Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Worcester, pay attention to emergency removals

I'd missed that the Telegram had covered Worcester's outlier status on emergency removals until this weekend.
Worcester accounted for almost 60 percent of all “emergency removal” procedures carried out at schools across the state two years ago. Emergency removals allow a school to effectively suspend for two days a student who has committed some offense and is deemed a danger or disruptive presence in his or her classroom and for whom there is no alternative in-school placement.

You can find the full report from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice here.
Since emergency removals don't require the same sorts of reporting, and, frankly, aren't being watched quite the same way, they become an easy out for getting a kid out without it becoming a suspension on the school and district tracking.
“Since being introduced ... the use of emergency removal has risen dramatically, from just 460 instances in 2014-15 to over 2,600 in 2016-17,” the report says. “This is cause for serious concern, as these emergency removals are intended for unusual circumstances, not as a general workaround for vital due-process protections.”
The study further says, for example, that just over half of those emergency removals in 2016-17 were used for an “incident of minor misbehavior,” which would seem to go against the intent of the practice.
There had been some question from those who watch such numbers as to what was happening with emergency removals across the state. Scott O'Connell wasn't able to get anyone on record from Boston and Springfield about why their numbers are not up--Boston Globe and MassLive, over to you--but Worcester was quick to chalk this all up as a misunderstanding:
“According to the school system, they were following the policy as they understood it,” he said, adding “it was a complete misread” of the law.
Mr. Pezzella acknowledged “the message from (the state’s education department) was somewhat misconstrued” by administrators in Worcester. “I think it was a misunderstanding of the intent of emergency removals.”
...but then defended it, anyway:
“It can be an effective tool,” Ms. Binienda said. “We’re just being very conscious not to use it when it’s not necessary.”
“Of all the ones I’ve seen, every one of them has been considered appropriate,” Mr. Pezzella said. “All it takes is one student to create upheaval in the classroom.”
Remember what was said above: that over half were for an incident of minor misbehavior.

And, continuing the discussion that Worcester refuses to have, the demographic discrepancies are outrageous:
In 2016-17, for instance, Worcester’s emergency removal rate for disabled students and Latino students was 9 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively, compared to just 2.7 percent for white students, according to state records.
The administration, however, is refusing all outside help, saying that they'll ask for it if their own findings suggest they need it.
The numbers do.

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