Parents, teachers raise concerns about disruptive students in classrooms

More than 100 concerned parents and teachers crammed into the Kent School District's bi-monthly meeting April 23 to express their frustration at the district's lack of a solutions for disruptive students in elementary school classrooms.

The meeting came in the wake of numerous scratches, bruises, cuts and bites that kindergarten through third-grade teachers said they have endured when dealing with uncontrollable students.

Jim Dawson, a Fairwood Elementary School parent, said that while he hadn't heard of problems from his own children, he still recognized the potential for issues and the need to resolve them.

He was most concerned about the school board's inability to reach a compromise and provide a solution to the problem.

"It doesn't seem like they're all on the same team," Dawson said.

Deborah Stevenson, a Fairwood teacher, said that if a student creates a major disruption in a classroom, it can require moving students to another room and having another teacher come in to help deal with the problem.

"Three classrooms can be disrupted because of one student," Stevenson said.

While many of the teachers and parents present at the meeting represented Fairwood, Cindy Prescott with the Kent Education Association (KEA) said that the problem exists in at least half of the district's elementary schools.

While the KSD has educational plans and programs in place for special education and disabled students, the district had to trim its K-3 adjusted education programs when budget cuts rolled through in 2010. The adjusted programs provide counselors and "time-out" rooms for disruptive students to be removed from classrooms so they can be talked down and assisted without disrupting other students.

According to state and federal laws, school districts are required to provide adequate alternative adjustments for special education students if that district can't meet the student's needs with its own resources. That may even include providing transportation for that student to a separate school district that can provide the services.

The KEA, a union representing Kent teachers, said the district needs to provide a minimum of one counselor for each elementary school, a behavior specialist for each school with a severely disruptive student and a separate room for students to go to "cool down" where teachers can manage an incident.

Not all students who act out are doing so because they have special needs, said school district spokesman Chris Loftis.

Loftis said that the district cut back on the programs partially because it would be the least impactful.

"When you get 27,000 students there's going to be moments of discord," Loftis said.

The situation is still tricky because while the incidents are isolated in occurrence, the district doesn't want to have children being the messengers.

"Can we send out a note that says the special needs status of a student? No," Loftis said. "Can we let a 7- or 8-year-old be the messenger? We can't do that either."

One thing the district is attempting to implement is a notification system when a student has disrupted a class. But so far the district has to work out logistics on how much the system could legally disclose.

The school district will gather for a special session May 14 to review the matter and determine if the KEA's demands could be met with renewed levy dollars.

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