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Eugene, OR: School board meets to address 'behavioral crisis'; students violent/disruptive

Nov 29, 2018, Eugene (OR) Register-Guard: Eugene schools face ‘behavioral crisis,’ board told Testimony about the need for more funding for critical needs — such as addressing violent student behaviors — at area schools brought some people to tears during a packed Eugene School Board meeting Wednesday night. “We’re in the midst of a behavioral crisis,” said Tad Shannon, Eugene Education Association teacher’s union president. “We are facing real and present danger. This is happening at all our schools, it’s systemic. I don’t think that we’re going to survive the rest of the school year with the way things are now.” Shannon was referring to increased violent and disruptive student behaviors in Eugene-area schools that he said are pushing teachers and other school staff to the brink of quitting. He was one of about 150 people who crowded into the Eugene District Education Center Wednesday to talk about under-staffed and over-crowded classrooms, a lack of student and staff support as well as a myriad of behavioral issues that they said were in part a result of such conditions. Several parents spoke specifically about issues they said they were facing in the life skills program at Adams Elementary School, while other parents and teachers talked about the increased violent behaviors they’re seeing in their schools. Teachers and educational assistants alike at the meeting said they are witnessing more students becoming more violent more often at school. They detailed children biting, kicking, hitting, screaming and urinating in the classroom. They also spoke about students running away from teachers and hiding out in the hallways and teachers having no back-up from building administrators who are dealing with the same problems in another classroom. Meg Carnagey, a first-grade teacher at Adams, said students are becoming more aggressive. “Kids are hitting, choking, tackling, biting and kicking,” she said. “They’re leaving bruises, red marks and bite marks.” The teachers who spoke Wednesday are not alone in their observations, and nearly every educator or education advocate in the area agrees that the issue is growing. In the last three years, Bethel, Eugene and Springfield school districts — along with their counterparts across the state — have seen the frequency and intensity of violent, threatening or disruptive behaviors steadily increase, especially at the elementary level, district officials said in a Register-Guard report that published earlier this month. Teachers, educational assistants and other school staff in the three local districts have reported students throwing chairs at windows, hitting, kicking and biting staff and other students, yelling obscenities and, in some cases, breaking glass or leaving teachers with concussions or other serious injuries, according to educators and their union representatives. Many teachers have asked that their district provide additional funding for more staff and support to help them manage student behaviors — and district staff agrees more should be done. Eugene School District spokeswoman Kerry Delf said the meeting highlighted that the state of Oregon continues to be challenged in adequately funding schools. “It’s an ongoing struggle that every district in the state is facing,” she said. “The continual challenge of low funding levels in our schools.” More money needed Funding also is impacting staffing levels for a special education program at Adams Elementary School, according to several parents who offered testimony to the board Wednesday evening…. Board members and district staff made a few brief comments at the meeting about coming up with some immediate relief for some of the schools that are struggling the most with behavioral issues and under-staffed classrooms. But they also admitted that there was no easy fix. “There are no simple answers to these complex issues,” said board member Judy Newman. “It’s going to take all of us together to solve these problems.”

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