I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Getting Discipline and the Disciplinary Process Right

Discipline is a continuing problem in our schools locally.  We make policies to address this issue, yet the best policy is worthless, meaningless if it is not followed or worse yet if it is ignored or if it is filtered for political correctness’ sake.  The district has a huge problem with bullying and harassment----yet what I am hearing is that often bullying is not being addressed because teachers are being compelled not to report bullying for what it is.

Bullies must be dealt with, period.  Allowing a predatory bully to continue victimizing others is unacceptable.  Failure to follow our policy (and state law) about bullying can lead to a significant financial penalty to our district.

More importantly---unchecked bullying can lead a student to depression, isolation, and even suicide.
A student from a District 1 Middle School committed suicide just this year, in January, and I was given some details about this student’s death by another student from the same school.  I don’t go a single day without thinking about that student.  We have to get our discipline enforcement right.
Teachers and parents know what is going on.

A veteran elementary school teacher contacted me two days ago and confirmed my suspicion and worst fear when she told me the following:
“The district is ignoring bullying to a huge extent. At the beginning of the year we were told that what a lot of people are calling bullying is not bullying and then a few examples were sited (which in my opinion were classic bullying examples). I then looked at the district policy and what the policy stated was exactly these things. We were told NOT to use the word bullying in paper work (when

 doing a referral or an RTi post) because it would cause all kinds of paper work… Bullying is alive and well in Escambia County and a blind eye is being turned to it. But then discipline is out of control as well… I just honestly feel like it is being "swept under the rug". I worry that we are going to have a student who is a ticking time bomb.”

After I posted a blog entry Friday about our new student survey protocol that is being developed, (a protocol I strongly support) another teacher from the same elementary school contacted me on Saturday, in person, and told me horror stories about this school.  “We can’t write referrals, we are told to handle our own problems in the classroom or ring the office for help if it is serious” She continued, “When I ring the buzzer nobody comes.  I’m literally dodging flying objects and no one comes from the office when I ring the buzzer; I had a huge 2nd grade student climb on a desk, grab a handful of pencils, and jump down on me, attempting to stab me.  I had to physically restrain this student, and I got no support from the office when I reported this.  This same student is still in the school” This exasperated teacher is currently on extended leave, but she wants to come back to the same school when she returns to work.  “I want to teach there, I want to help, but the Principal is in way over her head and she belittles and talks badly about teachers behind their backs and she absolutely does not support them”   She then said “The Principal told other staff members about my personal medical condition and I’m furious about this—why would she do such a thing??” she asked.  “XXXXXX elementary can’t keep a stable staff, they are losing teachers and cannot get subs--and I know why—it’s not a secret!”

A parent from a different school, a District 1 Middle School, told me about a student that has bullied another student mercilessly and repeatedly, to the point that the bullied student’s family is actually leaving the district.  (I was given specific information in that case and have requested additional data about both students to determine the veracity of this claim and to figure out why the misconduct—if true-- has not been addressed.)  This parent was actually assaulted herself by this same bully at a bus stop, and she has pressed charges.  “I spoke with XXXXXXXXXXXX he had told me a warrant was issued by the judge ...[the student] was arrested Feb 6 he will be in court March 16.”

I know the work is tough, and I know some students at some schools are not following our rules.
So here’s what we have to do.  We have to follow our policies and enforce our rules; no political correctness, no quotas, no social engineering. 

These developments I’m hearing about have me deeply concerned; if we are deliberately not following the board’s policy on discipline and bullying, I will report this.  I’m tired of hearing these stories and nothing being done about it.  I’ll damn sure do something about it!

 Our students’ safety is too important to me to allow political correctness or anything else overshadow the welfare and safety of our students.


Anonymous said...

The elimination of continuing, professional contracts for teachers is contributing to this problem. To do what you are being told, whether covertly or overtly, not to do will likely result in losing your job, with no warning or explanation. Confidential, probing exit interviews should be conducted with all teachers who are, euphemistically, "not invited back" after two years at a school.

Jeff Bergosh said...

I had not thought that the elimination of continuing contracts, that an unintended consequence of that would be that employees would be afraid to do what is right by students for fear of not being renewed. This is something to consider, especially as I see that teachers that have reached out to me on discipline and other issues within the schools, by and large, are long term employees that more than likely do not hold a continuing contract. I do like your idea about exit interviews for teachers that are non-renewed.