My name is Renee Vacco and I have been working for TVUSD teaching first grade for over 20 years. I have seen children of many different academic ability levels, language levels, those with special needs and those who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. For the most part, I have enjoyed my teaching experience and find the parents, children and staff to be agreeable and willing to help the children succeed in their educational experience. However, over the past 10 years I and many of my colleagues have experienced a large increase of children with special needs who are increasingly disruptive in the classroom. These children are acting out in such ways that make it impossible to teach and cause harm to the teacher and the other students in the classroom. Putting children in a classroom placement where they won’t be successful is NOT doing them a favor.
We know that if their problem is academic, a regular education classroom may not meet their needs. They likely need a different pace or technique. Setting them up to struggle and fail is not a kindness. If their problem is behavioral, the same applies. It’s unfair to ask them to conform to schedules, routines and behaviors of the other students. It is setting them up to be constantly in trouble and disliked by the other students. This leads special needs children to have terrible self-esteem. Having to continually restructure learning time for these students, steals valuable learning time and energy from the other students.
I have personally experienced students with severe behaviors such as hitting, biting, screaming, cussing, choking, and throwing large or dangerous objects such as trash cans or scissors at teachers or other students is a safety hazard to the other children, and it is only a matter of time before someone gets hurt, and the other parent sues the teacher, school and the district. When parents find out that a dangerous child was knowingly placed in a classroom with their own child, they will sue!
I have seen many of these behaviors in my own classroom and the administrations answer to the problem is to evacuate my students to a safe area. We are never to touch the student, even if that student is hurting myself or another child. My question to the district is why is this allowed to go on? Why does one child's rights surpass the rights of the other children in my class who are trying to learn?
I have thought about the following possible solutions to the problem: There needs to be quicker intervention and diagnosis of these children. As it stands now, it takes half the school year to document these behaviors, attend SST meetings and put in place interventions that most of the time do not work. An aide who helps the child is of no use if that person cannot intervene when the child is hurting others. Many of these children are either at or above grade level so they do not qualify for special education services. Historically I believe, there used to be special education classes for younger students who were emotionally disturbed but for some reason they were phased out. It seems to me that these children need to be in a class that can address their needs. I hope that something can be done quickly. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.