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When Special-Needs Students Act Out
When Special-Needs Students Act Out

AIR DATE: July 15, 2013


Robert Soncini, parent

Greg Ivie, Children's Attorneys Project, Lead Attorney, Special Education Unit, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada

Dr. Michael George, Director, Centennial School at Lehigh University

BY MARIE ANDRUSEWICZ -- Educators advocate for including special needs students as much as possible into regular classrooms -- it helps them academically and in their social development.

But a recent incident at Conners Elementary School shows that sometimes this mainstreaming has unfortunate consequences. In this case, one family says their daughter was punched and threatened with scissors by a special-needs classmate.

Robert Soncini first learned his daughter was experiencing these issues when he and his then wife were called in for a meeting with the teacher.

“They had said that that day she was punched in the stomach by this child and after talking with the teacher a little more we found out this was going on continuously in the classroom to the point that it was out-of-control excessive,” says Soncini.

According to Soncini, the teacher said the school was doing everything they could and asked for patience. She said she couldn’t tell the parents specifically what course of action they were taking in working to resolve the issue, since she was limited by privacy laws including the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Soncini says they then took their concerns to the principal and assistant principal. When that didn’t get results they went to the academic manager. Soncini eventually told his story at a public meeting attended by the superintendent.

When all entreaties to the school were unsuccessful, the parents sought a restraining order against the 8-year-old special needs student.

Soncini says he’s “heartbroken” about what his daughter had to experience.

“She loves going to school,” he says, “So for her to say I don’t want to go to school, I don’t want to learn – it’s devastating.”

After an end-of-year meeting with the associate superintendent in which he was told that the special-needs student “would not be a problem next year,” Soncini has dissolved the restraining order.

    comments powered by Disqus
    I have no issues with special needs kids that are even tempered and manageable allowed to be in the same class room with normal kids. Its a good idea. However, when the school district is forcibly sneaking in kids that they know are violently psychotic, exposing and jeopardize the safety of my kid,I draw the line. I don't give a dam about the rights of some psycho kid! They are nothing but a ticking time bombs! Where are the rights my kid? This BS of main streaming is a future set up for these mentally psychotic kids to come back to school with a weapon and inflict real deadly harm to other kids or even teachers. Which they are obviously not equipped to handle them at all. Its blatant move from the CCSD which is quietly doing this to avoid some kind of law suit on behalf of these psycho kids. Until the day comes when the feces hits the fan(and it will),they will continue with the status quo. Keep in mind, To generalize all kids with special needs is nonsense. You have ones that deserve to be in a normal setting and there are some that should not be mixed at all.I do feel sorry for these disturbed kids but how is that my kids problem? Why should my kid be in constant fear of them?
    Carlos Jul 17, 2013 17:13:13 PM
    Carlos, your hate speech is scary. You sound psychotic and should probably not be "mainstreamed" with the rest of us "normal" people. Close your mouth and open a book. The only thing that fixes ignorance is education.
    WendyJul 18, 2013 08:23:15 AM
    You repeatedly misuse the term "mainstreaming." Mainstreaming was the term used for the practice in the 90's which permitted students with disabilities to participate in the classroom as they were able: in other words, they could be put out. The new term is "Inclusion" and the fact that the teacher in the general education couldn't handle the problem is also an indication of the lack of leadership from the principal. She should be fired.
    Jerry WebsterJul 17, 2013 12:01:22 PM
    This is why teachers and special education staff need to be trained to assist child. The IEP must have information about child's needs and supports for him or her are so important. Whether it is a full time aide, trained about the disability and how it affects this child (each person is different), or OT for sensory issues, or social worker. Each help teach the child how to deal with challenges they face individually or in a group setting. Teamwork.
    Monica WhartonJul 16, 2013 12:32:08 PM
    In regards to my daughter's situation that was discussed I would like to add it was not handled on our part as parents to do this only because the child was special needs. In fact the special needs part isn't the reason behind our action in protecting our child it was the matter that this child was putting our daughter and 23 other children in the classroom in danger. Whether the child causing harm to others is special needs or not this type of behavior toward others is unacceptable. One of my main concerns is that the district preaches against bullying supposedly on their website and sending flyers home with my daughter and yet they don't practice what they preach in keeping the children accountable in their actions of bullying. I will state in the later part of the year it had progressed into the problems with the initial special needs child from being allowed to act out like this and now has lowered the standards and expectations of the other children for them to act out and bully. Another other child that started to bully was also getting away with it and though most of it was verbal and not physical it has been thrown under a rug. It is all cases not just special needs.
    Sara SonciniJul 15, 2013 12:32:21 PM
    I think that many people do not understand that kids with special needs who also have behavior problems do not necessarily act out for the same reasons as typical children with behavior problems. As a result, many of the corrective actions that are taken for typical children do not necessarily work for special needs children. There are behavioral specialists who know how to work with special needs children individually, but my impression is that there are not enough of them to go around.
    SusanJul 15, 2013 16:16:09 PM
    Unfortunately, if the teacher isn't trained and the resources aren't available, the staff may attempt ineffective methods to correct the situation. Kids with special needs and behavior problems can be managed correctly. If they aren't being managed correctly, it's not the fault of the children or their parents. It may seem fair and reasonable to hold all children to the same standard, however, it's hard to do this when they do not necessarily respond to the same methods that are used to correct the behavior of typical children. Some of the children require a 1 to 1 ratio in addition to staff with specialized training. Unfortunately resources are very tight, and I'm under the impression that difficult decisions are being made every day. I think it's very important to not blame or demonize these children. They have medical conditions which are obstacles to typical behavior. They need to be helped. If we blame these children, we are effectively offloading the responsibility onto defenseless kids. The responsibility lies with all of us, as a community.
    SusanJul 15, 2013 16:27:43 PM
    Hi Sara Soncini, I was so happy to hear that I wasn't the only one going through this very same situation with my daughter in her school. Its very identical. I was shocked to hear from my wife that volunteered on class outing , where she witnessed a psychotic kid about 7 or year threating other kids in the class with violence. My wife stepped in and warned him not to hurt anyone. He responded with "Go F your self" ! This is a little kid with some major Psyc issues. I realized and placed 2 and 2 together when I remember seeing a kid in my daughters class at the end of each day with a display of emotional problems. Everyday this kids looks like he was crying all day. I interview my daughter and asked about this boy and she confirmed that he has daily disruptive outburst 2-3 times every single day of every week. Using very foul language and treats of violence. Mind you when I found out it was already towards the end of the school year. I was upset and shocked that the school would allow such a kid with major with out notifying the parents. I called and got nowhere with the principal. I was then directed to the Clark Co school district where I was met with more BS nonsense.
    CarlosJul 17, 2013 16:45:39 PM
    One thing that I didn't hear anyone say: Not all children with special needs in contained classrooms are aggressive or violent. Many kids with special needs are in the contained classrooms because they need a higher level of assistance to complete typical school related tasks. They may need additional supervision for safety reasons, not because they are aggressive but because they are more vulnerable. I am concerned that parents of typical children focus only on removing disruptive children from the mainstream environment because they want to protect their own children. They may forget or not care that if a disruptive child is moved, that child and the accompanying issues will need to be addressed in the next environment. I believe that we need to take care to avoid demonizing these children, and do whatever it takes to educate and support all children.
    SusanJul 15, 2013 10:39:02 AM
    Ironic: I had hoped to get online but couldn't get through. I am currently preparing a teacher training to be presented through CCEA to address inclusion of children in a special education classroom. The real failure is a failure of leadership at the legislature: they fail to provide the funding needed to provide teacher. Because an extra endorsement is required, we have the problem of too few qualified teachers in autism classrooms.
    Jerry WebsterJul 15, 2013 09:51:09 AM
    This is another instance of Nevada providing education on the cheap. The state's and CCSD school district answers are the same: dump it on the teachers to deal with. It hurts other children? Oh, well.
    teacherJul 15, 2013 09:43:46 AM
    Amargosa School in Nye County had a very similar situation. Several years ago, an autistic student injured two teachers. Nothing was done until one of those teachers threatened legal action against the district. At that point the student was transferred to Pahrump, 60 miles away, to a self contained classroom with a specially trained teacher. There the child thrived.
    C JohnsonJul 15, 2013 09:39:37 AM
    And teachers are going to be evaluated halfway on "student achievement"? I've had classes with many special ed students. No, you get no training, and it wouldn't help, anyway.
    teacherJul 15, 2013 09:25:49 AM
    Please thank your guests for bringing this situation to light. I guarantee it is not the only such situation, by a long shot, in this district. You can't "train" a teacher to deal with a chronically dangerous or impossible situation. Why is the "least restrictive environment" one where the child is endangering others? It is damned if you do, damned if you don't for the school district. Political correctness coupled with a poor legal system (of excessive suing) has made this country go crazy. Common sense is gone. I pray yearly that my special ed students will "only" be disruptive, but not dangerous.
    teacherJul 15, 2013 09:21:31 AM
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