As surprising as it may sound, students biting, kicking, throwing furniture, and hurting other students and teachers has become common in schools across Connecticut, CEA Program Development Specialist Robyn Kaplan-Cho told WTIC’s Ray Dunaway during an appearance on his radio show this morning.
“Teachers are basically expected to take care of every possible societal ill while also making sure these kids are learning. And the schools are not equipped for it, there aren’t the resources for it, and the level of administrative and parental support in many cases is not what it needs to be,” said Kaplan-Cho.
“If teachers aren’t safe, kids aren’t safe, and kids aren’t learning if they’re not safe. It’s really becoming a crises in many schools,” she added.
“We have so few options with children in kindergarten, preschool, first and second grade,” said Manchester Education Association President Kate Dias, who joined Kaplan-Cho on the program. “If you have a preschool student who’s a biter, there’s no place to send them. The solution becomes, ‘Well, I guess we’ll give teachers arm guards to protect their arms so the bites wont be as painful.’ For teachers, it then becomes about, how can we get through today. And that’s not the educational environment we want for our teachers or children. It’s just not the climate we hope for.”
Listen to Robyn Kaplan-Cho and Kate Dias on Mornings With Ray Dunaway.
Kaplan-Cho said that the disruptive and violent behavior some students exhibit has become so commonplace in some schools that other students don’t even mention it to their parents. “It’s so normalized that kids aren’t even mentioning it anymore, because it is a regular occurrence, not worthy of a conversation at dinner that night. It’s that level of dysfunction in many cases.”
Above all, teachers’ first concern is for the other students in the class, Kaplan-Cho said. “Teachers are less concerned about their own safety, and more concerned about the other kids who are witnessing this, and the level of trauma they’re seeing.”
She hopes legislators have been reading and listening to testimony teachers have submitted and will act.
“It’s reached a boiling point where we feel the time has come for the legislature to take action to ensure that our teachers and our students are in a safe, productive learning environment.,” Kaplan-Cho said.
The legislation CEA is proposing would
- Allow teachers to remove students from the classroom who have assaulted someone or are a threat to the safety of others
- Require violent students to receive appropriate supports before returning to the classroom
- Require reporting of incidents of violations of daily classroom safety
- Enhance response and establishing appropriate procedures regarding violent behavior
- Require administrators to follow up to address violent behavior on an ongoing basis
- Place aggressive students in an appropriate setting that does not threaten other students or teachers
“As their union, our job is to keep these teachers safe. They have every right to be safe,” Kaplan-Cho said.
If you have experienced incidents of student assault and violent or disruptive behavior, please share your stories with CEA so that we can share them with legislators. Legislators need to know how widespread these issues are in order to understand the need to pass this bill.