School bullying: A former sub’s observations in Lorain’s public schools circa 2004-2007

During the past week, a news story caught my attention.  Perhaps you’ve seen the news story, too.  If not, here’s a Plain Dealer article written by Peter Krouse of a Croatian immigrant’s family who is suing the school district in Mentor over the constant bullying of their daughter, a high school student.  She committed suicide last year.  Allegedly her ethnicity, such as the foreign accent she spoke with, was among the things the other students gave her grief over.

The school district in Mentor says that they will mount a vigorous defense in court.

I can’t think of any circumstances paralleling her story from my own childhood experiences.  Oh, certainly there was bullying, and I suffered no small amount of bullying myself while riding the school bus each day, but that bullying was always of older kids picking on younger kids, with the bus driver turning a blind eye to it all because he’d rather not deal with it.  We were a homogeneous student population, all Caucasian, all speaking with the same Midwestern accent.  In high school, when we’d host foreign exchange students (mostly from Europe, but there was one from Brazil, one from Jamaica, and one from Mexico), we thought they were way cool and we enjoyed it if we were in the same social circles they were.  We were charmed by their foreign accents.

There is often an ethnic component to the bullying in Lorain schools, so it seems that it’s a trait Lorain shares with Mentor.

The first time I was told about bullying rooted in ethnicity was during my 2002 campaign for state rep.  I was meeting voters door-to-door in Lorain when a white man told me he was seriously thinking about forking over the money to send his teenage boys to Lorain Catholic High School because a gang of black boys at Lorain Southview would sometimes beat up his sons, and he didn’t think the district was taking appropriate action after it had been reported to school officials.  I think I said some nonsensical response to the man because I really knew nothing about such rumors.  Lorain Catholic, which had been on the ropes for quite some time, finally closed it’s doors permanently two years later.

I started working as a substitute teacher in Lorain’s public schools in early 2004.  I worked my last sub assignment in early 2007.  I was invited to sub the following school year, but I declined to do so.  Between March 2005 and February 2006, I did no subbing, as I was a full-time English teacher in South Korea.

Since my last sub assignment in 2007, several new school buildings have opened in Lorain while many old ones closed.  Just for clarification purposes, I’ve only worked in two of the new schools, namely Frank Jacinto Elementary and General Johnnie Wilson Middle.  Any other Lorain schools I mention besides these two are the old schools.

Also, since my last sub assignment, Dr. Atkinson replaced Dr. Morgan as superintendent, so I’m certain the culture within the school district has changed to reflect the change made at the top.

I imagine the Croatian immigrant girl would not have attempted physical retaliation in order to protect herself, as I would have done on occasions where I was strong enough to do so.  I imagine she wouldn’t have anywhere to flee to, as I did when my antagonist was too strong for me to take on.  She was probably too intimidated to verbally confront her antagonists.  If she mustered the courage to report to someone in authority about the problem only to discover that not enough intervention was forthcoming to bring the matter to a halt, I would imagine she could only have resorted to depression, retreating from the outside world, crying miserably about the plight she found herself in that she could not find a way out of.  Wouldn’t that be how a normal person would respond under such circumstances?

Should schools be held accountable for bullying? Is it the school’s fault that a child turns out to be a bully?  Schools don’t cause bullies to materialize, do they? Doesn’t the child spend more time at home during the year than in school, thereby placing the burden for alleviating the bullying behavior squarely on the shoulders of the bully’s parents?  Don’t parents ultimately, under the law, have to be held accountable for the misdeeds of their children while they are still minors?  What if the victim and the victim’s family don’t do enough (what is enough?) to call attention to the problem, or even report the problem in the first place?  Shouldn’t the victim disclose to the parents who the tormentors are, and then, shouldn’t the victim’s parents seek out the parents of the bullies to confront them directly about the problem, and, if the problem persists, obtain restraining orders from a court, or press criminal charges against the families of the bullies?  Shouldn’t the victim’s family sue the parents of all the bullies instead of the school?    Couldn’t the victim’s parents have enrolled their child in some other educational setting, such as a private school, or home school, to escape all that bullying?  Did the school have any input into the student’s decision to commit suicide?  Can the school staff be omnipresent to witness every cruel act perpetrated by one student upon another?  Are the majority of school staffers capable of modifying such complex and chronic bullying misbehavior when they are not social workers, or psychologists?  Can school districts afford to hire more school psychologists than are mandated?  Should the state government burden schools with more beefed-up, but unfunded, mandates?

Despite the options available to the parents of the victim, and despite the accountability expected from the parents of the bully, the school does bear a lot of responsibility if the location where the bullying takes place is school.

If the bullying occurred at the neighborhood playground, and the parents of the bully live just down the street, then the bullying does need to be addressed between the victim’s parents and the bully’s parents, with police reports and restraining orders following if the problem persists.

But the bullying is occurring at the school, and, unless the school wants to encourage parents to accompany their child throughout the school day, from class to class, for the child’s protection, (might as well home school, if the parents have that much time available to them), the school has to take action against the bullies when the bullying is reported, and verified through observation (parents better not cry wolf) or other supporting evidence.

If the victim, as reported, really did get pushed down the stairs, it should be very easy to substantiate a case of bullying, and the school should proactively put an end to the mistreatment, and, most definitely, contact the bully’s parents, put much of the onus on the parents to take corrective action (the school isn’t absolved of responsibility even after much of the onus has been shifted), and involve the bully’s parents until the matter is resolved once and for all.

As for enrolling the victim elsewhere, the public school is the public’s school, and the public should reasonably expect that the public can make use of the school in helping educate their children in a setting that doesn’t endanger their children.  If the public school can’t meet that expectation, then the public doesn’t get much use out of the public’s school.  Further, if it is determined that the public school can’t stop the bullying, and the only way to protect the victim from ongoing bullying is enrolling the victim in another school, then the public school should foot the bill for that placement, as they had an obligation to that victim’s family that they cannot just wash their hands of.

Dealing with bullying is a task that schools should tackle every day.  No, it doesn’t replace education as the primary objective of the school, but if bullying takes place every day somewhere in the school district, then the school district should have the mindset that they will not let a single school day go by without addressing the problem of bullying.  Even if bullying doesn’t happen every day in the school district, there should be no days that the district doesn’t work on prevention, and there should be no days that the district isn’t prepared to act upon instances of bullying.

It’s one thing for a school district to be able to say, yes, we deal with the bullying, and, not only do we aim toward prevention, our district also avails itself of every method, tool, and avenue at our disposal to act upon every single credible report of bullying.  We have zero tolerance for bullying.  We continue to bring about positive outcomes every day. Recurrences of bullying between the same perpetrator and victim are rare, and in such cases, the penalty more much more severe, up to and including filing criminal charges against the perpetrator if the violation is egregious enough and there are no mitigating circumstances.  We are pleased with our track record of handling each incidence appropriately.

It’s another thing for a school district to say, you know, kids will be kids.  We’re just here to teach.  We can’t put out all the fires.  We have our hands full.  We can try everything, but if it doesn’t work out, it just doesn’t work out. We can assure you that, in the cases that the very same specific bully persisted in antagonizing the very same victim, we did try everything, we can document everything we tried, because that’s our policy and standard operating procedure, but, despite trying everything, we just could not achieve the outcome we’d hoped for.  We’re sorry that it didn’t turn out well for the victim’s family.  We wish it didn’t happen that way.  We wish we’d had some control over the matter.  We are deeply saddened by the aftermath.  The loss affects all of us, and our hearts go out to the victim’s family.

In my opinion, if any excuse is used that resembles any of those from the paragraph just before this one, it just won’t fly with me.

If it’s true that this Croatian immigrant girl was deliberately PUSHED DOWN A STAIRCASE, and it can be proven that those same perpetrators continued to bully the victim after that event, I don’t think the Mentor schools can mount a defense that can withstand scrutiny, even if it was shown that the bullying was not a causative factor in the girl’s suicide.

Even if she didn’t have the courage to report the bullying to school officials, once a student is deliberately pushed down a staircase, there’s no necessity of a report, for something of that magnitude should never have escaped the staff’s notice.

There should have been immediate repercussions for those culpable of such a heinous act.  The victim is accompanied to the school nurse’s office.  The principal is immediately summoned, and students on that staircase are to freeze right where they stand.  Students in the hallways above and below the staircase will be detoured.  You, as the principal, identify the perps and mete out justice, with no delay, contacting parents as you do so.  You call your superiors at the administration office.  An act this heinous should be brought to the attention of the superintendent ASAP.

If you, as principal, can’t identify who, in the crowd, was culpable, you herd them all, everyone on that staircase, into a room dedicated to in-school suspension, acknowledge that not all of them are guilty, but safety demands that you take these steps because it will not happen again without severe penalties.  Those students had better hope and pray they are not anywhere near a staircase if ever another student gets pushed down one.  You spell out each student’s responsibilities, and you spell out the consequences, both the benefits that accrue to a school that has no bullying, and the penalties that the district can pursue if a student is found to have been a bully at school.  You ensure that everyone in the room understands.  You take down all their names and put them on notice that they will be carefully observed from here on out.  You alert every teacher to keep an eye on those students whose names are on the list.

You send a note home to all parents, all who have children at that school, reminding them of the school’s rules pertaining to such matters, including disciplinary actions that can be taken against students who violate those rules.  The note is in duplicate form, one for the parent to keep on hand, and the other to be signed by the parent and sent back to school.  Those who don’t get the signed copies back to the school in the next 5 school days will be contacted personally, to make sure the communication reaches them, that they understand, and that they are strongly urged to communicate to the child what the expectations are for their behavior at school.

Though, at this point, you can’t pinpoint the perpetrators, you put an incident report in the files of each student on that staircase, though the incident report will contain the disclaimer that the student has not been personally accused of being the guilty party responsible for the incident.  The incident report with the disclaimer stays in that file so that if a future matter crosses your desk with that student’s name on it, this past incident is not forgotten.  This is especially true for IEP (Individualized Education Plan) students, those with special needs, that require much more documentation before any course of action is taken against them if there is an infraction committed down the road, because there are legal mandates and protocols that must be followed to the letter before you can proceed further.   The IEP student, or non-IEP student, cannot have any penalty added to that for the new infraction because the name of that student was put on the watchlist for the past incident, unless new incriminating evidence is revealed about the past incident, but seeing the incident report in the file as a reminder can inform you that this student has been briefed on school rules and consequences, and that, at the time, the student indicated that the rules were understood.

If you identified the perps, and you can’t get the perps to behave after disciplining them as evidenced by one recurrence, just one, it only takes one, then you must physically move the students so that the perpetrators and victim never cross paths after that until you are quite certain . . . let me say that again–quite certain . . . that the victim will be safe from any further predation by those antagonists.  Use suspension, expulsion, juvenile detention, school reassignment, whatever, to physically separate predators from their prey, or have the victim tutored at home until the “all clear” signal is given.  If the school district doesn’t value an innocent victim, who offered no provocation, enough to take these measures in consequence of such an egregious act, then I don’t want to send any child of mine to that school.

And how did Lorain do when it came to handling bullying when I was there?  Good and not so good (umm, “not so good” is putting it mildly), depending on several factors.

I think they did well with the students with behavioral disorders who were instructed in an appropriate special education classroom.  All students with special needs have IEP’s drawn up and kept on file that specifically pertain to them.  Since IEP’s are documents, they are subject to being audited for compliance.  I believe this helps ensure that the staff is attentive and follows through.  It is mandated that these special education classrooms for those with behavior disorders have, not only a teacher, but also a teacher’s aide present in the classroom for the duration of the school day.  This helps keep behavioral flare-ups in check.  Lorain’s SBD (severe behavior disorder) students that are transported by buses are dismissed a little bit earlier so that they are transported separately from regular education students.  Class sizes are limited by mandate.  If I remember right, SBD classrooms are limited to just 8 students.  This allows students to be spread farther apart from each other so that it’s much easier to prevent a student from physically antagonizing another. In my experience, Lorain does a very good job in this department.

Lorain also did a good job with neutralizing the most disruptive students by reassigning them to Fairhome (Pace Academy is there now), which was mostly vacant, the class sizes very small, and the principal very much on the ball.

Sometimes an SBD student is inappropriately placed in a non-SBD special education classroom.  This may be done with the motive of reducing costs, even though it’s doing no favors for the other students of that class.  There is more potential for antagonism originating with the SBD student to go unchecked.  Such a placement might be made when an SBD class is full with eight students, but the district doesn’t want to split the class into two classes if there is a 9th student that should be placed there, forcing the district to employ another teacher and aide just to have one class with four students and another with five.  The student might also have a diagnosis for some other handicap or learning disability, so, maybe if an MH (multi-handicapped) or LD (learning disability) class still has space, an SBD student with some wiggle room on his/her IEP might end up in such a class.  When I was subbing in Lorain, they did fudge placements from time to time.

Not all IEP students with behavior disorders are in special education classrooms.  Students must be placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE), which means, in terms of behavioral disorders, some of them are mainstreamed into regular education classes, if not diagnosed as severe cases.  Parents of children who are thus diagnosed are likely to exert every ounce of influence they can leverage to keep their child mainstreamed.  Whatever evidence they can present that their child’s condition is not severe will aid their effort to mainstream the child.  That’s not doing any favors for the students who don’t suffer from behavior disorders.  The student in question may likely have their desk positioned differently than and a little bit apart from the others in the room, but in more crowded classrooms, it still puts that student in a close enough proximity to the others to present persistent problems.  The legal mandates for placement in the Least Restrictive Environment supersedes the rights of regular education students to have some separation from the student with a behavior disorder.  The student with the behavior disorder is often delighted that there’s such a ready supply of prey to easily torment.  The attitude of the principal and the teacher greatly affect the outcomes of these placements into mainstream classrooms.  As principals and teachers vary, Lorain has mixed results, accordingly.

School administrators, chiefly a no-nonsense principal, in tandem with conscientious energetic multitasking teachers, can really neutralize the attempts of a BD student to bully in a regular ed classroom.  Neither the principal or the teacher can ever afford to throw in the towel.

The teacher necessarily has a reward system for all students who do well in class, but since that doesn’t always keep the student motivated to behave well, the teacher must be willing to document any harassment, not be hesitant to write out a referral sending the student to the principal’s office when warranted, and practically be on a first name basis with the parents.

Legally, a principal has his or her hands tied when considering options for discipline, as all students with IEP’s (special needs students) cannot be dealt with the same way as regular education students.  Fewer options are on the table, with more hoops to jump through.  For example, after-school detention may be a disincentive for infractions by regular ed students, but if you start handing out detention slips to special needs students, you may have a lawsuit on your hands.  Many forms of discipline are off the table unless a behavior management plan accompanies the IEP that specifically allows such discipline, or unless a manifest determination hearing allows the school to go forward with more stern discipline.  A manifest determination hearing involves all the stakeholders: the parents plus involved administrators, teachers, therapists, etc. Because disciplinary measures are restricted without following all the mandates and protocols, an IEP student referred to the principal’s office will usually be returned to the classroom within a matter of minutes.  Whether that child arrives back into the classroom with an air of triumph for beating the system, getting off the hook one more time, and ready to torment yet again or returns with a demeanor more conducive to learning largely depends on the principal

The telephone can be a handy tool for a principal to use.  One can call more than just the parents with a telephone.  One can call the school psychologist.  One can call school administrators, such as the supervisor over the special ed teachers or ones up the chain of command from the principal.  In tandem with the school nurse and psychologist, one can call a psychiatrist to follow-up on the effectiveness of the child’s medication.  Maybe a change of dosage or pharmaceutical can provide better results.   The principal may be able to use that phone as a tool to leverage another IEP conference, or put another item on the agenda of the next IEP conference, which may result in the placement of that child elsewhere, in other words, mainstreaming may not be sufficiently restrictive, so the LRE benchmark for that student might be moved.  A manifest determination hearing, even if it doesn’t open the window for more stern discipline to be applied, can, nonetheless, provide an impetus become more resourceful to bring about better outcomes. The key is that the principal cannot get frustrated about the relative lack of disciplinary options available to curtail the bullying behavior, nor can the principal deviate from the mandates out of exasperation.  The principal has to never tire of going to the well one more time, never get fed up, and never pass the buck to a subordinate.  Rigorous documentation has to follow every incident, otherwise an intervention such as a manifest determination hearing will go nowhere.

If you don’t want all this as part of your job description, then don’t apply to become a principal.  There are too many principals, and this is applicable to Lorain, who want to become principals for the bump up in salary or the desire to be boss, and they just don’t have the patience or determination to put up with such hassles.  Checks against bullying will be insufficient at schools led by such principals.

The majority of the bullies, though, are regular education students who have no IEP.  Dealing with these bullies in regular education classes is where, according to my own observation, Lorain does a much poorer job, again, with mixed results, but with the sheer number of regular ed teachers in Lorain’s schools, you are bound to find several that just go through the motions.

Regular education teachers may think to themselves, “I didn’t sign on for this when I decided to go into teaching.”  Special education teachers are more watchful for the first signs of trouble, and they are more prepared to take action.  The regular ed teachers might let some hijinks slide when they shouldn’t. If the principal hasn’t been exactly supportive of the teachers, such as having the attitude “You handle it.  You’re the adult in the room.  I’ve got plenty of other things on my plate,” and sending the referred students right back to the classroom with no consequences being visited upon them during their trip to the principal’s office, that’s a school where mayhem ensues.

The attitude of the principal, again, sets the tone for the whole school.  If the principal is prepared and willing to tackle the bullying issue every single day, outcomes will be good.  Principals who are bothered and wearied by these day-in-and-day-out tasks are not going to get a handle on things.

Parenting absolutely has a great bearing on which children become bullies and which ones do not, especially when it pertains to children in regular education classes.  Still, a school cannot wash it’s hands of  the responsibility of keeping the other kids safe.

Because of how parenting patterns are distributed throughout Lorain, and because of ethnicity, the incidences of bullying can be mapped.  There is a geographical component in play.  And though some areas of town are more prone to instances of bullying than others, the principals still make a difference.

As evidence, I point to the “small schools” initiative, where, within, for example, the old Lorain Middle School were four separate schools. The population within each school was geographically mixed.  Yes, there was some small degree of specialization involved in assigning students to schools, still, different small schools achieved different outcomes.  I believe if you kept the student populations the same in each small school, but shuffled the principals around, the outcomes in each would vary from what they were before the shuffling took place.

I don’t like painting with a broad brush, but ethnicity seems to play a role in bullying, just like the father of those Southview boys told me.  This may sound racist, but I can only attest to what I saw with my own eyes.  African-American boys seemed to bully disproportionately more than the overall student population would indicate.  I don’t know if school district statistics would bear that out.  Like I said, I can only attest to what I saw with my own eyes.  It did seem that white boys were the preferred target of the African-American boys.  Significant numbers of African-American girls also bullied.  They bullied other African-American girls to the point of getting into physical fights, but they bullied the white and Latina girls, too, though those didn’t develop into fights much.  I also saw African-American girls bully white boys.  At General Johnny Wilson Middle, there was one African-American girl in particular who routinely harassed the same white boy over and over and over.  I have no idea why the teachers had allowed the bullying to continue.  The students said it had been happening since the start of the school year.  Why can’t the teachers see it?  I do fault the teachers, in that case, because the principal seemed very supportive, and dealt appropriately with those I referred to the office.  I can tell the victim felt emasculated by it.  He seemed to have low self-esteem, and maintained a rather somber, low-key demeanor.  I remember having to warn her that I was watching her, so that she stayed at her seat instead of wandering over to his for the purpose of bothering him.  I had to refer her to the office, too, for stealing his science textbook, stuffing it into her locker, where he couldn’t retrieve it, and then, when I called her on the carpet for it, she dared to lie to me by saying she knew nothing about the book, and she refused to fetch it.  Latina girls and white girls didn’t do much bullying to speak of.  Latino boys often bullied each other.  White boys bullied anybody, white, African-American, or Latino, but they seemed to harass girls the most.  Biracial children, specifically a mix of African-American and white, both boys and girls, were among the most well behaved students.  I have to reiterate, I can only attest to what I saw with my own eyes, and I have no idea whether the district-wide statistics bear this out.

As for age range, I preferred working with 2nd-graders the most.  With kindergartners and 1st-graders, they are a little rough around the edges, and they have to get acclimated to the expectations set for them.  In the interim, they pick on each other.  By the time they reach the 2nd-grade, they know what’s expected of them, and they can easily meet those expectations.  They are a cohesive bunch of kids that respect each other.  In 2nd-grade, they still love learning, and they still believe the primary reason for attending school is to learn.  3rd-graders are pretty cohesive, too.

There are a growing number of students burnt out by school by the time 4th grade arrives, and from 5th through 8th grades, the primary reason for coming to school, for many of them, is no longer about learning, and that’s when the trouble breaks out.  These students are beginning to form cliques within which there is much peer pressure, and they lose part of their own individuality in order to be on par with everyone in their cliques.  This is when the Goth and Emo girls start emulating their distinctive styles of hair, makeup, clothing, and jewelry.  Some of the boys might coalesce into small gangs at this age.  A rift will begin to form between those who smoke and those who don’t; those who drink and those who don’t; those who do drugs and those who don’t; those who still want to learn and those who don’t.  Emotionally, these kids are hyper-sensitive, which creates the tension and rivalry between cliques that fuels the re-emergence of bullying.  Physical fighting isn’t the primary manifestation of bullying, at this point.  Because of raw hyper-sensitive emotions, students can torment each other with words, and those with lower self-esteem will internalize those verbal barbs way too much.  Some of the taunts among girls will be about body image, and, when self-consciousness over body image takes root in a girl’s mind, going to school is torture, and academic achievement is derailed.

In the 9th through 12th grades, added maturity reduces some of the volatility in students emotions, and they become a little less hyper-sensitive, and a little more tolerant, but a significant amount of bullying still goes on.  I just think the bullying peaked during the 5th through 8th grade years.

I have to admit that when sub opportunities arose at an elementary and middle school simultaneously, I jumped at the chance to grab the elementary assignment and passed on the middle school assignment.  The same goes for a high school and middle school assignment both up for grabs.  I’d pass on the middle school assignment and take the high school assignment.

Geographically, East Lorain seems to have the best parents and students.  My favorite assignments were at the old Larkmoor, Emerson, and Longfellow elementary schools, in that order.

Lots of parents wanted their kids placed at Lakeview, but I didn’t enjoy it that much.  With two grade levels in each classroom, the older students are supposed to learn partly by helping the younger ones, and the younger ones are helped by having more advanced older students in their midst.  But let’s be real.  Older with younger in the same classroom is fertile ground for bullying.  I would rather have taught at Frank Jacinto, Meister, and Palm, in that order, rather than teach at Lakeview.  I’d have put Lakeview on par with Masson.  It’s so nice to have cameras to help keep an eye on things in the new schools, such as Frank Jacinto.

Admiral King was next in my pecking order.  Classes went smoothly.  The bullying went on in the boys’ restrooms and in the hallways.  At class change time, I always went to the door, watched the hallways, and listened to voices so that I’d be aware if things were getting out of hand.

I never taught at Southview, so I can’t weigh in on that one.

Hawthorne, Lowell, Irving, and Washington elementary schools were worse than Admiral King.  In my opinion, Hawthorne was just too big, both in square footage and in student population, to be an elementary school.  It made it harder to keep tabs on everyone, and, when that happens, bullying might go unnoticed.  I once had to cancel recess at both Lowell and Irving because of bullying out on the playground.  Those classes remembered being pulled inside prematurely when I subbed next.  They behaved better the next time around.

Speaking of Irving, one parent came into the school to pick up her child at the end of the school day.  She was supposed to present herself at the principal’s office upon entering the school, but she didn’t.  She was impatient with her son, and muttered some foul language.  A teacher approached, informed the woman that she was to sign in at the principal’s office, and cautioned her that other children could hear her foul language.  At this, the woman bellowed profanities at the top of her lungs in defiance of the teacher’s requests.  I got so angry at that woman, I had to restrain myself from bodily taking hold of her, dragging her out to the street, and keeping her immobilized at the curb until a police vehicle would pull up, upon which I’d implore the officer to please take the woman into custody and charge her with trespassing, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, whatever it took to drive the message home that what she did was wrong.  You want to know where bullies come from?  From parents like her.

The old Lorain Middle School, General Johnny Wilson Middle, and Whittier Middle are next.  Actually, that order might be a little mixed, because it depended on which of the small schools one was in.  I think General Wilson needs even more cameras.  If it draws its students from roughly the same area as Washington elementary, then that would explain the level of bullying.  It’s mostly a parenting thing.

At both the middle school and high school level, the regular teachers I’d sub for would routinely put “Study Hall” as the lesson plan for the day they were absent.  I resented this.  Supposedly, I’m to have the students sit quietly at their desks and study their texts and notes for the upcoming exam.  The students look at it as “Great!  We’ve got a substitute teacher and nothing else to do!”  Students turn their attention on each other. There’s a cacophony of voices and soon I’ve got a girl crying her eyes out on one side of the room and a guy becoming unhinged on the other side of the room.  Note to teacher:  Please draw up REAL lesson plans next time I sub so that their attention can be diverted away from cruel taunts and horseplay and focused on something more productive.  I’m no dummy.  I feel quite competent teaching all the core courses, whether it’s algebra, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics, English, geography, history, economics, even French and Spanish.  As long as I can locate all the materials in advance, yes, I can have the classroom prepared for the students to conduct lab experiments.  If the students are idle, I’d have to become a prison warden to keep them orderly.  Please don’t put me in that situation again.

I’m glad the old Lincoln Elementary is gone.  That was the absolute worst school I’ve ever been in.  Every grade level was unruly.  I’m sure a fairly large number of the parents were alcoholics and drug addicts.  The fighting amongst them was unreal.  The double whammy was that the principal didn’t want to deal with it.  Refer a kid to the principal’s office, two minutes later, he’d be delivering them back to me.  Pass the buck on to the sub to handle it?  I don’t have a way to call the parents to discuss ways to stop the brawling.  I’m only one-third of the way through the lesson plan because I’m constantly having to keep Freddy from poking Donny’s eye, keep Ricky from pulling Suzy’s hair, keep Billy from toppling Betty and her chair over onto the floor, keep Tommy from strangling George, keep Marcy from throwing hard objects at Tracy, and keep Joey from stomping on Alicia’s foot.  I’m trying to protect these kids from each other, for crying out loud.  I’d far rather work with the delinquents at Fairhome than these kids, but I still don’t dare throw in the towel and let these kids destroy each other.  Why doesn’t the principal care for their safety?  Thanks for the lesson plans, but I might as well flush them down the toilet.

The principal tells me that the regular teacher handles the class just fine.  HA!  Is that why she’s out sick for a week at a time every single month?  Always, the most sub assignments were available at Lincoln.  The teachers had the lowest seniority and the highest absentee rate.  Subs would rather a day of work than accept an assignment to Lincoln.  I needed the money, I worked the whole week.  The regular teacher doesn’t write referrals to send kids to the office because she knows it won’t do any good.  She’s given up a long time ago.

After the 3 years since I’ve been there, I sure hope there are no vestiges left of the chaos that engulfed Lincoln every single day.  Lorain taxpayers, already groaning over the financial mess that the district is in, would rather not have to pay out a whopping amount of money for Lorain schools to defend or settle a lawsuit similar to the one that Mentor is dealing with right now.

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