U.S. Department of Education Issues Resource Document that Discourages Restraint and Seclusion | U.S. Department of Education

My initial response to the title of this article was, “There go the last vestige of dealing with severely dangerous and disruptive behavior…” I was thinking about some of the kids I worked with–severely behaviorally disordered children who suffered from PTSD brought on by early childhood abuses. These kids needed to be restrained and moved to a time-out area where they could work out their aggressions on padded walls.

But these are not the students at which this legislation was targeted. That is, their disruptive behavior was not what brought about these new guidelines. Rather, the release of the document was in response to the cases of abuse and death at public and private treatment centers. I followed the link below to the announcement; then followed another link to the explanation and document itself.

U.S. Department of Education Issues Resource Document that Discourages Restraint and Seclusion | U.S. Department of Education.

When I downloaded the 45-page PDF, I was not certain what I would find. Rather than a set of “don’t do this” statements, I found a thoughtful and careful delineation of alternative means to eliminate seclusion and restraint. It does not say “don’t restrain.” Rather, it says, “These are the guidelines for when you must restrain, and these are the things you need to document when you do so.” Interestingly, there were few differences from what we had to do when I was teaching in a day treatment program, when the only way to guarantee both the individual’s safety and that of the other students (and classroom adults) was to take down and restrain. Of course, there were never any apparatuses used. These kids didn’t need physical restraints–just time to calm down. I didn’t even know it was legal to put restraints on a child outside of a psychiatric ward or institution, where supervision for the entire period of restraint was available.

The main focus of this document is for states to use it as a model for their own guidelines for restraint and seclusion. Personally, I don’t see that the US DoE’s guidelines can be improved on, but each state is different and has different needs. Which is why the guidelines also establish a recommended schedule for review of adopted guidelines. Needs change, after all.

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Lawsuit targets California’s legal protections for teachers – latimes.com

There are a lot of reasons why teacher tenure laws are part of most state constitutions. One of these is arbitrary dismissal of ostensibly bad teachers, which might be little more than an accusation by a single disgruntled parent. A new California non-profit group called Students Matter, however, believes that teacher dismissal should be quicker and less costly than it currently is in the state.

The Los Angeles Times’ Howard Blume interviewed LA Unified School District administrators and others in this fact-laden article.

Lawsuit targets California’s legal protections for teachers – latimes.com.

Personally, although it can take forever to get rid of a bad teacher, the time and effort to do so is no less than the due process an accused law breaker could expect. There are rigorous procedures involved to protect against unfounded accusations that could result in defamation and the destruction of an individual’s career and life.

The reality is that the process itself can result in improvement in a “bad teacher’s” teaching. Often, an individual who is accused of poor teaching has no idea that he or she is not doing an adequate job, and the procedures involved can actually give the teacher the training to improve and enhance both competency and the classroom experience.

Some school districts, like LAUSD, are taking steps to facilitate the effort and costs involved in a teacher’s dismissal. Heaven knows, LAUSD has had it’s share of teacher dismissals this year, and not due to budget problems, but due to inappropriate teacher behavior. Somehow, the dismissals were handled with alacrity and without law suits by the dismissed individuals. It seems that LAUSD may have a dismissal method that works.

Personally, I would much rather see improvement in an educator’s teaching due to intervention than to see an arbitrary dismissal based on inadequate or nonexistent documentation–or the judgment of an ill-informed administrator.

But that’s just my opinion…

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Repost: Rethink Teacher Appreciation Week | ED.gov Blog

“True appreciation means understanding what teachers bring to the table and creating meaningful opportunities for them to contribute to the policies and practices that affect their school communities.”

via Rethink Teacher Appreciation Week | ED.gov Blog.

Reading this US DoE blog made me think back to the Stone Age, to my own K-12 education. Back then, there was a great deal more respect for teachers, and I think more involvement of teachers in whatever school they were in. If a teacher sent a disciplinary note home–and they were usually disciplinary–parents supported the punishment and brandished home-based discipline as well. Parents seemed aware of how little teachers made for their level of education, and actively supported teachers’ efforts to educate their children. Today, too many parents seem as antagonistic toward teachers as their children. Instead of assuming the teacher has accurately described the problem, it is assumed that the child’s view is correct and the teacher is out to get the child.

Only a decade after I was in school did some laws change. In the mid-1970s when I was looking for my first teaching position, principals still were allowed to ask if a female applicant’s marital status. A married female could get pregnant and leave teaching at any time, and there would go the money the district invested in training her. For years after marital status became a legal no-no question, male principals continued to ask it and base hiring decisions on the response.

As then, a teacher today is still more likely to be hired if he or she can coach a sport or advise a major student group, such as yearbook or drama club. Knowledge and teaching ability are secondary considerations. Schools claim that this is a way to maximize the value of their teachers, but the truth is that there is no reason why part-time coaches could not be hired. Sports, arts, and other extra-curricular activities are very important, but there may be a reason why so many students hate social studies and why US academic performance is lagging behind that of other modern nations.

Back then, classroom teachers had no say in the curriculum or educational policy, even within their own schools. Teachers’ unions like the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) tended to concentrate on “labor relations” issues, like pay, break time, and how far into a pregnancy a female teacher could work. General policy and curriculum issues were reserved for the school district administration and the school board. Today, the US DoE is encouraging active contribution by teachers and teacher associations to the discussion on educational reform. But it has taken an uncertain economy and diminishing education funds to bring this about.