Groups call for end of segregation and medication
Social Economic and Educational Change (SEE Change), a parent advocate group affiliated with Michigan United and Justice Against Bullying at School (JABS) attended Thursday’s Kalamazoo public school board meeting to express concerns about students bullying their children and staff using excessive force to physically restrain them, resulting in cuts, bruises, muscle strains and in one case, a concussion.
Parents were also concern about the use of alternative schools to segregate minority students and the excessive medication of students with disabilities. Earl Moore described how he saw his son’s behavior change after being bullied. Rather than dealing with the bullying, the school responded to the behavior change with physical restraint. Ultimately, his son was suspended from school for more 30 days. “The school refused to allow my son to come back to school unless he took medication” Moore said. Kalamazoo keeps records of its students in a School Wide Information System (SWIS) Moore said the SWIS report on his son describes his behavior in criminal terms, a characterization that will follow him wherever he goes.
Gwendolyn Hooker told the school board how her granddaughter, Justyce suffered multiple brutal attacks. She said the district showed a lack of concern in addressing the issue of bullying and how it affected students like Justyce.
Tammie Woods spoke of her son’s battles with depression and anxiety after multiple restraints resulted in a concussion, cuts, and his arm being twisted. Woods described the Specific Learning Disabilities reading program (SLD Read) at Western Michigan University where she sought help for her son. Woods feels Kalamazoo school should provide since her child does not qualify for SLD Read services.
George White, lead advocate with SEE Change said bullying and the effects of bullying can lead to depression, withdrawal, low self esteem, poor grades, poor peer relationships, increases the dropout ratio and in rare cases can lead to death. White also commented on the need for the Restorative Justice models gaining traction all around the country in addressing student bullying. White also recommended Trauma Informed Care practices in classrooms to improve student, parent, teacher relationships.
White said SEE Change will return to each school board meeting with more parents until they get the results that the parents seek. SEE Change plans further conversations in the community about policy reform needed to reduce bullying, expulsions, suspensions, restraint and medication dependence. The goal is to return all children to mainstream classrooms.
School board member, Lauren Freedman expressed an interest in working with SEE Change to resolve some of the issues. Dr. Rice also indicated a willingness to meet with the group.