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CT: "Number of children [with] significant behavior problems in class has ballooned"

May 22, 2019, New England Public Radio: Connecticut Students With 'Emotional Disturbances' Face High Rate Of Suspensions …Tucker’s school experience as a student with an emotional disturbance is a symptom of a system-wide problem. An analysis of state data by Connecticut Public Radio shows that students with emotional disturbances are four times more likely to be thrown out of class than the average student. During the 2017-18 school year, roughly one-third of these students were suspended or expelled -- more than any other disability by a wide margin. Additionally, black students like Tucker get the “emotional disturbance” label at a rate twice as high as all other racial and ethnic groups combined, and these students face potentially life-long consequences that include higher dropout rates and a lower likelihood of post-secondary education, according to the National Center for Special Education Research…. “The students who are identified as having an emotional disturbance should have a whole package,” said State Child Advocate Sarah Eagan. “They should have the benefit of full assessment, of full intervention, of individualized services and supports.” Instead, they’re often suspended, which means they’re excluded from the classroom for, at most, ten consecutive school days. Or they’re “expelled,” which means they’re denied school privileges for longer than that…. Students with an emotional disturbance make up roughly one percent of the state student population, and about 7 percent of special education students, which is about 6,000 kids. But when it comes to discipline, their percentages are a lot larger. About one third of students listed by the state as having an "emotional disturbance" were suspended or expelled in 2017-18. Note: "Other Health Impairment" includes many different subcategories and also includes ADD/ADHD. There’s another way students with an emotional disturbance are removed from a classroom -- they’re sent to other schools. It’s often because the district decides it can’t teach the child, and another school would be better. … When There's A Classroom 'Crisis,' What's An Appropriate Response? Emotionally disturbed students reflect a wide range of mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma, anxiety disorders, and depression. Once identified as having an emotional disturbance with associated behavior problems, it’s considered best practice for the child to get a behavior intervention plan, which describes common problem behaviors exhibited by the child and appropriate intervention methods. Some districts work with a board-certified behavior analyst to develop this plan and individualize it to each student. Except that doesn’t always happen, said Kathryn Meyer, a lawyer with the Center for Children’s Advocacy…. Meyer said students with an emotional disturbance students often present very challenging behavior, like classroom outbursts or other aggressive actions that can disrupt the class and pose dangers to other students and staff members…. The number of children exhibiting significant behavior problems in class has ballooned across the state, representatives of a teachers union have said. However, it's hard to pin an exact number on that, because districts don't track classroom removals. Only suspensions and expulsions are tracked. Teachers say something has to change. "We have a serious crisis happening in many elementary schools across the state of Connecticut," said Robyn Kaplan-Cho with the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, during a recent legislative testimony.... Limited Resources, Limited Options Fran Rabinowitz, the former Bridgeport superintendent, recalled students getting suspended because schools didn't have anything better to offer them. Rabinowitz said that in well-resourced schools, psychologists are able to work with students before they have an issue. But in poorer districts, psychologists are often overwhelmed with students who are beyond the point of crisis, leaving no time to work with students whose problems aren’t as severe. … Ideally, she said, a school should be staffed with plenty of social workers and school psychologists, there should be a strong “social and emotional learning” component to the school culture and curriculum, and teachers should be well-trained in behavior de-escalation. But with limited resources, most schools lack all of these components. … Over the last decade, Connecticut districts spent lots of money to place students with disabilities in other schools. Statewide, expenses rose an average of about 6 percent annually. (Data Source: State Department of Education)… Eagan said districts that suspend emotionally disturbed students at disproportionate rates, “are also sending some of those same students to very expensive, out-of-district, state-approved, private special education programs.”…


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