Now that the Every Student Succeeds Act has passed, and the power to run public schools has shifted to the local school districts and the state, will that mean more accountability on their part when things go wrong in the classroom?
Consider the Peck Community School in Holyoke, Massachusetts, a public school for students with second language needs and emotional and behavioral disabilities. Teachers are being accused of harsh treatment of students in the Therapeutic Intervention Program at the school. HERE
Too often, when something goes wrong in the classroom, everyone focuses on just the teacher. But think of school districts and the state departments of education like throwing a pebble into a pond. The ripples are all a part of that one pebble’s impact. If something goes wrong in the classroom, shouldn’t the whole kit and caboodle get investigated?
If local and state administrators, and let’s include governors and policy makers too, pass down the laws that govern the classroom, they should also be held accountable when something goes wrong.
In the case of the Peck Community School, here are my questions:
- Who was evaluating the teachers and visiting their classes and why didn’t they know there was a problem?
- What kind of support did these teachers get from school administrators?
- What kind of special education set-up does the school district have?
- Where were the state officials from the special education area?
- How were the teachers prepared to work with these students, and what did they know about restraints (restraints were apparently misused)?
- Why did it take a parent and teacher whistleblower and an outside nonprofit, the Disability Law Center, to draw attention to this situation?
It is important to note that Holyoake is a poor school district taken over recently by the State of Massachusetts. You can read about it HERE.
Parents fought against it. At a protest meeting last January, according to MassLive.com., one parent summed it up nicely: We don’t need you to run our schools, we need you to fund our schools.
The superintendent in the Holyoke situation, Sergio Paez, was let go due to a state takeover. He is now the new superintendent for Minneapolis Public Schools. Minneapolis school officials are aware of the Peck Community School abuse claims.
As far as the accusations go, now the State of Massachusetts will bring in a private school as a partner called the Center School, but I could not find credentials for people working there. The private Center School seems to be offering services to public schools that have been defunded. This is from their link:
As dollars become scarcer and out-of-district options for school districts become limited, SBS services have become a creative solution for maintaining special education, at-risk and alternative education students within the district; keeping families connected to their communities and ensuring that students remain in the classroom and receive high quality and rigorous curriculum and instruction from the district’s public school teachers. Suspensions, in-house suspensions and exclusion from school only continues to increase the drop out rate and reduce the graduation rate.
A good school system means checks and regulations. Teachers working with students with severe disabilities should not work alone. They should team with other professionals.
And local special education leaders should have been watching this school from the start with visitations (some unannounced). State officials, even before a state takeover, should have monitored the school. If they had been doing their jobs correctly, any signs of abuse would have been picked-up early on.
Here are some related questions:
- Have states reneged on their obligations to oversee public schools especially in the area of special education?
- Are they in the process of privatizing services, and what oversight will be given to outside partners?
- Are state and local leaders in special education qualified to understand students with special needs?
- Are colleges cutting back on important coursework and focusing too much on unproven online modules?
We should have evolved to a better place for our students with disabilities. Regulations, guidelines and compliance matter for everyone involved in the education of a child.
As the investigation into the Peck Community School continues, it will be interesting to see what is done to ensure that such situations will never happen again.