I personally feel that these reported incidents are symptoms of a bigger issue not just in NJ but all over the country and the world. The first being that educators lack professional development especially special education teachers. I have been in the field of education for almost 20 years. I deliver professional development around NJ. I hear repeatedly that special education teachers do not feel that they receive professional development that is essential for them to educate their students. When a special education teacher is working with students with significant disabilities, I am not so sure it is important for the special education teacher to sit through training on the new reading and math programs that the district will be implementing. It is imperative that all teachers need to be trained however districts need to evaluate their professional development to make sure they match the teachers' needs. Special education teachers that are working with students on the spectrum should be taking professional development on improving language skills, how to engineer the environment for language and learning, functional life skills training, understanding transition, the list can go on. If we are to give our students in NJ a fighting chance at a proper education the teachers need to have professional development that is meaningful, supportive and pertinent to what they are required to teach.
The second issue is that we do not give educators that work with students with challenging behaviors are difficult to teach a way to communicate their frustrations and anxieties. This does not excuse an individual that has crossed the line there is no reason to do so. However, if we do not recognize that teaching students with disabilities and even general education students is stressful than we are being irresponsible. There are two schools for students with autism in the state that I know hire a counselor to visit with the staff each month and hire a massage therapist once a month. You are required to sit with the counselor for 30 minutes to talk about work and whatever comes to mind. Even my employer has a program that I can call to talk to a counselor or schedule mental health sessions. We all deal with stress but when there is no outlet for that stress we have serious consequences. Staff need to feel they have a safe place to communicate their stress and frustration.
The solutions are very easy. If we do not accept student on student bullying why should we have to accept adult on child bullying. It happens every day in school across the nation. If our nation is going to take bullying seriously we need to look at solutions that have meaning. Cameras in every classroom and public space. Then there would be no she said he said or parents having to do something like wiring their child for video or sound. There is no right to privacy in public buildings, schools are funded by public monies (Local, State and Federal). All areas of the school except locker rooms and bathrooms should have video monitoring but they should be wired for sound. Most think an invasion of privacy, from news broadcasts on students being assaulted by peers or adults it often happens in the bathroom or locker rooms.
Many will not like the suggestion of cameras for many reasons but I have a question, WHAT do you risk? I taught for 8 years in an educational setting that had cameras in every classroom and hallway or public area. It didn’t change the way I taught. It actually made me more secure in how I taught. I didn’t have to worry about being accused of something I didn’t do. If I was accused of saying something or doing something ROLL back the TAPE. It allowed parents to observe the classroom without upsetting the flow of the classroom. It allowed me to see what others saw when teaching. There are more pros for cameras in school than cons.
Incidents are not on the rise. We are just having parents stepping up and reporting it to the news. In the past, districts were holding the cards on what will happen to their staff and even if they would believe what was being said. Now parents are becoming wiser and more savvy on how to get the proof they need to show that their child is suffering at the hands of an adult. Students are learning to use technology to outsmart their educational staff.
My challenge to districts around the nation be PROACTIVE instead of REACTTIVE. Firing the staff that are responsible for poor behavior is the right thing to do however what can you do to insure the safety of your students and staff? Firing staff is only a plug in a whole that is going to grow over time.