RSU 9 staff: Elementary-level alternative education needed

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FARMINGTON — Elementary school staff in Regional School Unit 9 have been bitten, punched, pushed, kicked and spit on, to name just a few of the behaviors exhibited by some schoolchildren in recent years, administrators say.

Each year dozens of office referrals are made for offenses of physical aggression, overt defiance and disruption.

It is not just an RSU 9 issue, it is statewide and nationwide, administrators told the school board on Nov. 28. Teachers and administrators presented what is going on in schools and how it disrupts the education of students when a child gets out of control. 

The conversation on a proposal for an alternative education program for kindergarten through fifth grade will continue at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, in the Forum at Mt. Blue Campus.

The estimated cost of staffing the program is $690,046. That would include three general education social workers; three appropriately trained teachers; a certified behavior analyst shared by schools; and six full-time trained education technicians, two per program. Other funds are needed for transportation, curriculum materials and training.

Administrators also said “non-regulated” students at the district’s five elementary schools sometimes frighten other pupils and disrupt education for themselves and fellow students. Sometimes other students are injured by these actions, and it often leads to evacuating a classroom and leaving the one child behind if staff cannot safely remove the disruptive child from the room.

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“Non-regulated” is defined as “behavior that exceeds typical, occasional, inappropriate behavior, lacking control of emotions and impulses,” according to administrators.

These pupils typically do not meet the eligibility standards for special education.

Administrators said many reasons could contribute to this type of behavior, including adverse childhood experiences that are stressful or traumatic and could include abuse or neglect.

Other factors could be parents or caregivers working multiple jobs; lifestyle transitions or changes; challenges presented by the school environment (more people, movement, academics); substance misuse within family; and lack of routine at home.

Stacey Augustine, a kindergarten teacher for 15 years, told the school board Nov. 28 that she has been bitten, spit on, punched, hit and has been called things she never thought she would be by a 5-year-old.

Laura Columbia, district curriculum coordinator, said the presentation represents a “truthful and honest reflection of what’s happening in a lot of our schools.”

The purpose of the presentation is to provide information about the impact of behavior of non-regulated students, school climate, and the learning of other students — and then to target solutions, said Keith Acedo, principal of Wilton schools.

Augustine told the board to picture 18 children in a classroom, all with different experiences, strengths and challenges. How do you teach a child who is out of control? she asked.

“All you can do is survive that moment,” Augustine said.

Forget the plans you had for class, all you can do is solve the problems, she said.

“We can empower change because all of the students deserve it,” Augustine said.

The staff is working as hard as possible to maintain a positive learning environment, Acedo said.

A variety of practices are being used to address the issue, but staff needs more support, he said.

Four social worker positions for regular education were budgeted, but only a half-time position was approved, and that was for the middle school to make a whole position there.

dperry@sunmediagroup.net

 

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