Wednesday, April 7, 2010

For Some, a Tenacious Grip to a Safety Net. For Others, a Steep Fall through the Cracks.

One aspect of Jose’s return to our class that I worried about was his relationship with another student, Michael. Michael’s own behavioral issues touched a nerve with Jose, and provoked him to fall back on his old “street” behavior.

Michael missed a year and a half of school before joining our class in the fall, and is clearly a high-risk student. He returned to class last week at the same time as Jose, after an out-of-school suspension. Within 30 minutes of returning to school, he had an altercation with the Dean. He was suspended but returned to the school the next day instead of reporting to his suspension site.

According to the law, once a student enters the school building, the school administrators can not force him to leave without a parent signing him out. In Michael’s case, there was no parent to reach during the day, so he remained in school. He then got into a physical fight with a student, and while attempting to break up the fight, the Dean was hit in the head.

Long story short, he will not be returning to our school for the rest of the year.
The reason we, or the school for that matter, were unable to help Michael is that the systems set up to provide students with services require documentation of past behavior. Unfortunately because Michael was not in the school system for the last year and a half, and there is no paper work that shows he has behavioral problems, there was no way for us to push for a faster evaluation. We were restricted to waiting and watching so to speak.

Michael’s situation is a good example of what can happen to students when they fall through the cracks and don't get the services they need. Sadly this scenario plays out over and over again in schools across the city. My soul would be crushed if I thought about this reality too much. Instead, I focus on my school, and on the difference I can make.