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Letter to the editor:

School violence should never be tolerated, under any circumstance

 

Last updated 3/21/2019 at 6:45am



Dear Editor

On March 7, a fight between two students at Great Oak High School in Temecula, California escalated into an all-out brawl involving hundreds of students. Three students required medical assistance and two campus supervisors were injured. Fortunately, no weapons were found at the scene.

Laura Boss, TVUSD Public Information Officer, stated in a district email that, “All students in today’s incident have been identified by the administration and are being handled through appropriate student discipline protocols.” Let’s hope that the discipline protocols include serious consequences to deter this type of violent behavior from happening again.

School safety and aggressive student behaviors have been topics of discussion at recent Temecula Governing Board meetings. Back in November, Jeff Kingsberg, president of the Temecula Valley Educators Association, shared disturbing accounts of teachers being “hit, kicked, and bitten by students at multiple (school) sites in 2018-2019.” He vividly described how one teacher was punched in the right temple and suffered a concussion. He also shared reports of students who have “caused destruction to classrooms by violently throwing classroom materials and even furniture across the room.”

During my 40-year career as a teacher in the Temecula school system, I have had to break up my share of student fights and intervene in other misbehaviors. And offending students were held accountable with clear and consistent consequences keeping our campuses much safer than they are today.

Now we see a growing number of students who cuss at teachers, talk back to them, and even threaten physical harm. Our students face similar threatening behaviors and, more often than not, consequences are unclear, minimal or non-existent. Subsequently, teachers and students feel powerless and often decline to report these behaviors knowing that little will be done to the offenders.

Some would argue that campus safety has been compromised with a kinder, gentler approach to student discipline called Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) – a system used by the Temecula Valley Unified School District that few teachers are familiar with and even fewer have been trained in.

It is a system that appears to be a variation of “restorative justice” which is a type of justice based on restitution rather than punishment. In short, restorative justice offers counseling and an intervention in which offenders, victims, and other impacted parties are brought together to resolve disciplinary issues in a cooperative, positive way.

If implemented properly and with the collaboration of district administrators, teachers, parents and students, restorative justice (or Positive Behavior Intervention Supports) may have some merit. However, there must also be effective leadership and a serious commitment by a school district to provide the training, funding, and support to maintain the integrity and effectiveness of this discipline model. Finally, any discipline model must include meaningful consequences for student misbehavior.

Students who create disturbances under the current model are often sent back to class without any intervention and minimal, if any, consequences. The result is that offenders are more likely to repeat their misbehaviors compromising a student’s right to an education, a teacher’s ability to teach, and the maintenance of a safe and secure school environment.

TVUSD has both a legal and moral responsibility to provide safe and secure school campuses for our children. It is my hope that the school district’s management and governing board re-evaluate the current discipline model and make necessary adjustments to enhance the safety of our schools. Failure to do so is to fail our children, their parents, our teachers and support staff.

Robert Eilek

Temecula, California

 

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