This guest post was written by blogger Pattye Benson, who lives in the Tredyffrin/Easttown (T/E) school district in Chester County, Pennsylvania. It is a follow-up to last week’s post, written by the mom of a kindergartner with Down Syndrome. The earlier post describes how the six-year-old pointed her finger at a teacher and said “I shoot you;” the district reacted by making a formal police report, which will remain on Margot’s permanent record. Here is Pattye’s description of last Tuesday’s school board committee meeting where parents demanded changes.
I attended the District’s Policy Meeting last night. For nearly two hours of public comment, it was remarkable as parent after parent spoke out – all on the topic of Policy 5401 student discipline and the need for clarification. Many of the comments and discussion centered on which student behavioral situations constitute a requirement to “consult” with police. As an audience member, it appears to be much confusion as to how Policy 5401 was intended to work vs the reality of what actually happens. In addition, concern for the handling (or mishandling) of special needs children and their specific behavioral issues.
It was troubling to learn from parents that the District appears more focused on students who make threats (including the 6-year-old Down Syndrome kindergartner) versus the students involved in physical altercations. Threats appear to escalate quickly to the police level yet on the flip side parents told stories about children who have been physically bulled and even beaten (yes, that word was used) without any police notification. These stories were difficult to hear – with one coming from a 12-year-old from Chesterbrook.
One of most poignant stories came from Tredyffrin Township supervisor Sharon Humble who reported that just yesterday her middle school son was bullied and pushed at school causing his head to hit the concrete. And although Mrs. Humble reported that her son was at home with a concussion, the District did not contact the police. This is crazy – how is that a kindergartner with Down Syndrome now has a police report but there’s no investigation into a significant physical alteration. I simply do not understand.
Throughout the two hours, CBS channel 3 was taping the meeting as was a T/E parent. Once the video from the parent is available, I will post. During the time that I was at the meeting, the members of the school board had little to say. But there was one remarkable moment between the Policy Chair Kyle Boyer and a District parent.
A parent attempts to read a letter from PA State Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) regarding Policy 5401 which was sent to TE Superintendent Gusick and the school board prior to the meeting. Boyer interrupts the parent, saying “we’re not allowing you to read the letter” and refuses to allow her to continue. The parent then responds “Why, because you’re running against him?” At which point, there were audible gasps from the audience.
In the comments on the last post on Community Matters, I provided an image from the public Facebook page of Sen Dinniman. The Senator was informed of the handling of the kindergartner with Down Syndrome and states he has contacted the District and will post the letter shortly. The letter was subsequently released on his Facebook page and a copy is at the end of this post.
To clarify, according to the Chester County Democratic Committee website, www.chescodems.org first term T/E school board director Kyle Boyer is opposing incumbent Senator Andy Dinniman, (who has served in the state senate since 2006). The two democrats will face off for the Pennsylvania Senate, District 19 seat.
In closing, it is my understanding that a draft of changes to Policy 5401 was presented by the Policy Committee (after I left) although a copy was not part of the meeting agenda. No final decision and the matter will continue to be discussed at a future Policy Committee meeting. It was a uncomfortable and troubling meeting without a clear path forward.
Senator Dinniman delivers a powerful message to TE School District in his letter below — please read.