School Climate & Safety Briefly Stated

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September 02, 2020 3 min read
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Water-Crisis Agreement to Bring Spec. Ed. Help to Students in Flint

First they were given lead-contaminated water to drink, and after that was discovered, they had trouble getting the special education services they needed to mitigate the learning disabilities, poor classroom performance, and increased aggression, among other problems, that come from lead toxicity.

Now, children in Flint, Mich., have been promised the funding to ad-dress their needs. As part of a settlement in a class action, the state plans to establish a $9 million special education fund to improve education for children affected by the Flint water crisis.

The money, part of a $600 million settlement, will be used to strengthen services and supports for Flint children who were harmed by lead poisoning and to pay for improvements for special education services to all students with disabilities in public schools in the city and Genesee County.

The percentage of special education students in the Flint schools has more than doubled since the water crisis began. That number could rise as more children born during that period begin to enroll in school. Currently, 1 in 4 students in the Flint schools is eligible for special education services.

Flint families drank, bathed, and cooked in their homes with the lead-tainted water for 17 months before the problem was discovered and the water supply shut off. The contamination occurred when the cash-strapped city, under the direction of a state-appointed manager, switched its water supply from Lake Huron to cut costs.

In the federal lawsuit filed in 2016, the plaintiffs contended that the state and schools failed to provide adequate financial and staffing resources and support to help Flint schoolchildren meet the challenges they were faced in getting special education services.

‘Wounded’ Teachers Hit Indiana Sheriff’s Office With Constitutional Suit

Preparation is a key to good teaching, but as a group of teachers maintain, they shouldn’t have to endure getting shot at in the name of being prepared.

After taking their story public last year, teachers in Indiana who were shot at with plastic bullets as part of an active-shooter drill at their elementary school are taking it into the legal arena. They have sued the White County sheriff’s department that conducted the training, as well as others, charging that the incident has caused long-term physical and emotional effects.

In January 2019, the teachers from the Twin Lakes School Corp. district arrived for a voluntary professional-development session on active-shooter situations. None of them was informed of the content of the training, which included being shot at close range, execution style, purportedly to show what could happen without preparation. The exercise left the terrified teachers with welts and bruises and caused widespread outrage after the Indiana State Teachers Association testified about it at a state hearing several months later.

Several of the teachers, the complaint alleges, left the district, moved to a different school, or retired as a direct result of the incident. One had a permanent scar, two sought counseling, one was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and all reported continuing anxiety and fear around law-enforcement personnel and/or firearms.

Law-enforcement officers also were laughing or smirking at them during the exercises or otherwise appeared unconcerned about their pain and distress, the teachers contend.

What’s more, they argue that the officers violated their Fourth Amendment rights, which protect citizens from undue search and seizure, and also fall afoul of a state law protecting people from the negligent infliction of emotional distress.

While active-shooter drills have been put on hold as schools have largely moved to remote learning because of COVID-19, the larger conversation about which school safety measures are the most effective is far from resolved.

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A version of this article appeared in the September 02, 2020 edition of Education Week as Briefly Stated

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