Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bullying By a Teacher - UNACCEPTABLE

By now, many of you may have read about the boy in a Washington state middle school who was bullied by classmates AND the teacher in charge of his care and safety. There's no "he said/she said" here - the ordeal was video-recorded on someone's cell phone.

At this point, the teacher, John Rosi, was reassigned to a different school within the Peninsula district and suspended without pay for 10 days, then placed on paid administrative leave when the community balked at what they considered a slap on the wrist. Not surprisingly, parents Randy and Karla Kinney are urging the school board to take bullying more seriously. What DOES surprise me, though, is the fact that people are actually showing Rosi support in the aftermath of this incident.

I have two kids in school, one of whom is an almost-13-year-old boy in middle school. As you might imagine, that fact puts a very personal spin on the story for me. When I view that video, my stomach flips. I don't care that Rosi wrote in a letter that this incident was "horseplay"; in my opinion, this is a clear case of bullying and assault.

My kids' schools have an established "zero tolerance policy" on these types of behaviors, so I decided to go to the websites for the Peninsula School District and the Kopachuck Middle School and see what I could find. Perhaps there was no such policy in place, or perhaps there was nothing instructing teachers on appropriate classroom conduct for students and for themselves. I mean, why else would the Peninsula School District opt to put a teacher who not only allowed a student to be "ganged up on", but also participated in the incident on paid administrative leave rather than firing the teacher the moment the video was brought to the attention of the district.

Turns out, though, that there is plenty of clearly stated documentation that the behaviors seen in the video are in direct conflict with the codes of conduct expected from students and, one would presume, staff as well. What follows is the information I found and thought relevant to the situation. It's a long, tedious read (for which I apologize), but I think it is enough information to support the Kinney family's request that this incident of abuse be taken very seriously, and to support those who are calling for the firing of Rosi and who believe he should not be allowed to teach again. The highlighted parts (emphasis mine) are, in my opinion, a pretty clear illustration of everything Rosi did WRONG.

Perhaps armed with this information, the Kinney family, and those who are outraged that a teacher was involved in bullying a student and got off with a slap on the wrist, can finally get satisfaction from the school district and justice for the boy who endured this ordeal. In fact, I support anyone who wants to share this blog entry with Kopacheck Middle School, the Peninsula School District, the Kinney family and the media.

From the Peninsula School District Student Rights and Responsibilities Parent / Student Handbook and Activities Conduct (not dated): 
Rights, Responsibilities, and Authority of District Staff  
All certificated and classified staff shall share responsibility for supervising the behavior of students and for maintaining the standards of conduct, which have been established.
All School District staff shall have the right to expect students to comply with school rules and maintain good order in the classroom, in the school, on the playgrounds or other common areas of the school, while riding on the school buses, on field trips, and at all school-sponsored activities. 
Use of force - an employee may use such reasonable force as is necessary for maintenance of order, self-protection from attack, and prevention of injury to others
Maltreatment of students - it is unlawful for any employee to maltreat or abuse any student by administering any unreasonable punishment or by inflicting punishment on the head of a student. 
Student Rights and Responsibilities  
Students who do not comply with the following student responsibilities will be referred to the Principal/designee who shall take appropriate administrative action resulting in discipline, emergency removal from class, Emergency Expulsion, Short-Term Suspension, Long-Term Suspension or Expulsion. The following acts are specifically prohibited on school grounds, on school-sponsored transportation, and at school events off school grounds:
The conduct marked with an asterisk (*) (identified as exceptional misconduct) has been judged by the ad hoc citizens’ committee and Board of Directors to be so serious in nature and/or so serious in terms of the disruptive effect upon the operation of the school(s), that students may be subject to a suspension for a first-time offense. 
*5.Assault/Threat of The use of excessive physical force or threatening the use of physical force against another person, including use of a weapon or other instrument for the purpose of inflicting injury. 
*14. Disruptive Conduct Use of violence, force, noise, light (e.g. laser light pen), coercion, threat, intimidation, fear, passive resistance, or any other conduct to cause the substantial and material disruption or obstruction of any lawful mission, process, or function of the school.   
*20. Fighting Intentionally causing or attempting to cause physical injury or intentionally behaving in such a way as could reasonably cause physical injury to another person 
*22. Harassment  a. Intimidation and Bullying  The District is committed to a safe and civil educational environment for all students, employees, volunteers and patrons, free from harassment, intimidation or bullying. "Harassment, intimidation or bullying” means any intentional written, verbal, or physical act, including but not limited to one shown to be motivated by any characteristic in RCW 9A.36.080(3), (race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or mental or physical disability), or other distinguishing characteristics, when the intentional written, verbal, or physical act:Physically harms a student or damages the student’s property; or has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s education; or is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment; or has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school.
Note: ‘Student Harassment’ (commonly referred to as “bullying”) means a knowing and willful course of conduct by a student directed at another specific student (or students) which seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or is detrimental to the harassed student(s) and which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose. The course of conduct shall be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and shall actually cause substantial emotional distress to the student. The term “course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. “Course of conduct” may include sending an electronic communication. Constitutionally protected speech or expression is not included within the meaning of “course of conduct.” 
*28. Intimidation To force into or deter from some action by inducing fear. 
38. Simple Assault (deleted from secondary) Unwelcomed touching or application of undue force to another person.

From the Learning & Teaching Standards for Quality Professional Practice rubric (dated  September 22, 2009):    
Classroom Management & Student Discipline 
Unsatisfactory - Staff does not respond to misbehavior or does so in a negative manner. 
Unsatisfactory - Student interactions are characterized by conflict, sarcasm, or put-downs.
The classroom is not safe and fails to support the learning environment.

From the Peninsula School District's "Harassment, Intimidation, or Bullying (HIB) Incident Reporting Form (dated December 2011): 
Definitions Harassment, intimidation, or bullying is an intentional [...] physical act that 
- Physically harms a student, or 
- Is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment 
The aggressor may be another student or it may be an adult member of the district or school staff. 
(Some of the boxes to check when describing the aggressor(s) behavior includes:)
  • Hitting, kicking, shoving, spitting, hair pulling or throwing something at the targeted student(s)
  • Getting another person to hit or harm the targeted student(s)
  • Teasing, name calling, making critical remarks or threatening...
  • Making rude and/or threatening gestures
  • Making the targeted student(s) fearful

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