of public health, diagnosing the underlying problem instead of treating the symptoms.

“If a young person threatens a teacher, we need to get to the root cause — what happened leading up to that moment? What happened that morning? Do you know what they had to overcome to just come to that space?” Goode said. “Law enforcement’s role is not to heal or be restorative — it’s to suppress and remove a threat … Come on now.”
This incident would be a good case story to use in training on deescalation.  The teacher was wrong to make the call to police but I would like to hear the backstory about why she believed the student was such a threat.  Had he threatened her before?  Had he hit her before?  Had he hit threatened or hit other kids or teachers/staff?

Absent any evidence of prior problems, then it was a huge overreaction.  If there were prior issues, maybe this would explain her fear. 

55 comments:

Anonymous said...

@MW, Why do you think it's up to you to decide what a person should or should not do when they feel threatened? Students should never ever threaten a teacher and from my understanding the teacher concernes were dismissed by the school's administration. She felt it appropriate to escalate her concerns. I think CPS should also be called to investigate why a 5 grader would feel it appropriate to threaten a teacher and then double down by threatening a women.

Teachers aid

Melissa Westbrook said...

When it involves a child in a school. I don't think it's up to me but it is up to the Board and the Superintendent who are failing to give teachers and staff the tools they need for situations like this.

I agree that no student should ever threaten any staff member.

Anonymous said...

The teacher called the police two hours after the incident when the child was already being dealt with behind a closed door in the adminstrator’s office. This was a vindictive and deliberate move by a white women to make certain this kid faced police who are consistently prone to violent overreactions to black people.

Black Lives Matter

Ed said...

BLM is right.

And why didn't the white lady call SSD Safety & Security that have staff trained to de-escalate, evaluate and interact with 5th grade aggression.

Anonymous said...

The appropriate thing was to send the boy home so his father could paddle him straight.

That's what I wish I had gotten when I was little.

--Tamena

Anonymous said...

Wow if people spent half the time on doing their job instead of attacking you Melissa, SPS would be in a much better place! I am endlessly thankful to you for your real advocacy to SPS students. Promoting hate and personal attacks is disgusting; I’m sorry you have become the target for this negativity.

Love trumps hate

old salt said...

My concern is what was going on with that child? He was upset, he asked to leave the class. Why was he upset? Why did he want to leave class? Did the teacher ask? Was the student able to explain? What if the student was too overwhelmed & upset to explain? Was there a place the student could choose to go to calm down? Was there a system in place for students who feel overwhelmed?

If this was a repeated behavior, was there a behavior plan in place? Had the teacher identified the triggers? Was the student getting help with executive function?

- concerned parent

Mike said...

@Black Lives Matter This might have been "vindictive" as you conclude before gathering facts from the teacher. Or it might have been an employee "deliberately" protecting herself from an SPS system primed to throw her under the bus if no outside agency had a record of events to contradict SPS's version. Having been through unfounded accusations made to SPS by a misinformed parent, I know SPS unhesitatingly sides with minority accusers to put an employee through the wringer until other staff, students and union reps present proof of innocence. In this Van Asselt case with no witnesses beyond elementary students whose perceptions might well leave investigators unclear, it's easy for me to understand why an SPS teacher would first think of the interaction as fairly routine but two hours later (apparently with no word of process from the principal) decide she'd better protect herself by going on-record with police.

Another Parent said...

I believe it’s unfair to judge the child, the teacher, or the school administration based on the information that is currently available.

Perhaps the students had made previous threats against the teacher which school leadership had ignored. Perhaps the teacher was aware of additional information about the student that caused the teacher to be frightened. I believe that it is the duty of all school personnel to safeguard the physical welfare of students and colleagues. I believe the legal question is whether the teacher had a valid reason to believe there was a serious expression of intent to harm. True threats are not protected by the First Amendment.

I understand that from the district’s standpoint, a white woman calling the police on a black student looks bad. But legally, whether the student was black or white, and the teacher was black or white, is irrelevant, unless there is specific evidence that the teacher was acting based on race and not on a true threat.

I believe that any student who presents an immediate danger to school personnel or students should be removed from the school. If the teacher believed there was a danger, and the school administration refused to take action, I believe she was not only justified, but required to call the police.

Sigh said...

Thanks for your dedication to Seattle Public Schools.

The teacher should never have called the police.

I agree with Love trumps hate. Instead of Ms. Castro Gill taking to facebook and encouraging attacks on Melissa, Her time would be better spent providing educational instruction to teachers and staff.

I'm finding less people willing to engage with Ms. Castro-Gill. Perhaps they have become all too familiar with her attacks. Sadly, such behavior is diminishing her relevance- at a time when her work is badly needed.

Sigh said...

The teacher should not have called the police.

Thanks for dedicating so many years to Seattle Public Schools.

I do agree with Love trumps hate. Ms. Castro Gill has taken to a SPS community forum- again. Her goal is to attack Melissa.

I am noticing that less and less people are willing to interact with Ms. Castro-Gill. Perhaps this is because they have noticed her bullying nature. In essence, her attacks are making her less effective.


Anonymous said...

So a white teacher, without checking with the administrator to hear about what actions would be taken - without checking with SPS or the union to find out if she would be protected, decided two hours after the incident to contact the police? It’s been well documented in this country exactly how police often respond to black children accused of crimes in violent and deadly fashion. This teacher rolled the dice and decided that her assumption of how this was going to go greatly outweighed the real risk to this black student’s life calling the police would bring.

Yes, vindictive is exactly the word.

Black Lives Matter

Melissa Westbrook said...

BLM, it might be that in the two hours between the incident and the teacher calling the police, the teacher may have talked to the principal. I would find it odd if she didn't but I don't know what the protocol is when a student is sent to see the principal.

As I said in the post,
"I'm not sure I understand what outcome she (the teacher) wanted."

RLF said...

Old salt's questions are good ones and Another Parent has a good point about judgement. A lot of the frustration centers around the national issue of over reactive white people calling the police on black people. There is justified anger and frustration over this issue, and it spills over onto the issue at hand. At the same time school violence is also a national fact, with a good number of teachers reporting violent attacks and threats. Everyone participating in the school environment deserves safety and respect. If a student, teacher, administrator or parent does not feel safe, we all have a problem. It does not help to jump to conclusions about anyone and their motives in order to fit a particular political narrative. Unfortunately, the Seattle Times story used an angle that invited some people to do just that. Very quickly, it seemed like if you were not willing to buy certain assumptions about the incident, then you became an enemy. This is a self defeating strategy.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I had a comment in a different post about the Times' article and it warned teachers not to talk to the reporter. I'm not sure what that was about but I think RLF is pointing out that teachers need support.

Anonymous said...

That might be. Lots of scenarios might be. It, however not referenced in either the story or 911 call. The prevalence of white people calling the police in situations where they for some reason feel threatened when they are not makes me not see the possibility of her doing so as odd at all.

Clearly, at least one outcome the teacher wanted was for the police to be involved.

BLM

MS Mom said...

Why didn't Van Asselt follow its own CSIP? Their CSIP says they use the RULER program and that they have a school counselor and they use Positive Behavior Intervention System and behavioral supports when and where needed (based on findings of the Racial Equity Team (RET) and Trauma informed behavior strategies). The CSIP also says they have a staff supported student de-escalation space, currently known as the Green Room.


Anonymous said...

Reducing disproportionate discipline is an unfunded mandate resulting in increased violence and chaos in some schools.

In the Bailey Gatzert story on KUOW both parent and staff said students were attacking each other and teachers even though concerns were escalated up to the Chief of Schools.

The Oregon Education Association conducted a statewide forum that revealed there’s a pervasive atmosphere of student violence and verbal abuse in the schools.

I’ve read countless stories across different cities where teachers feel under attack yet not supported by administrators who are trying to reduce discipline reports.

Some teachers are taking long-term leave due to lack of support with challenging students.

How safe can student victims or witnesses feel when even their teacher can’t protect themselves?

How are aggressors going to learn positive behavior when schools are not fully staffed?

Reducing discipline without sufficient support staff or collecting data from victim and bystanders is creating trauma in the schools.

I understand BLM’s point about the vulnerability of the child in terms of the police, but I also sense a desperation among teachers when administrators don’t listen and it’s all about the stats.

Choice


http://www.oregoned.org/assets/docs/DisruptedLearning_Report_2019_v5.pdf
https://www.kuow.org/stories/how-bailey-gatzert-elementary-in-seattle-devolved-into-chaos

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder about the overall climate at Van Asselt - what support does the administration give to teachers, parents, and students in situations like this? There are other schools in the district where administrators don't provide any real resources or support to address students who are coming to class with unaddressed traumas. None of this excuses calling the cops though.

As to Tracy...it's clear that she's nothing more than a common bully. She spent all day yesterday chiding a school board candidate for not responding to a woman of color, but Tracy herself got called out quite strongly by two other women of color on the Facebook thread this afternoon and she hasn't responded. Tracy only engages when she thinks she can bully people into silence, and if she can't do that, she doesn't engage.

She surely would have been fired by now but SPS leadership sees her as a useful battering ram. This blog has been an effective place to mobilize opposition to SPS's various schemes, so Tracy's efforts to silence and marginalize this blog and its readers carries real value to folks at the JSCEE as they gear up for even more extreme actions, like the upcoming move to close option schools and more widespread efforts to replace teachers with screens. Tracy can be relied upon to fall in line behind whatever corporate ed reform scheme SPS and its white male billionaire buddies have cooked up, she's easily manipulated and everyone knows it, so SPS will keep Tracy on just long enough to help her smash their opponents. (Notice that an employee of the WA charter school lobby group hit "like" on Tracy's latest screed against Melissa.) And once SPS has destroyed all dissent, they'll cast Tracy aside. You can see this is coming by their stubborn refusal to actually give Tracy more resources or meaningfully fund and support ethnic studies.

Sitka

Alsept Teresa said...

If there is any training at all, this is how the district will do it. They will send s couple of people from each building to a few hours training and then those people will come back and train the rest of us. SPS never has real trainings, done by professionals, for the buildings. Or we might have a video we all watch together where people from the district talk at us and tell us not to be racists because, let’s be honest here, some people just love to throw that word around.

Anonymous said...

I disagree that this teacher should NOT have called police. It’s not for anyone to judge. Feeling threatened and truly scared is a human emotion. None of us where there. To make a blanket statement like that is inappropriate. And judging her action based on her skin color is what the civil rights movement was all about....not judging people based on color of their skin.
There is a public record of how the teachers of this school felt about discipline and security in the school, published last year. I apologize that I can’t find it or quote it (it’s been a while and I’m not good at posting links)....but it was something like 75-80% of teachers felt unsafe or unprotected in this school environment. That’s significant.
So the failure here is the SPS not following through with techniques to handle threatening behavior, and leaving a teacher to feel she had to do this. And I really find it hard to believe a white teacher who is racist would ever work in a school like this. That makes no sense.

And that Seattle Times article was so biased and one sided it was shameful....should never have been printed without both sides represented.
Concerned Parent

Anonymous said...

Why does the height of the student matter, at all? A threat is a threat, and maybe to be carried out by someone much bigger.
Concerned parent

Anonymous said...

I think that race/equity training is not the first thing that is going to make a difference here. Having a teacher who misses the signs of a kid being upset and not himself is not ever not going to happen. We are all human. But kids are human too and coming to school with a backpack full of upset is not ever going to not happen, likewise. Why aren't students AND teachers practicing for these events and practicing reactive vs hoped for responses? Practicing grace. Where is the teacher training? What is this school environment? It's on top of this that race/equity training might have helped this teacher. Unless there are weapons involved, elementary teachers who call the police on their students probably ought to retire.

In my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, MS Mom.

In My Opinion

Anonymous said...

No answers, no opinions, no judgments, only questions. Why did the kid need to leave the classroom? Did he tell the teacher why? Did the teacher try to find out why? Did the teacher ask the kid if he needed help? Did she offer to help? Did she offer to bring in the counselor? WAS there a counselor available? Do we have answers to these questions, and somehow I have missed them?

-- Ivan Weiss

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sitka, I'll have a separate thread on the morphing of the Soup for Teachers Facebook page to SPS Community Discussion and Resource Exchange and how, for whatever reason, the moderators are allowing Tracy Castro Gill and a couple of others to slap down any comment they don't like with reactive, vicious comments.

MS Mom, good comment about the CSIP. Again, unless there is fidelity to what is stated, it's just a bunch of words. It allows Executive Directors the ability to check a box and said, "I got that done."

Teresa, that is my worry; that the district is seeing the racial bias training as a box to be checked.

Ivan, you ask many of the questions I did. There seem to be people who want to ignore important points that, as I pointed out, can help that school and this district learn. There was a counselor available. Again, two hours went by from the time of the threat and the student being sent to the office. What happened during that time with the principal and the counselor and the student is unknown. As well, we don't know why the teacher called the police but you can see that her first reaction wasn't to call the police; it was to have the student removed from the classroom.

1st Amendment said...

The police should not have been called. There are times when teachers do feel frightened. Are they receiving adequate support?

Bullys try and control individuals. Clearly, that is what is happening on SPS Community blog. Sorry this is happening to you.

I do find it interesting that the district's high ranking Ethnic Studies employee tells individuals that they don't have time to educate "white" people, but she had time to research your blog and post screen shots. Her time would be better spent educating people.

Jet City mom said...

I feel this is illustrative of why we need to lower class size.
What’s going on that a 10 yr old child feels they need to lash out, and the teacher doesn’t have enough rapport with her student for him to get to that point?

When kids aren’t getting adults to respond to them, they will escalate behavior until someone does.
They are still children.

House Bully said...

It is becoming increasingly clear that Tracy Castro- Gill is a bully. The intention of a bully is to control. At this point, she is trying to control Melissa.

I do find it interesting that Castro Gill uses social media to bully Melissa, but she doesn't have time ( her words) to educate "white' people. She does have time to post multiple screen shots of Melissa's blog, though.


Anonymous said...

SPS seems to do a lot of box-checking without actually carrying out what it's supposed to do. It's hard to look at this situation and conclude that SPS has done a good job at racial equity training.

As to Soup for Teachers, that story's pretty easy to tell. An immigrant mom started an FB group to side with the teachers and organize against the district in the September 2015 strike. People flocked to it out of a desire to 1) support teachers and 2) organize long-term for real accountability and change at SPS. The original founder had a mental health crisis and a set of parents stepped in to lead Soup. One of that set, Liza Rankin, quickly began marginalizing and pushing the other parent leaders aside, and over time began reorienting the group away from holding SPS accountable and organizing to change the district, and oriented it instead toward defense of the district. She began slapping down criticism of SPS leadership and their decisions, and changed the name of the group to reflect her unilateral actions.

All of this was apparently preparation for Liza running for school board as the JSCEE's handpicked candidate. Liza hijacked something she didn't build and has turned it against its original purpose. Keep this in mind when you cast your ballots.

Former Souper

Anonymous said...

It's sad that a group that started as a way to support teachers during a strike has turned into an avenue to spew hate and negativity. It's pretty ridiculous to me that members criticize non-POC to have an opinion on racism. And if a POC has an opinion that does not match their views, then they are called 'priviledged' or indoctrinated by white supremacy.

Enabling toxicity

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't advocate for Tracy Castro Gill, the way she speaks to people is not fitting of someone in her position. Bulling now seems to be a common attribute of many of the equity folks. You can see how some children might be mimicking the behaviors of these adults.

I didn't think the discourse could get much worst but folks we are at a 11.

Teachers aid

Janis said...

As I posted on Facebook, sadly it is not all that uncommon for SPS staff to call the police on elementary students. A couple of years ago, I made a public records act request to the Seattle Police Department about this issue. Many people would be surprised to find out how often this happens. My recollection is that many, if not most, of the calls concerned students who were receiving special education services. There are also some schools that called the police on students -- including very young students -- multiple times during the year. It's hard for me to understand how it's ever justifiable to call the police on an elementary student unless that student has a weapon.

After years of raising a child who had challenging behaviors when he was younger (and had the police called at school), I have learned that behavior is a form of communication for kids. When a student acts out in aggressive ways, it's usually a call for help because something is wrong. Discovering that something and addressing it is far more effective at reducing or eliminating the problematic behavior than focusing on the behavior itself.

Unknown said...

@Mike and @BLM: My record here shows that I've been critical of some of the mindless rhetoric of our district's RET crowd (especially your putrescence, TCG), but if anything, I'd say BLM's read on this is gracious.

I'm a basic white guy who has taught in highly diverse and low SES schools around here and elsewhere, and I know the kind of sanctimonious, fragile, embittered teacher that I'm seeing in all of the reporting here and elsewhere.

I'd like to see some evidence that this teacher was justified in her behavior (or that would at least add nuance), but I'm not. This teacher is in the wrong teaching context or the wrong profession if this is how she operates.

SP

Anonymous said...

@MW

That is rich! You've been allowing the same behavior for years, telling those with opinions you don't like to "find another blog," allowing readers to pile on a dissenting commenter, and deleting opinions you don't like.

The tables have turned.

Delete me

Karen said...

I finally left that facebook group. The fact that a couple bitter women don't see that they are only having a conversation with themselves is embarrassing. You are the only reliable source of information and have been very important and helpful since our kids entered SPS in 2004. I am not sure what can happen at this point for SPS to be fixed. All the far left, progressive movements are backfiring. Kids that were already completely accepting of most anything are mocking everything being shoved down their throats. I think it is all the adults in town and in SPS that needed the sexuality, gender and BLM training not the kids. I'm not kidding when I say it is backfiring. The kids are starting to move to the middle on some of these issues instead of staying to the left where they were.

Anonymous said...

@BLM You are making alot of assumptions. I actually know of a similar situation that happened elsewhere where the teacher and student were both black. Just because someone is black or white we should not make assumptions about motivations.

It reminds me of the situation with Biden who was accused by Harris of "siding with racists" (suggesting he must racist because he is white) back in the 1970's, when in actuality the black community at the time was highly divided as well on the issue of federally mandating bussing. Harris has also suggested she is against federally mandated bussing, like Biden, yet she twisted the facts IMO for her own gain and for that reason I will not support her. I saw the look of hurt on Biden's face. She knows Biden is not a racist in her heart. Biden has a very long record and strong history of supporting civil rights. He was vetted extensively by Obama.

Somewhat related, I also won't support Gillibrand (who stated she would fire the policeman) as she did the same thing in the debate to DeBlasio, who is according to NPR reporting has legally been unable to fire the policeman who killed Eric Garner, due to the case being handled by the federal court to-date. To insuniate otherwise as she did is disingenuous. DeBlasio stated justice will be done as the case has now left federal court.

TL

Melissa Westbrook said...

Delete Me, there's a big difference with my blog. I don't allow name-calling or smearing of children, or a tone that suggests violence or hatred. That doesn't make a civil conversation and, as I have repeatedly said, this is not a rant and rave blog.

I wrote a thread recently about how I moderate. Sometimes I do allow readers to take the lead in responding to comments. My readers often have insights I don't. And, of course, it's subjective. But at least I admit I am wrong at times. You won't get the zealots over at the SPS Community group on Facebook to ever admit that.

Karen, what signs do you see that make you believe the kids moving to the center?

Alsept Teresa said...

I do not think the police should have been called because it should never have gotten to the point where a teacher felt their only recourse was to call the police.
For that I blame both the district and the union for the policy which shames schools and staff if their suspension numbers are too high. This simply encourages chaos in the buildings.
There has been LOTS of talk about restorative justice but there is no follow through because it just costs too much money and takes too much time.
In order for the teacher and the student to sit down and talk, someone would have to cover her class and because the district keeps schools chronically understaffed there are very few times that can happen.
I imagine that the final outcome of all this is that the district will have a harder time getting staff to work in certain schools.

Anonymous said...

I don't like the closed FaceBook groups. People get on there and think that they are making confidential comments when the comments do leak outside of the group. Also, there are a few people who threaten people's job and try to out people just because they don't agree with them 100%.

Teachers aid

Anonymous said...

These situations are familiar to special ed parents. Where do children with disabilities fit into the bias & equity goals & training that the district is developing? I don't see any mention on the district website.

-Sped parent

Anonymous said...

MW - please don't write a thread addressing fb SPS Community Discussion. I like this blog and am upset with their efforts to discredit you. But the ladies on FB also do have an opinion about the going-ons at SPS worth listening to. If you continue to fuel the fire, they will have even more reason to attempt to discredit this blog. And I want this blog (in whatever form) to continue.

-a thought

Historian said...

Former Souper accurately describes SPS Community facebook page.

The disturbing facebook posts highlight the need for this blog.

It is sad that the facebook page is being used to attack Melissa. Addressing and discussing police action in our schools would be more productive.

It is enormously troubling that the district's Race and Equity hire has shown complete disrespect for Melissa's Abuela; a Mexican woman.

Latest victims: There is a respected immigrant woman of color in the community. She has spent years advocating for the disabled. She has been attacked. Additionally, Jessie Hagopian's mother (!) has been attacked.

No one is safe on that facebook page.

Rankin is an organizer. She has garnered support for many initiatives with little regard to budget realities. I plan on voting for Eric Blumhagen.

Outsider said...

I can think of several circumstances in which calling police in this situation would be justified: if the student had threatened at any time to come after the teacher outside the building, such as in the school parking lot or elsewhere; or if the student had ever claimed to have gang connections or older allies to help pursue his grievance against the teacher; or if the student and teacher routinely cross paths anywhere outside the school. Involving the police might not be primarily to criminalize the student. It might equally be an appeal for help in assessing the risk faced by the teacher outside the school, in a situation where the school clearly isn't supporting her.

In general, this case really highlights all the weirdness of our times. The student who threatened to beat up his teacher is the sympathetic victim. (First such threat? Who knows, who cares.) The teacher threatened with assault is the evil perpetrator. The teacher clearly assumes neither the school system nor the union will protect her (and the speed and completeness with which they threw her under the bus might be taken to confirm her doubts.) So much hand-wringing about the trauma suffered by the student, but indifference to the trauma suffered by a teacher who must work every day alone in a closed room with someone who threatens to assault her. (In what other situation would a woman especially be expected to endure that?) When a student behaves badly, it's always a priori the teacher's fault, for failing to have rapport, or failing to read cues or failing to know his triggers etc. What sort of feedback loop do you think that creates in the school? Students are not stupid, and when they see they can do anything and the teacher will be blamed, what will happen to the school climate? Concern for students of color extends only to the one threatening the teacher and bringing the classroom to a halt. No one seems to have any concern for good-natured students of color who are there to learn, but learn a lot less than they could because their classrooms are constantly disrupted by untouchable trouble-makers. (Nor does it occur to anyone that the teacher waited two hours to call police because she had other students to teach and couldn't do it right away.)

How are schools supposed to succeed in such a strange world?

Anonymous said...

It’s possible a counselor/social worker was not available to the teacher, since they’re allocated a 0.5 FTE.

That’s insufficient for a high needs school.

Between the Principal and Vice Principal at Van Asselt, they make nearly $350k in combined salaries.

I’m curious to hear from teachers in high needs elementary schools what would help them more in the classroom - a Vice Principal or a full time counselor?

Choice

Anonymous said...

Oh c’mon Historian, be honest. You’re not not voting for Rankin because of this. You were never going to vote for them.

BLM

Community Group said...

SPS Community Discussion is a closed group. In an attempt to shame individuals, Castro-Gill reposts in public settings.

Anonymous said...

They go on and on about how Melissa identifies as a white woman while ignoring her Mexican grandmother. If Melissa identified as Latinx or Hispanic, they would attack her as being too white. You can't disagree with them without being attacked.

HP

Melissa Westbrook said...

As I said, I will have a separate post on that Facebook page. But this discussion needs to stay about the issue at hand.

Choice, Van Asselt's website indicates they do have a counselor but yes, if only .5, perhaps wasn't there.

I don't honestly know what a VP does versus a counselor; I would think a counselor is more important.

Alsept Teresa said...

Outsiders point about the teacher being thrown under the bus is a good one. Melissa, I imagine you will hear from very few teachers because they have learned that to avoid trouble their best course of action is to keep their mouths closed.

Anonymous said...

While Janis has some experience, evidently, with police intervention in schools, she also espouses some dogma not founded in reality or science. “All behavior is communication.” That often quoted “fact” quoted by so-called behavior consultants is simply incorrect. Plenty of behavior is not communicative. Some behavior is involuntary. Some behavior is automatic. Some behavior is ingrained through practice and repetition. We really have no way to assess the validity of this police call. Although the police call and response appears excessive, we do not know the facts. If a student requests a break, most of the time, that request should be honored. But, we do not know what sort of threat the student posed, or the history of the student interaction. We do not know if the student was simply engaging in work avoidance by behavior escalation. We also know the district now ignores extremely disruptive behavior to reduce a disparity in discipline. Simply ignoring disruptive behavior may improve measurable “stats” for discipline and expulsion, but it does nothing to help students learn the behavioral expectations they will encounter as adults. Ignoring challenging behavior does not stem the school to prison pipeline. Notably, police will not ignore nor accept disruptive or noncompliant behavior outside of a school setting. We do not serve students by simply ignoring maladaptive behaviors. Another bigger source of inequity is failure of police or CPS to investigate schools or teachers. Schools and teachers are mandatory reporters, yet nothing happens when teachers and schools are reported. Police categorically refuse to investigate the excessive force and restraint that is occasionally reported. That creates a lopsided police intervention environment. If police could be used both ways, we might actually see a more meaningful and effective use of police intervention in schools.

As to restorative justice. Where is the playbook on “restorative justice”? How is it supposed to happen? Who could argue with the idea of restoring justice? But so far, there is scant to no evidence that this method has any long term benefits. And there is no procedure that the district has endorsed for implementing restorative justice. We can all agree that some home baked restorative group talk might be better than zero tolerance, but that is a low bar. What is needed is school administration that handles the complex issue of behavior in school which addresses both teacher needs for classroom order and safety and student needs for emotional and behavioral education and support.

Been There

Sped IA said...

It is embarrassing that this teacher called the policie. I hope that she takes a leave of absence and chooses to work elsewhere. I'd strongly consider a career change as well.

I have CPI training and have been in situations where students have shouted obscenities or said they would beat me up, I've been on the CPI teams when students are escalated and violent and know how to safely calm students down.

We know that staff are CPI trained for the safety of the students and the staff--the police are not. We know that! We know that police don't care about our students of color, that's why we use our own school CPI teams and district security and avoid the police. In my mind the only reason to ever call police is if there is someone with a gun on campus.

Anonymous said...

The only point I would add to Outsider’s succinct read of modern school culture is how the misogynistic violence in the male student’s threat to a female teacher is completely ignored by his defenders (“I’m going to beat the sh*t out of you and it doesn’t matter that you’re a woman”).

I don’t know what’s more shocking - the kid who said it or all the adults (including SEA) defending the kid who said it and blaming the teacher.

The lack of personal responsibility for actions that students are being taught in public school now the new school to prison pipeline.

Leaving

Karen said...

I say the anti-bullying, gender, BLM, etc. curriculum is backfiring based on my many years driving/spending time with my kids, their friends, schoolmates and teammates. They were tolerant and accepting. Now, there’s mocking of gender, sexuality, furries, everyone who is mean is a bully...... I don’t know how to fully put it into words other than kids who were previously oblivious to many of these things now mock them. Their transgender friends were already treated like equal beings. There were no comments about their differences. After all the meetings about gender, pronouns, etc. etc., it is being mocked. Apologies for rambling. I think shoving this stuff so hard down liberal kids throats isn’t going to go as planned. Like I said, it’s the grown-ups who need all this not the kids.

Anonymous said...

Can’t we be sad and feel compassion for the child AND the teacher? The child is obviously troubled and the teacher is clearly afraid. Both need help! How about we use our energy to figure out how to better support our kids and teachers so this doesn’t happen in the first place?

BT