When a child holds the class hostage to his outbursts

After reading some of the comments from teachers about disruptive kids in their schools, one poster wrote: "After reading more of the posts, I think some of y’all need an EXORCIST to visit your schools." (AJC file)

After reading some of the comments from teachers about disruptive kids in their schools, one poster wrote: "After reading more of the posts, I think some of y’all need an EXORCIST to visit your schools." (AJC file)

When my oldest son was in elementary school, he came home with wild tales of a new boy who was turning desks and the class upside down. Other parents reported to me that their children were afraid of this child.

I had a hard time understanding how one little boy could create such pandemonium — until I met him one afternoon. Home on maternity leave with my newborn twins, I would walk them past the playground where we would sometimes run into my son’s class at recess. The double stroller always drew a crowd of children.

On this afternoon, the new boy pushed himself into the center of the throng,  grabbed hold of the stroller and tore off down the sidewalk. He was jostling the carriage so much that it nearly toppled. I was able to catch up to him and yank the stroller out of his hands. He seemed unaware of how dangerous and reckless his actions were, and I understood better how he could commandeer a classroom and put everyone on edge.

It wasn’t long before this child had a full-time aid assigned to him, and the stories of his outbursts in class became fewer. Then, the boy moved.

I bring up this story because of two recent conversations with teachers about the impact of such students on a class. One educator was a fellow parent from my son’s class, and her child had also come home with stories about his scary classmate.

“Imagine having five of those kids in your class at one time,” she said, describing what sounded like a year from hell. She made repeated attempts to get the five children into special ed so they could get the help that she felt they needed. In some cases, it took almost the entire year to make it happen.

Another teacher described her experiences with a child whose disorder led to vile outbursts and terrible conduct in class. While the child was ultimately moved into a program for students with emotional and behavior disorders, he was in class long enough to impede the performance of other classmates.

What is the right balance in these situations?

On one hand, schools have to exercise caution before labeling students.  I have interviewed experts who warn that we are too quick to apply labels to boys in particular. (Here is one of those interviews.)

On the other hand, I have interviewed frustrated parents who felt that schools were unwilling to learn about the complexities of their child’s disorder or work with them to develop coping strategies that would help both the child and the teacher.

Many teachers complain that their classrooms are held hostage to kids with serious behavioral challenges while the paperwork wends its way through the bureaucracy.

Do any school systems do this right?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

239 comments Add your comment

yes i am worried

May 18th, 2011
5:23 am

I think that there are systems that have programs that work for some of these students, but mainstreaming a student whose outburst are difficult to control is a challenge with the best resources and the best teachers.

At our elementary school, there is a child whose mother PIMPED her out for years before being caught. Now her nearly illiterate, but well meaning, grandmother has custody and while she isn’t being abused anymore, it is hard to undue all those years of abuse. She mostly spends time out of the classroom, but the grandmother is reluctant to send her to a school outside of her community, where she could be in a self contained classroom. She can be terribly disruptive.

Systems have their hands tied if parents won’t agree to placement. Systems can sue parents, but it almost never (never?) happens.

Teaching Family

May 18th, 2011
5:48 am

A significant challenge with some of the kids with major outburst/emotional issues is that they change schools frequently. The paperwork & testing for special ed can take 1/2 to a full year. Each time the child moves, especially to a new district, the process starts all over.

The majority of these types of students, though, have been evaluated but are being allowed into the typical classroom because of the mandate of Least Restrictive Environment. Its a concept that is ideal in theory, but unrealistic in some cases. Last year, I had two students that would overturn desks, scream, shake, curse, etc and what would set them off was unpredictable. We walked on eggshells all year. As a teacher, you feel for these kids. They’re hurting so deeply and you can see the rocky path ahead of them. But, wow…it makes for a difficult year for everyone.

Tucker Guy

May 18th, 2011
5:52 am

Your story is exactly like what my 4th grade son just experienced. He has (for 3 more days) an outstanding, amazing, exciting teacher and the fall semester was great. After Christmas a boy who had been kicked out of school returned to their classroom. This 10 year old talks about smoking pot and is vulgar and disruptive. At least he has not been violent which is the reason he was expelled previously.

The whole class has been held hostage by this boy’s outbursts. The teacher went from teaching to managing behaviors full time as other students are “sucked into the vortex of chaos”.

The very good teacher is limited in what she can do by the support she receives (or does not receive) from the principle. The wonderful people from the county central office have recommended all the teachers ignore his behavior and not reinforce it with negative attention. That has not been very effective. The PE teacher is now on the “not favored” list with the principle because he won’t ignore the profanity directed at him.

My son went from straight A’s to A, B, and C’s.

Do I have any recourse for my son’s falling grades or new vocabulary?


May 18th, 2011
5:59 am

You can thank the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for this – an Act that is more damaging than the NCLB, imho.

This is the Act that forces schools to “mainstream” students with a whole laundry list of physical and psychological problems. Some, not all, parents of these children use IDEA as a club to force schools to place their children in a regular classroom where they wreak havok. Once there, it takes an act of God to remove them.

All the while, as this story depicts, the rest of the children are very often put in danger.


May 18th, 2011
6:03 am

I’ve taught collaborative classes, where I have five to seven kids with learning disabilities right there in the same room with 22 regular ed kids (some of whom are gifted). And yes, hijacking is a GREAT word for what happens.


May 18th, 2011
6:11 am

The title of the article is correct– the other students AND the teacher are held hostage by these kids and their parents. We have 15 kids on our middle school team who do this daily– and only 3 are in special education. If paretns refuse placement, the school is helpless to do anything. Administrators are generally tied by regulations– there is little that can be done to stop these kids when parents are in denial, often deliberately uncooperative. These kids are not short term– this is the third year in my middle school that they have been in class keeping teachers from teaching and others from learning. But despite this, I am still blamed if CRCT test scores are low. Yet people want me to be evaluated solely on the basis of test scores. And you wonder why teachers don’t want merit pay based on test scores?

Peter Smagorinsky

May 18th, 2011
6:25 am

My main worry is that the appetite for cutting schools’ budgets will reduce teachers’ and administrators’ ability to provide alternative programs for children who clearly need them. There is a huge cost to cutting budgets.

MS Man

May 18th, 2011
6:31 am

Where do you put them? If you remove them from classes, where do they go? Do you put all the “bad” kids in the same room with one teacher and tell that teacher to manage it? In addition, not all of these kids are special needs, but rather they just don’t do. There may be other options like resource classes for those labeled, but what of the others? I understand that every parent wants their child to learn and learn well and I understand that no one child should be able to control a room, I even agree with that, but the question remains what to do with those students in need. Sounds like most here just want them to go away from my class and my kid……where do they go and what obligation do we have to help those kids? Suggestions from all are very welcome on this point because it is an area that no one talks about in education circles. NCLB makes us focus on all kids, but often times the attempts by admin. is to hide these kids, not help them.


May 18th, 2011
6:42 am

Here’s a great story for you…..follow the special education referral/testing/placement process (i.e.RTI). Monitor the paperwork and red tape that is required to get a child special education services. I think most outsiders would be dismayed at how difficult it is to get a student tested….due to a backlog of already waiting in line and the months, sometimes years, of paperwork.

One of the “trickiest” areas of special education is EBD. Many of these students do not fit the clinical definition and are labeled socially maladjusted…which does not qualify for special education services. We’ve also seen a rise in students diagnosed with ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder). These students do not qualify for services.


May 18th, 2011
6:51 am

@MS Man…I’m not sure I can answer your question but 20 years ago we placed those students in alternative settings with special education teachers who were highly trained to deal with EBD kids. Those types of programs are expensive and were the first to suffer massive budget cuts.

Add to this the LRE (least restrictive environment) movement. One of the unintended consequences of LRE is what happens to the other students who have to sit in a classroom while Johnny has a “meltdown”.

Another LRE consequence is how these students are punished. If an EBD student commits an offense that earns them an out-of=school suspension, the school is required to offer services to that student….which means a homebound teacher will be paid to visit the student.

Add to this the future of 504…..we are potentially looking at the possibility of every student having a 504 plan. Won’t that be fun :P


May 18th, 2011
6:51 am

I have taught inclusion/collaborative classes for years, and most of my students with special needs have been wonderful, and many have been the top students in the class. That said, not every child should be mainstreamed. It should depend upon the needs of the student, not percentages set by some bureaucrat at the central office, in Atlanta, or in Washington.

Some children learn better in small group settings, and some are too disruptive to the learning environment of others. But some of the more disruptive students seem to have vocal and potentially litigious parents who frighten school administrators, because they’ve often seen lawsuits before.

It does seem that frequently the rights of one child to a free and adequate public education outweigh the rights of the many, but the parents of the “regular” students don’t usually make as much noise. If you feel your child is in danger, maybe you should?


May 18th, 2011
7:06 am

There are a couple issues here. The first is that some students are not capable of being in a regular classroom, and the RtI process is not particularly efficient in identifying and properly placing these students. Schools tend to not have any other supports in place for teachers while this process is happening, so students are allowed to disrupt class as much as they want because there are no plans in place (removal, “time-outs,” whatever you want to call it. Any system that helps the teacher maintain the academic environment).

The second issue is that an environment of test prep is not conducive for great behavior for any student, and more boys than ever are being labelled ADHD. In classrooms where there are varied activities that allow for movement and social interaction that is structured around a task, students who struggle with self-control will do better.

The final main issue that I see is that often the focus is on the harm done to other students in the classroom, but the fact is that the student who is disruptive is also incredibly damaged by not being in a setting that can help them learn best (and I don’t think that is necessarily in a room filled with similarly challenged stduents!). As they get older and fall farther behind, these students are often forgotten and pushed aside (educational triage – save who you can).

A complex issue, but getting more prevalent and in need of solutions.


May 18th, 2011
7:18 am

Sounds as if this “problem child” has mental issues. If not this child needs some severe discipline and not just the silly time-outs. No a good ole fashioned visit to the wood shed.

Maureen, Congratulations on the twins!!


May 18th, 2011
7:19 am

This is true far, far more often that you might expect. Because parents have to agree, much of the time nothing is done. The other students just suffer along, with the hope that “Johnny” won’t be in their class next year. This is hogwash! The “rights” of one kid do not negate the rights of the 25-30 others!

Add to that schools with NO EBD teachers/classrooms, systems with NO EBD provisions except to bus the kids to a neighboring county.

Then, many of these kids cannot be removed from class due to IDEA (which has screwed millions of “regular” kids over. However, many do not have sped protection, but are “protected” by the fear of persistently violent school designation.

Add in clueless parents.

Then, as the final straw, the RTI “process”, which, in our system, has NO PROVISION for tiers and testing for these kids. There is a word for it, and it starts with “cluster”.

APS Teacher

May 18th, 2011
7:22 am

I have 4 of these students in my room this year. There is no support from administration. If they are sent to the office, I will be placed on a PDP, because administration refuses to deal with disruptive children. I am forced to keep them in the class where they hit, kick, and curse at other children. Their behavior disrupts the entire room and the learning of every child is impeded as a result. And you want to evaluate and pay me based on test scores? No thanks.

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

May 18th, 2011
7:25 am

Folks- especially those in the field- when you use acronyms, would you please also spell out the term replaced?
Great topic, BTW.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

May 18th, 2011
7:28 am

One viral video of such disruptive classroom behavior would be worth how many words describing it?


May 18th, 2011
7:29 am

Ah mainstreaming……it’s always so much fun for everyone ain’t it?

MS Man: I know this sounds callous..but I don’t care where they go. My kid has JUST as much right to a good education as the SPED kid.


May 18th, 2011
7:29 am

As a special education teacher, please know that it is NOT the local school systems that prolong the process of placing students in their appropriate environment. The federal guidelines for special education, IDEA, and the No Child Left Behind Act, require prolonged observation and data in order to even BEGIN the testing process on a student. A classroom teacher is left to collect the data while still trying to teach 25 other students in the classroom as well.

Another issue that has become increasingly familiar can be attributed to budget cuts. There are fewer school psychologists on staff, thus the actual testing process once a child has been referred is slowed. When there are 5 psychologists in a district of 23,000 students…..there is no way to keep up.

A third hindrance to appropriate placement of students does come from the state level, however it is due to NCLB. LRE is known as the Least Restrictive Environment, which is how every student served in special education is to be served….in THEIR lease restrictive environment. Now, here comes the issue. NCLB mandates that each system and school has a specific percentage of their special education students served in the general classroom setting (this could be co-taught, collaborative, or consult…but the child is in the same class as all of his or her peers). When systems go above the dictated LRE, they are dinged by the state. So, what does this mean? It means special educators are being told that their students need to be in a general classroom (even if the IEP committee truly feels that a small group or separate setting is most appropriate for that student). So the general classrooms are having to work with students who could AND should be placed in a different setting…all because the state has to show some number for NCLB.

My biggest question….if an IEP is an INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PLAN, meaning it is specific to the student, why does the state and federal government dictate the child’s placement without actually knowing the child. The whole premise of an IEP is completely lost at that point. These are several of the reasons teachers and classes have to deal with students such as the one you described!

Jordan Kohanim

May 18th, 2011
7:30 am


Thank you so much for posting this! It is such an important issue. I think it also needs to be recognized that these children are also victims themselves. I agree with honeyfern, in that the RtI process is cumbersome and doesn’t help the student quickly enough. In the meantime, severely emotionally disturbed children sit in class and are miserable; the children surrounding this child are miserable, and even the most skilled teacher has difficulty dealing with the situation.

I know that the new systems (RtI being one of them) were designed to help the MOST needy children get services while preventing educators from labeling too many children as special-needs. At the same time, creating this overly complicated, elongated process has forced many classrooms into holding zones for students who really can not function in a regular classroom. The flip side of the same coin is that there are quite a few parents out there who use these systems as excuse-makers for regular kid-behavior. For example, it is difficult for a child to learn an organizational system or a study schedule if they are shielded from the impacts of their actions by parents who demand special treatment by schools.

If a student has no deadlines, can not receive zeros for work that is not done, and is allowed to take tests over and over until the material is memorized enough to create a passing grade, how will this student learning coping mechanisms that will make him/her successful in life? As an adult with ADHD, I recognize the need for overcoming the obstacles of distraction and hyperactivity through routine and organization.

While we struggle with the legality issues of 504/SST/RtI, students are losing out. It will come to a point of no return, and my biggest fear is that teacher&mom is right. As we have fewer and fewer resources to meet the needs of these students, more and more parents will demand these services. What will we do then?

Jordan Kohanim

May 18th, 2011
7:36 am

Chris Murphy-

Sorry! Educations loves it acronyms and jargon.
RtI- Response to Intervention
SST- Student Support Team
504- Medical Needs in classroom (this can include anything from a broken arm to seizure disorders and has recently encompassed ADD/ADHD)
IEP/EIP- Individualized Education Plan – this is the final step: special education
EBD- Emotionally, Behvaiorally Disturbed
ODD- Oppositional Defiant Disorder- a clinical diagnosis: a pattern of disobedient, hostile, and defiant behavior toward authority figures.

The last one is particularly tricky because it basically dictates that the classroom teacher can not confront a child who is disrupting the classroom.

Anonymous Teacher

May 18th, 2011
7:50 am

It’s not just the EBD students. I had 3 non-EBD students at the beginning of the year who were 6th grade gang members. They disrupted class EVERY single day by yelling out profanity, throwing books chairs, using all kinds of profanity, and what not. I recognized them for what they were pretty quickly, made sure my other students were sitting far away from them, and had to endure their ridiculousness for the entire first quarter until two of them were sent to alternative school. (One brought a gun to school and one decided to antagonize the school SRO.) One later returned to school in the year, but was expelled for the second time in the same school year for threatening to “cut” an entire classroom of students. The remaining thug quieted down pretty quickly once his comrades were shipped out and he moved around mid year.

During the second week of school, I contacted my PAGE attorney about these students. I then contacted the administration and the parents of these children with my concerns. I let the administration know that if I were physically harmed by the actions of these students, then I would sue the school. Also, if any one my other students were physically harmed by the actions of these students, then I would sue the school due to “emotional distress.” I made sure I let them know that I had already contacted PAGE about my intentions and waved around my PAGE notebook while doing all of this. Thank goodness, my administration figured out that I wasn’t kidding and backed me up every single time I threw these kids out of class. Unfortunately for me, I was put on “the list” of teachers for them to watch.

There is no good reason that a teacher should have to endure garbage like this in their classroom. I strongly encourage parents who have children in classes like this to call the principal to complain about disruptive behavior on the parts of students. If enough parents complain, then something actually will be done.

East Cobb Parent

May 18th, 2011
8:00 am

My daughter witnessed a fellow student grab a female student and repeatedly punched her in the face. It took several teachers and the janitor to remove the male student. This was not the first incident, but the school did finally remove him. He got a teacher at home for the rest of his ES years. I’ve seen a child with ODD pull down a girls pants and nothing was done because “he doesn’t realize what he did was wrong”. BTW, his parents are attorneys. The school did not even notify the parents. I feel for the kids that truly have issues that need to be addressed, but lackadaisical attitude of parents is to blame for much. And those children do not belong in a classroom with others. Unfortunately our laws do not allow protection for the those not labeled. This is another reason that parents, with the means, remove their kids from public school. My daughter’s school states they do not have the means to address special needs.

Fairfax Educator

May 18th, 2011
8:01 am

I just moved to Virginia from Lawrenceville last summer. (Taught in Dekalb and Gwinnett Counties). I have been going through the same thing since March. He has destroyed a resource classroom, my classroom (last week), and the school has had to go into lock down mode while he is on his rampage. Last week, it lasted over an hr. My students’ world has been turned upside down. There is always something that takes place during the morning (he has been reduced to half days) that will cause me to have to remove my students from the classroom. He has punched, kicked, and bitten other adults..(same for me minus the biting). Occassionally, the police have to be called. Last week, (after breaking a window of the school) the officer came up right as the child threw a medium to large sized rock at me. The catch to all of this…he is 6. I teach kindergarten. He was suspended for 3 days. The morning after this incident, one of my students kept getting up to look out of the door. After the 3rd or 4th time, I asked him who was he looking for. He looked afraid to answer and shrugged his shoulders. I then asked, “Are you looking for “M”?” He nodded yes. I reassured him that he was NOT coming to school that day.

I would be here all day typing up the incidences that have taken place…or even the challenges that we have faced in dealing with this.


May 18th, 2011
8:01 am

My older daughter had a child fitting this description in her first grade class. As a kindergartener, he was unable, or unwilling, to communicate with words, instead screaming, hitting, throwing furniture, flinging himself around the classroom and trying to escape, which led to the entire class being locked into their classroom (fire codes or no) for the entire year. He ran the gamut of APS’ services in that first year and was placed back in the classroom for first grade pending a pro bono evaluation by an Emory psych team.

The first day, he terrified the other students by hitting one with a chair and screaming. For some reason, my daughter approached him and he responded positively to her. He’d do what she asked him to do even while he beat up any other child who approached her. The teacher, understandably, left him to my daughter so that she could teach the other children in the class.

I knew nothing of this until 6 or 7 weeks into the term, when the head of Emory’s pediatric psychiatric group called me to get permission to film my daughter and explained the situation. No one from the school had asked me whether I thought it was a good idea to consign my six year old to be the caretaker of a violent child, to allow her to be kept away from all of her other classmates or to sacrifice her learning to classroom peace. Ultimately, this child – whom the Emory doc told me had been recommended for a lobotomy as he was thought to be incapable of any kind of higher thinking – did his math and spelling to please my daughter and his course of treatment was changed, which is a wonderful thing.

However, it should never have been done without my husband’s and my knowledge and consent, and one child should not have been used by the teacher to facilitate classroom discipline. APS knew this, and the teacher and principal acknowledged to me that they didn’t ask me because they were afraid I’d say no and the arrangement was good for everyone except my daughter.

I had this happen to my younger daughter, more seriously, when a disturbed middle school classmate became fixated on her and made up a “kill list” of her friends (of whom he was jealous), a map of the school showing where he planned to place pipe bombs and told her that, just before he blew up the school, he would slit her throat and drink her blood so they could be together forever. The kids repeatedly told their teachers of these threats but the teachers told them to write them all down (torture for a middle schooler) and send them to the principal. No one told me until my child broke down in tears and told me she was too afraid to go to school at which point I raised hell and my daughter was retaliated against by the school for being the whistleblower. The disturbed kid’s mother is a DeKalb school psychologist and his dad a personal injury attorney who had combined to game the system and threaten lawsuits against anyone who filed complaints, effectively leaving the classmates to live with the threats of this kid.

There are no good answers to these situations. While the parent side of me murmurs “There but for the grace of God…”, the mom side shouts “Not my kid’s job to deal with!” Ultimately, APS came down on the side of the disruptive kids as they figured that it would be too expensive to remove them and I would deal with my own problems, which I did by removing my daughters from the system and spending their college money on middle and high school. But every other kid left behind had to live with the threat posed by these sorts of unstable, dangerous student, as did every teacher.

It’s an unsustainable situation.

Jovan Miles

May 18th, 2011
8:04 am

I work in 2 schools that primarily serve students who have been diagnosed (sometimes incorrectly) as EBD and/or SEBD.

Many of these students truly require talk therapy with a trained professional who can get to the root cause of the students’ problems to even begin to address their needs. However, typically what happens is that these students are medicated and sent right back to school.

The medication often put these kids to sleep for hours when the dosage is too high…or does nothing at all if the dosage is too low. Often, these students will forget to take their meds and any progress they’ve made as a result of the meds is immediately lost.

The students need to learn coping mechanisms and to see their negative behaviors as harming to others…but you can’t get those kinds of results with medication….those kinds of results are derived from therapy.

Talk therapy requires lots of money, time, and individualized attention…three things that public education has in an increasingly shorter supply every year.

We can help these kids…and I do believe lots of them can be mainstreamed effectively…but if we’re not willing to provide them with the solution that will be best for the students in the long term we’re just going to see more kids end up in these classes and special schools.

NY Teaching Vet

May 18th, 2011
8:08 am

When I started teaching, the classroom teacher’s professional opinion counted for something. I could refer a student directly for testing (of whatever kind), and we had a school psychologist on staff for a school of under 400 students. The psychologist had 30 calendar days to complete testing, hold a meeting with staff and parents to discuss results, and that committee would either identify the child as Sped or not. If identified, the child received services immediately. If the disruptive child was NOT identified as Sped, then appropriate disciplinary measures were taken, and the student was immediately removed from the general classroom setting when outbursts occured. Since it was at the Elementary level, parents were called to come pick up their disruptive child. Yes, I had to collect a large amount of data quickly. No, there was not an extremely high percentage of our students identified as Sped. Yes, I’m still teaching. Do I think that process would still work? You bet! But my hands are tied….

Jordan Kohanim

May 18th, 2011
8:09 am


“It’s an unsustainable situation.”

Precisely. I have a feeling that fear of lawsuit fueled many of the decisions made by the educators surrounding your daughter. It is unjust and you have every right to be angry.

At the same time, due to poorly designed laws, your school’s fear of lawsuit and ever-decreasing resource pool prevents them from putting their foot down when it comes to these children.

If said child is refused education in an LRE (least restrictive environment), his parents could sue the school. Proving that his needs are not being met in a typical classroom, the least of all restrictive environments, is being made more difficult. Pairing him with a “peer mentor” is actually one of recommendations of the RtI process. I don’t think it should have been done to the extent that it was in the situation you describe, but I know for a fact that the method you describe is employed in many,many other schools.

Double Zero Eight

May 18th, 2011
8:12 am

@ Dr NO
I am with you on this one.

Ana Hale

May 18th, 2011
8:20 am

I love teaching and I love working with students who have disabilities such as severe behavior disorders; however, it is a taxing, exhausting job with little support and fewer resources. The vicitims in situations such as you bring up are the students and the teachers (thanks for acknowledging both), but as the adult responsible for all the students in the classroom, the teacher is often the whipping boy in such situations. The parents blame the teacher for their student’s disrupted learning and the administrators say it’s the teacher’s responsibility to maintain control and order in the classroom, when the teacher is limited as to the strategies her or she can utilize while balancing the primary goal of teaching with disciplining one child.

We need more support from BOTH administrators and parents. When I call a parent about poor behavior, I’m often (almost always) met with indifference or hostility. I can understand that parents don’t enjoy phone calls from the school reporting the poor behavior of their student, but it’s not the teacher’s fault or the other students’ faults when a child acts out. Administrators need to work with teachers to set a standard of student accountability to which all students are held responsible.


May 18th, 2011
8:22 am

@APS Teacher: I feel for you! And what you say about administrators not only NOT supporting, but actually punishing teachers for reporting these behaviors ansd/or sending them to the principal…happens! My daughter-in-law has experienced exactly what you described and her principal is on a mission to demonstrate that SHE is inadequate! Somehow prinicpals are being rewarded for incorporating these kids into the system and keeping the fact that it does not work- quiet…there is some feedback mechanism that prinicipals are responding to to make sure this huge problem is covered up. Where the heck has common sense gone??? Not all “special” kids should be excluded from classrooms-(Lord knows there are enough examples of children being labelled incorrectly or put into special ed because they didn’t do their work, etc- but disruptive, dangerous, volatile children should be removed…immediately and remain gone until it can be proven that they are no longer a threat.

Teacher Reader

May 18th, 2011
8:24 am

The bottom line is that kids with any kind of special needs have more rights than students who come to school to learn and have no issues.

Kids who are labeled with some special ed term or are not, because parents refuse to have them tested and it takes so long for a school to be able to get a disruptive child tested have more rights. They can throw books, cuss, throw chairs, hit children, and do so many inappropriate violent things, that I do not think are appropriate for children to see, be apart of, or witness.

Maybe it’s time for parents of regular ed children to sue schools for their children having to be in class with children like this and have their education disrupted. Suing schools is how the children with special needs have all of the rights that they have, and it seems to me that in many instances, especially when it comes to children with violent tendencies, that the regular education student was not thought of at all.

Jordan Kohanim

May 18th, 2011
8:32 am

Last comment before I have to teach.

TeacherReader, you said, “Maybe it’s time for parents of regular ed children to sue schools for their children having to be in class with children like this and have their education disrupted. ”

That scares me, because I fear that it would be turned around and blamed on the classroom teacher. I can almost hear an administrator saying, “Well, if you differentiated more, planned better, communicated more, managed your classroom more efficiently, etc, you would be able to handle this and these parents wouldn’t sue us…”

Ok–off to teach!

HS Public Teacher

May 18th, 2011
8:33 am

As an experienced teacher, I have seen this too often. A child or children can totally disrupt and derail a single class. Regardless of classroom management strategies, sometimes there is little a teacher can do.

A teacher is told NEVER to touch a child. NEVER to speak down to a child. NEVER to be rude to a child. NEVER to….. Can you imagine in the story told in this blog if the mom had to say in a soft voice, “Little Johnny please return my baby stroller” as she runs down the street after that monster?

And, the teacher is always at fault. The teacher will be blamed for any injury to a disruptive child, other children, or even the school property. In the story in this blog, was the mother responsible because that monster swipped her stroller?

Finally, the mother of the disruptive child will almost without exception blame the teacher for not treating their offspring properly. It is just a no-win situation for the teacher.

If the teacher asks for any help at all from the administration, their reaction will always be that this teacher just cannot do her job. They will not investigate. They will not even consider that there are disruptive kids in her room. They immediately fault the teacher.

What makes me the most angry as a teacher is how this impacts the other students in the classroom. While the teacher is forced to deal with the disruptions time after time, those students are missing out on lessons.

I just cannot understand why this type of issue is ignored.

Lastly, I want to point out that this issue is unique to PUBLIC schools. Private schools would never put up with this – they just kick out the kid.

Teacher Reader

May 18th, 2011
8:41 am

Principals label teachers who “can’t handle” these disruptive children as inadequate, because they are labeled that from the district heads if they suspend too many children or get too many parent complaints.

@ philosopher I agree that there are some children who have no problems being incorporated into the regular education classroom, without a problem and thrive there. This is not what we are talking about though. These kids usually have had violent behavior beginning in early grades-yes kindergarten-and other children should not have to come to school and worry about how this child is going to react, what will set a child like this off, or for their own safety. A child like this takes away the learning of the remainder of the class. The other children have the same rights as the child with severe behavior issues, and too often this is forgotten.


May 18th, 2011
8:42 am

I do feel for the parents of students who behave in this way. The family of the first grade child I mentioned was utterly confused, distraught, trying to help and so grateful to my daughter for showing that their child had some ability to think and communicate positively. I felt like a grinch to be angry that she had been used as she had, but it didn’t change my conviction that “peer mentors” should be willing and their parents informed. As for the second boy, his parents were all too aware of his behavior – he had an IEP outlining his violence and he’d been thrown out of every afterschool program in the neighborhood, so he had to stay home alone in the afternoon (and research pipe bomb making on line). His mother would drive him by our house so he could look in my daughter’s windows, and his father threatened us with a lawsuit for complaining until he found out that we had a note he’d written to my daughter, his pipe bomb schematic and one of his “kill lists”, at which point the father threatened suit against APS.

Those are the kinds of parents who deny their child the help he needs and who deny other children the safe place they need for education. It is inconceivable that this kind of behavior would be permitted in any other professional environment, but because it is ‘only kids’ and very expensive to ameliorate, teachers and students are forced to deal with it every day, and untold billions of education dollars are wasted due to the inability of teachers to teach and other kids to learn.

I believe that this second type of parent – the ones in denial, who refuse to cooperate, who demand special treatement – should be financially penalized. Tax exemptions for school taxes or for dependent deductions should be cancelled as, through their actions, they are costing everyone more. If they do not pay taxes, they should lose access for themselves to public benefits. These are the parents who will do what is easiest, which is to leave the problem to someone else. It is no longer easiest when they must pay themselves. Sadly, this is the only way that many of them will comply.

good for kids

May 18th, 2011
8:53 am

This is a very important topic. Thanks for posting.

Jordan Kohanim, In what system does a diagnosis of ODD prevent a teacher from confronting a disruptive child in the classroom? That is a grave misuse of the diagnosis. While it is helpful to avoid confrontations when possible with these power-hungry kids (pick your battles, use the language of choice, etc), the diagnosis is not a reason to permit serious misbehavior at the expense of the other students and learning. NUTS. People with too little information, skills and common sense are making these decisions, I guess.

I agree with others who state that the RTI process is very cumbersome when dealing with any serious problem (learning or behavioral) because it takes too long to get help and puts the onus on teachers (once again) to provide all the interventions at each level while teaching ever increasing numbers of children. And, as others have stated, even if they get through the first part of the process and are recommended for testing, the waiting lists are long to get testing from a school psychologist. Then, some of them won’t qualify for EBD (emotionally behaviorally disturbed). The “socially maladjusted” ones just come on back to regular class where the teacher may not possess the skills to address the maladjustment and certainly doesn’t have the time or the leeway on HOW she or he teaches to try to help.

The kids who need it most will likely never see an outside mental health professional. If they do, they are too often taken the route of psychotropic meds galore rather than someone trying to work through why they want to “cut their class” or create a “kill list.”

The lobotomy rec by Emory docs throws me (see above post by Shar). Really? That tells you a lot about where we stand in terms of treatment for kids.

Anonymous teacher- GOOD FOR YOU FOR STANDING UP FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR STUDENTS! The fact that you ended up on some list is ridiculous.


May 18th, 2011
9:02 am

I am retired with over 30 years experience. Because of my subject area, I taught every student in the school or (some years) schools. I realize that we are seeing more students with problems today than we were a few years ago, but I am still in a position to be a daily observer. Another situation I am seeing is parents who choose not to discipline and set boundaries for their children looking for a Learning Disability to match their child’s bad behavior. When they find one, they expect everyone associated with that child to treat him/her with “kid” gloves and not demand acceptable behavior.

One child I work with is a constant distraction-talking, jumping up and down, bothering other students even requiring another adult to sit with him. I am told that he can’t help it because he has a “disorder”, but, in church where he is not getting attention from other children, he sits quietly and is not a distraction. I don’t buy into the “he can’t help it” excuse when I see him sitting quietly in another situation. I am told that he has the same problems at school, but as yet, he has not been tested (parents’ choice).

I commend all the teachers who day in and day out deal with these students. In my school system we have alternative schools for all grade levels which helps some.

fulton spending and cuts

May 18th, 2011
9:03 am

Meanwhile, Fulton County is cutting the 200+ special ed parapros (and a few teachers) who were funded for a few years with federal money. Thus, some kids who need extra support to function at school will lose their assistance, and everyone will pay the price.
Yet, they are ready to spend $20 mill this year for new language arts textbook adoption. And who knows what is already spent and what positions will be added at Central Office, especially in the area of assessment.
Elementary Band and Orchestra ($7 million program) was cut last year; school psychologists were reduced by 25%, and IST’s, school counselors, and school social workers all took significant hits too.These are positions that are intended to help, in specific ways, with all of the problems described above.

But be sure you give the children more tests…

what if...

May 18th, 2011
9:05 am

When I enrolled my child in our tiny neighborhood public school I had sweet, fuzzy idealistic expectations for the education she would receive. We bought the house in the school district thinking we were making the best decision we knew–then public school reality set in. I am quite disgusted by the level of dysfunction when it comes to the rights of the non-disruptive, bright or average child. Was your child hurt, tormented, urinated on by one of these kids? Then YOUR child needs to switch classrooms. Was your child sexually harassed? You may need to explain to your child that the harasser has rights too.

Yes, hostage is the perfect word and it happens way more that you might think. There is a class or two in EVERY GRADE at our high-achieving elem. school who has these kids. How are the general ed kids supposed to learn? What are we sacrificing to placate these kids and parents? What if we protected the rights of the kids who were not only compliant, but willing participants in the learning process? These children are our future and they will be making decisions for us in the near future. Shouldn’t we want them to be well-equipped?

What if a classroom was allowed to progress without these disruptive and violent kids? IMO, this is the largest obstacle for our public school system today. We are sacrificing the needs of the many for the few. NCLB will be the death of us all.

HS Public Teacher

May 18th, 2011
9:08 am

@Anonymous Teacher – I think that “the list” that you are on is a list for the administration not to mess up. You stood up for yourself and they know that they cannot push yhour around.

I empathize

May 18th, 2011
9:15 am

I understand that there are a number of children who are special needs — whether labeled or not — that are included in general classrooms and are disruptive. However, I believe that there are a number of students, especially in higher grades, who have learned how to play the system and have parents (and administrators) who enable this behavior. These are the parents who are always defending their child’s behavior and always blaming the teacher. These students get little more than a smack on the hand and are sent back to the classroom to continue their abuse.

Sadly, there is often a domino effect. These disruptive students will eventually draw others to be disruptive. It’s not far fetched given that the other students see no consequences for bad behavior. It’s almost an “If you can’t beat them, join them” mentality.

Inman Park

May 18th, 2011
9:16 am

This is what happens when the “law” (in this case, federal law regarding the “rights” of disruptive and so called “special” children) intervenes in education. Judges know best, we all realize that. Nonetheless, local school systems, in an effort to conserve financial resources (save money), offer only the special services that are absolutely necessary, and then only after a tedious process of testing/meetings/more testing for obvious dysfunctional behavior. The feds pass laws without any regard to the costs, inlcuding emotional costs, to average abd bright children and their parents. My son was bullied in second grade (public school) by a much larger student who had already been “held back”, so that he was older/larger/meaner than any of the other boys. The school’s action? NOTHING. We ended up paying for ten years of private education. At least we had the means to do that; many families do not.

bob leblah

May 18th, 2011
9:23 am

Privatize! Privatize! A public school’s function is not to provide therapy to students. The first post on the page is absolutely heinous. How is that young girl not seeing a therapist every day and in a special school to help her out. We can then have specialized schools for that matter to deal with these types of kids. These “parents” don’t know how to parent…. and they raise little monsters that are getting bolder and bolder with less empathy every day. Unfortunately, for the most part, many of them are already ruined.

But Meh, the Teachers Union and lobbyists will never let this happen.


May 18th, 2011
9:28 am

While there are things that can be done (and we can all agree that there is a large difference between a child with some sort of ’special needs’ and a child who is disruptive because he can be, and nothing happens to him, so why not do it?), it is apparent that the schools do not want to do them – or can’t do them.
when a child is disruptive day after day, he or she should not be in the classroom. no matter the reason. but clearly that is not the case.
so, Maureen, what do you think? clearly you have some experience with something like this. Do you really think that the system we have in place is a) working b) doesn’t need to be changed?

The reality is that this is a problem that is SO MUCH MORE than the schools. That is clear. But obviously the schools do not have the resources to deal with this. We need incentives in our society that ensures that kids get what they need, but we certainly don’t have that. it goes far beyond the schools.
(so again, even if there was school choice, vouchers, everyone being forced to homeschool – whatever – it would not solve any of the problems that we are describing above).

South Cobb parent

May 18th, 2011
9:31 am

Very interesting discussion. All I have to add is that private school is not some sort of utopia. Perhaps not violence, but much misbehavior (graffiti, racial harassment, hazing, prescription medication distribution, stealing) and academic failure are tolerated because of the relationships the families have with the school as donors or alums and/or their influence in the community. If a scholarship kid misbehaves or fails, you’d better believe that’s the end of the line. But it is not the same standard for paying customers, whatever outsiders want to believe. Private schools don’t like to deliver any kind of bad news to the parents, but prefer to generate positive PR.

bob leblah

May 18th, 2011
9:34 am

@Shar – Thanks, I think that is the conclusion we all have to come to. Some parents should never be parents. No decision is easy, but we have to cut our losses on those kids at some point, as horrible as it sounds. You didn’t do anything wrong.

Even I, Mr. Conservative, would consider additional taxes if need be, to help with problem children by putting them in schools suitable for their problems. But we need to isolate them from well-behaved kids.


May 18th, 2011
9:37 am

inman park: we don’t have the means unless we move. we’re looking into homeschooling, and my kid(s) go to the best (or one of the best) schools in APS.

what if...

May 18th, 2011
9:39 am

@Science Teacher 671

You point out the parents of regular kids don’t make much noise. I have often heard that the teachers have no power to govern their classrooms, but if a parent complains about a disruptive student, well, that’s a call to action for the administration.

Should we (parents of gen ed students) be organizing ourselves better? Many parents are afraid to complain to the administration because they are afraid their students will be targeted.


May 18th, 2011
9:42 am

to what if….: we should be organizing better, but that won’t happen. and parents are coming together to put together charter schools – but look to not having anymore of them given the recent ruling (which I don’t altogether disagree with – but what incentive does a school system have for a charter school now? say no, nothing happens to you, and the school gets to keep the money).