Tuesday, February 27, 2007

ED or CD?

I have a new student who, like most of my students, is labelled as emotionally disturbed. He mostly maintains in the classroom fine but he has conflicts with male peers that lead him to some extreme behavior. This behavior has manifested as this student causing serious injury to other students as well threatening students, staff and parents (with some truly vile language). Because he is a student who qualifies as needing special education a school's ability to punish him is limited. Basically you can suspend a kid for ten days after which you need to determine whether his behavior is a result of his disability. If it is, you can't suspend, never mind expel the student.

None of that is terribly interesting to me because I'm not much for punishment since it's mostly a form of revenge. However, the rub is that if a student as violent as this one gets into trouble with the law he would then be able to access all sorts of resources that he would otherwise not be able to access. So, there's been some discussion of reevaluating this student to determine if he truly is emotionally disturbed. It could be the case that he simply has a conduct disorder. The former is a label served by special education, and thus protected by that ten day suspension rule I mentioned, and the latter is not. So you can suspend and expel a student labelled as CD but not one labelled ED. Makes perfect sense, right? It gets worse.

If he's labelled CD the county would have to pick up the tab on whatever services he receives because it would be outside of school. This is strong incentive in a school district feeling a pretty serious economic crunch. Also, there's the possibility of this student ending up as part of the juvenile deliquent system. And there's some suggestion that this may be what he really needs. It's hard to argue with that when you read what he's done to other kids. But it's not hard to argue with that when he sits in your class and smiles at jokes in the novel we're reading.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Home friends, school enemies

I have a very social phobic 8th grader and a far too social 6th grader. They can't really be in the same room together without lobbing comments at each other because they make each other so anxious. I always try to avoid having them in the same place at the same time but today there was some overlap. So one started to say something about the other being crazy and the other says something about hurting the first one, etc, etc. I got the 6th grader calm enough to go to his next class which quieted the 8th grader down. However, he was still too anxious to do any work so we just talked for 20 minutes.

When I asked him about why he doesn't like the 6th grader he told me that they get along fine when P. is there. I asked him to explain and he told me that the 6th grader and their mutual friend P. often stop by his house on the weekends and they all play or hang out or whatever. It turns out that they all live quite near each other and spend a lot of time together away from school. I found this all so strange- they're buddies at home but foes at school. What could cause this?

My hypothesis is that they do things at home which would get them into trouble at school and that makes them nervous. Also, the 6th grader is relatively popular while the 8th grader isn't. It wouldn't be "cool" to be seen hanging out in school together. Or something like that. Though it's my job to seek to understand the minds of these students, in social situations like this, they remain obscure.

New Students

I'm getting two new students. One has already started and seems like a very sweet kid. His file reads like he's got some serious behavior issues and he's coming from a private school paid for by his previous district. He says "please" and "excuse me." Not typical for most students with behavior disorders. Today's journal question was, "Would you rather be twice as strong or twice as smart as you are right now?" He said, "Twice as smart because I come from a difficult background."

My other new one hasn't started yet but he's a 13 year old, 180 pound 6th grader with a history of drug use and who is under investigation for arson. Sweet. More to come I'm sure.