What Are the Consequences of Playground Misbehavior?

Here is the evidence presented from "reflection sheets" pertaining to episodes of misconduct by various Plummer-Motz students, while playing on the town-owned playground that has been informally annexed by the school.

DateActionConsequences
03/20/03Enrolled student punches someone3 recess times out
11/11/02Enrolled student "speaks rudely" to an adult1 recess time out
01/28/03Enrolled student brings a knife to school, lies about it3 recess times out, written apology
02/26/03Enrolled student throws someone down1 recess time out
12/13/02Enrolled student hits someone on the head1 recess time out
12/20/02Enrolled student kicks someone3 recess times out
11/25/02Enrolled student threatens to kill another child2 recess times out, informal risk assessment
12/18/02Enrolled student hits someone on the head2 or 3 recess times out
11/24/03Enrolled student uses "bad words"2 recess times out
01/??/03Enrolled student pushes another child1 recess time out
01/??/04Enrolled student pushes and punches another child1 recess time out
09/24/03Enrolled student throws rocks at another child1 recess time out
01/??/04Enrolled student kicks another child1 recess time out, parents agrees to a referral
01/??/04Enrolled student kicks another child1 recess time out
03/??/03Enrolled student pulls another child's neckallow mother to come during recess
09/25/033 enrolled students bully Jan Rankowski, an autistic homeschooled boy whose Service Plan includes daytime playground use, during school hours, for exercise, recreation and social skills development

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School principal finds "evidence of mutual wrongdoing," but no "reflection sheets" are filed for the three enrolled boys.

School principal orders her staff to closely observe Jan, take notes, watch what he does and who he plays with; with explicit instructions "don't tell Mom." Teachers follow him closely, carrying clipboards and taking notes. The bullying subsides, but the surveillance continues. Although surveillance increases in intensity, a majority of the daily reports indicate that Jan is playing without incident. However, several incidents are documented of his expressions of anger towards school staff, as he realizes that he is being scrutinized. School staff describe several incidents in which they fail to communicate in a manner appropriate to an autistic child, or to allow him the time he needs to respond. In one instance, Jan is characterized as "disrespectful" for making the true statement to a staff member, "You're spying on me." In another, Jan is characterized as "swearing" when he says, "You're annoying me."

On 11/07/03, in spite of the absence of evidence of any harm done to any individual, Jan is suspended from using the playground. The school principal states that she fears he poses an "emotional threat" to enrolled students. School staff do not consult two years' worth of professional behavioral and educational evaluations, which have been provided to the district by the parents, requesting instead that a functional behavioral analysis be conducted by personnel of their own choosing. The District's consultants include Bancroft Neurohealth, a service provider known for its use of restraints and aversive techniques to forcibly control the behavior of autistic children and adults. The District's written request does not indicate that such an evaluation is a requirement for continued use of the public playground; rather, it is presented as an option. Parents do not authorize an evaluation, choosing instead to refer the district to the existing evaluations, which address Jan's communicative and behavioral development, and to await notice from the school of a scheduled meeting date.

Several weeks later, at the request of the Superintendent of Schools, a police officer visits the family, without informing his superiors or colleagues, and informs the father that he will be subject to arrest for trespassing should he attempt to use the town-owned playground during school hours, and that their son could then be taken into protective custody.

to be continued

August-September 2004

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