At its second meeting today, the classroom safety working group continued an ongoing discussion seeking to come to agreement on language for a bill that could be raised by the General Assembly in 2019.
The group, which was created after Governor Malloy vetoed a classroom safety bill that had resoundingly passed the state House and Senate last spring, has been offering feedback on a new draft bill authored by CEA.
CEA Executive Director Donald Williams reminded group members of the critical nature of their task.
“The Connecticut General Assembly last legislative session heard extensive testimony from teachers about the increase in problematic student behaviors that are causing harm to other students and teachers,” Williams said.
“We need legislation that will help students receive the supports they need rather than being ignored or disciplined in a discriminatory way,” Williams continued. “This bill addresses protocols to bring consistency to the response and follow through when significant issues occur in schools. We want to prevent school problems from becoming criminal justice issues.”
Connecticut’s Child Advocate Sarah Eagen said she appreciated all of the work CEA has put in trying to bring a diverse group of stakeholders to agreement. “That does not always happen, and it’s noted and really appreciated,” she said.
“At the end of the day, no matter what we come up with here, there is no skirting what some of our fundamental challenges are—including a lack of resources that are available to teachers and schools,” Eagen added.
Tom Brant, president of the Connecticut Association of School Psychologists, said he is concerned about the lack of measures available to prevent problematic student behavior. “School psychologists are a designated shortage area across the country,” he said. “What are we going to do about the retention and recruitment of school mental health professionals?”
New Haven teacher David Hayes said that, while he values initiatives like restorative practices, in many schools, insufficient resources are directed at effectively implementing programs.
“Too often administrators want to adopt the latest fad so they rush to implement a program, but staff are not properly trained. We’re given 15 minutes of training—maybe at the most an hour-long PowerPoint presentation,” said Hayes.
Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents Executive Director Fran Rabinowitz was, until recently, Superintendent of Schools in Bridgeport. “We had 38 social workers for 22,000 kids. I had nowhere to send kids other than the principal’s office,” she said.