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Teachers Union Pres Fed Up With Student Discipline in NHPS

Teachers Union Prez Fed Up With Student Discipline in NHPS

The New Haven Independent (NHI) reports that at a recent New Haven Board of Education meeting David Cicarella spoke out about the problem with lack of discipline in many New Haven Public Schools (NHPS).  Mr. Cicarella, president of the teachers union, handled the discipline situation with aplomb. It is about time this critical issue is brought out into the open and then resolutely addressed.  It cannot be adequately addressed while hidden.  Teachers have taken early retirement, or have left the district out of frustration with this issue.  Even some parents have given up trying with their own children! It is a major issue affecting learning for all children involved in these situations.

In the NHI True Vote survey the statement reads: Students who throw chairs or attack teachers should be – 1) Suspended or Expelled; 2) Counseled in School. 

The result: 100 people (71.43%) say Suspension or Expulsion; 40 people (28.57%) say Counseled in School.  Can we justify expelling a first grade or elementary student unless the child committed a felony? 

It is disturbing that 71.43% (100) of the people who responded to the survey believe suspension and expulsion is the answer.  By law, a school district must provide a public education for all children until he/she graduates from high school or reaches the age of 21.

What will it costs the district to educate all of these suspended or expelled students?

When a child is suspended or expelled, the district must provide 2 hours of certified instructions daily. Where will these children be during the remainder of the school day, if they have parents or guardians who work, who will take care of these elementary students? Who will pay for their care?

The NHI should have offered a third choice: Provide these children with Clinical Therapy in a professional setting.  In an interview done with Abby Anderson (Executive Director, CT Juvenile Justice Alliance) she stated that white children are clinicalized for learning and behavioral problems, and black children are criminalized.  The figures from our juvenile and criminal justice systems bear her out.  As much as 83 percent of those in CT's JJS are black and brown boys; 68 percent of those incarcerated in our JJS do not have a high school diploma.  Of the 450 young men in Manson Institute on Oct. 1, 2013, 230 were black and 160 were Hispanic! Only 60 were white!  Yet, black, Hispanic and white boys commit violations at the same rate; yet the outcomes are different.  We have to change the projectory for these children in Kindergarten.  Suspension and expulsion is NOT the answer.

Supt. Harries is correct; we should not be suspending more students; however, it cannot be for political reasons.  Whatever is done has to be in the best interest of children.  Also, teachers should not be expected to deal effectively with these children and also teach the others.  It is too much to ask, and it will deprive the children who are prepared to learn. 

We have a large number of children with severe emotional and mental health problems. Suspension and expulsions are not going to help these children.  They need intense therapy in highly specialized clinics, not in school. The parents also need therapy; this is why everyone NEEDS health coverage.  The ACA provides mental health coverage.  People who don’t have jobs qualify for the expanded Medicaid. All of us, including the schools, need to encourage parents to get health coverage so that these children and their parents can get the mental health services they need. Call the NH Health Dept at (203) 946-2227, or (203) 387-7700- Ext 193 to sign up for the Affordable Care Act.

Union Prez Fed Up Over Student Discipline (from the NHI)

"Cicarella said he broke his silence because he has been privately sparring with Harries over the discipline issue for the past year and he feels nothing is being done.

Too often, he said, kids disrupt class—throwing chairs, punching, biting or hitting teachers—without effective discipline from school administration.

“Why isn’t the student discipline issue more front and center?” he asked. “It impacts everything that we say and do.”

(School Superintendent) “Harries said the district is working to train more teachers and staff in how to better handle the social and emotional issues kids face that cause them to act out in school. He called the discipline issue “complex,” one requiring a range of responses.” This might be indicative of the fact that supt. Harries, along with many parents and community leaders, do not fully appreciate the depth of the emotional problems many children have. New Haven is a school district laden with a disproportionately high number of troubled children. These children need help, not expulsion from school.  We NEED to invest in our children early; we need to teach our youngsters how to think critically and how to solve problems peacefully.  Many of these children live in violent homes; they are taught by examples in their homes that screaming, shouting and hitting are how they resolve problems.

Suspensions and expulsions will only exacerbate these children's lack of problem-solving skills. Clinical therapy! Please.

 Read the extensive article in the New Haven Independent linked here:


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