A raging child throws over a chair. Another child's tantrum spirals as he kicks his teacher. Another aims a firm push on her teacher's shoulder.
None of these behaviors are acceptable. But in our special program for children with emotional disabilities, they are not uncommmon. We are used to dealing with reactive, aggressive students. But in the interest of building an environment that supports both trust and learning, aggressive behavior must be dealt with swiftly and consistently. We do that, for the most part, everyday, using strong preventative measures AND effective consequences.
I, for one, need to feel everything is being done that can be done in order for me, my colleagues, and our students to be safe. It's just unrealistic, though, to think we will not be subjected to dangerous situations, no matter what kind of preventative programs we put into place.
It comes down to this: it's part of the job.
But when our overtly aggressive students lose their already tenuous grip on rationality, how can we say their reactions are NOT caused by their disability?
That happened this week in a hearing about one of our students who threw a chair directly at a staff member in anger, and then hit her in the face with a closed fist.
While the psychologist who works with the child and his family saw a clear connection between his behavior and his disability, and his teacher agreed, the other two school admin types on the committee voted NOT CAUSAL.... and the child is expelled.
Now, I'm not saying this child should be allowed to return to our program. I'm in agreement that homebound services might be helpful in the short term until a more appropriate placement can be found. And since, even though he is expelled, the county continues to be responsible for providing services for him, I think the whole expulsion issue teeters on nonsense.
But in handing down this decision, the child and his family have lost the one positive connection they had as they struggled through the most horrific kinds of home dysfunction. Ultimately, the child is uprooted, the parent is abandoned.
The powers-that-be say that despite a medical diagnosis and the assertions of the school professionals who work most closely with this child, his emotional disabilities DID NOT cause his aggressive reaction.
Why don't I feel any safer?