Editorial: Teachers call for backup

Published 12:01 am Thursday, April 7, 2016

For the sake of students with severe behavior problems — and for the classmates whose education they disrupt — the Rowan-Salisbury School System needs sufficient resources to get troubled children the counseling and treatment they need.

“Call for backup,” an article in Sunday’s Post, looked at how the schools deal with the most challenging elementary-school students. These children go beyond typical, 21st century discipline problems. They have outbursts, assault teachers, run away and exhibit other extreme behaviors. Some are antisocial. They go out of control.

“I’m talking about a very, very few students,” Superintendent Lynn Moody says.  “But their chronic behaviors are more serious than I’ve ever seen at the elementary level.”

For teachers, Rowan-Salisbury has programs and professional development that focus on the subject, but Moody says more are needed. A new disciplinary committee is looking for solutions, but that will take time. The system has also advertised for two behavioral specialists, but the system was unable to fill the positions.

Meanwhile, teachers are in the trenches.

A Hurley Elementary School teaching assistant called 911 after a student hit her recently. Involving law enforcement for an elementary school problem is not unheard of. Seeing someone in a uniform gets a child’s attention. The teaching assistant was supposed go through the administration; principals make those calls. But her frustration was familiar to many educators.

When faced with these extreme situations, teachers have to know their principals are behind them.

Children who exhibit extreme behaviors are not “bad” children. In many cases, they have experienced scarring traumas. They may not have a safe, steady family environment. When these problems lead children to act out as early as kindergarten and first grade, there should be an urgency about getting help for them. But where does that help come from and who pays for it? What if the parents don’t cooperate?

If Rowan-Salisbury finds a solution, schools nationwide will want to hear about it. Too many children are in crisis.