I am a shit disturber. The following is a letter I wrote to the Chief Superintendant of our school board last week. I received a call from an assistant superintendant almost immediately, who promised to speak with the principal, but have heard nothing since. It may be time to disturb a little more shit.
Our children are in Kindergarten and Grade Two at XXX School. We hope that you have been made aware of some of the difficulties which the Kindergarten program at this school has experienced this year; if not, please allow us to outline some of the grave concerns we have with the quality of our child’s education, as well as his safety while at school.
At the heart of the matter is the size of the Kindergarten class: it has now grown to 27 children. As an educator, you are undoubtedly aware of the implications for one-on-one teaching time, discipline, control, and safety. The ratio is unacceptable, even with a full-time teaching assistant in the room. We have spoken with the principal regarding this concern. He told us that the school’s class configuration is decided prior to September and cannot change during the school year.
To aggravate our concerns, our son has told us of specific incidents that have occurred in his classroom, incidents which have been corroborated by his teacher, with whom we have been in contact throughout the year. We have been told about a particular child who has been removed from the classroom on an almost daily basis for violent and aggressive behaviour. Specific incidents include threatening adults with a chair, hitting another child in the face with scissors, and spitting at or on a number of adults and children in the school. It is our understanding that this child has been sent to the “Opportunity Room”, and even suspended from school. We are gravely concerned for the safety of the others in the classroom.
Specifically, in light of the violence, and the spitting incidents, we wanted to ensure you are aware of the risks involved in contact with the blood or body fluids of another person, even if this person is a five-year-old child. It puts one at risk for contracting any number of blood- or body-fluid-borne illnesses and their potentially life-threatening consequences.
It is obvious to us that whatever disciplinary steps have been taken so far are simply not working. We appreciate the need for confidentiality in this situation and are not asking for any specific information related to the child. However, we need to know from you what will be done to ensure that the quality of the education our son receives during the balance of this year (and, for that matter, in future years) is adequate, and, more importantly, safe.
An obvious solution would be to have this dangerous child removed from the classroom permanently before another child or adult is seriously hurt. It is obvious this environment is not benefiting him, and as a result of the attention and energy that needs to be dedicated to disciplining him and keeping the other students safe, the rest of the class suffers as well. Schools, as we do, have no problem with a widespread ban of peanuts for the safety of a few; please realize that this is absolutely no different. We appreciate the importance to all students of diversity and integration of children with differing needs to the mainstream classroom. But when the behaviour of one poses a significant risk to the safety of all, measurable action must be taken.
Kindergarten is the foundation year for education. A child’s experience can set the tone for every single one of his or her future school years. While our son is progressing in spite of the circumstances, we are disappointed with his experience so far, and now, we also have grave concerns about his safety in your school.
We look forward hearing, from you, as soon as possible, regarding what will be done ameliorate our concerns, especially regarding basic safety, and salvage what is left of our son’s year. Please feel free to contact us at home or at work, or reply by email. Please also be aware that we have copied this letter to the Minister of Education and our Member of the Legislative Assembly, as well as the principal, to ensure they are all aware of the seriousness of our concerns.