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Connecticut: 'Classrooms have to be repeatedly cleared when student becomes violent'

Mar 18, 2018, The CT Mirror: How Safe Are CT Students at School? https://ctmirror.org/2018/03/19/safe-ct-students-school/ … While much of the focus – and funding – has been directed at protecting students from another active shooter, data on Connecticut’s public schools show no decline in a number of much more common school safety issues, such as fights and other physical confrontations. This lack of progress in stemming aggressive behaviors is happening as student suspension and expulsion rates steadily decline – and as some mental health experts and teachers in Connecticut point out that services aimed at helping children overcome their behavioral issues are not always sufficient. Since the shooting at Sandy Hook, the number of mental health staff that districts employ has grown more slowly than increases in school security staff. That dynamic has fueled a debate over whether the state’s push to reduce student suspensions and expulsions – and instead provide students with supports so they can stay in school – actually is working to make schools safer. … Unchanged: The number of violent incidents “Classrooms have to be repeatedly cleared when a student becomes violent,” Ava Biffer, a library media specialist in East Haddam, testified before the Education Committee last week. “The behavior is getting worse,” testified Jennifer Babb, an art teacher at an elementary school in Bridgeport. “There are so many risks to other students and educators in the classroom, and if other parents actually knew what was happening, they would be shocked,” testified Laurie Degross, a special education teacher in East Hampton. These teachers were among many – including some who had been assaulted by students – testifying about the dangers they face at school and in support of a bill that would require school leaders to develop plans to specifically address “daily classroom safety” problems, such as assault and harassment. State law, already requires safety plans to address bullying, security and responses to emergencies. The overall number of violent incidents reported in Connecticut public schools has remained pretty stagnant, but this has happened as enrollment has steadily declined – by 3.5 percent since Sandy Hook. … At the same time, however, some kinds of incidents related to aggressive behavior have increased. For example, there has been a steady increase in incidents of fighting at school — about 1,800 more since 2010-11. That’s a 12 percent increase. Physical and verbal confrontations also have increased. … Mental health staff in schools growing incrementally… Even with the rapid growth of school security in recent years, there are still far more mental health staff than security staff at schools. Last school year, there were 3,415 full-time social workers, counselors and psychologist compared to 900 security staff. Traumatic experiences common among students Two of every five children in Connecticut have experienced at least one adverse, traumatic experience – one of the lowest rates among states, but the same rate as in 2014, reports Child Trends, a nonprofit organization that studies children’s lives. The Child Health and Development Institute said that in some of the state’s most needy schools where it has worked, trauma rates are even higher, with about half of the students suffering from traumatic events. …