Rutland teachers criticize response to injuries from students

Mary Moran
Mary E. Moran, superintendent of Rutland City Public Schools. File photo by Andrew Kutches/VTDigger
RUTLAND — The Rutland teachers union says school administrators retaliated against employees and discouraged union activity after failing to adequately address numerous incidents of “student-on-staff violence.”

A complaint filed Wednesday with the state’s Labor Relations Board alleges that Rutland City Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Robert Bliss blamed staff for workplace violence and did not take their concerns seriously.

Superintendent Mary Moran blasted the complaint.

“The district strongly disputes the allegations in both the complaint and the press release,” Moran said in a statement Thursday. “That staff are victims of violence and assault obscures the fact that the incidents which they are referring to are physical interactions by students with special needs. Such students do not have the intent to harm or injure. The (Rutland and state teachers unions’) use of the term ‘assault,’ a criminal act, is disparaging to our students.”

The Rutland Education Association argues that the administration’s response to reports of workplace violence, in a directive and memo to staff and faculty that included reference to proper footwear, was a form of retaliation. According to the complaint, “The closed toed shoe requirement was unrelated to the complaints filed by bargaining unit members, and such a policy was not intended to protect the staff, but rather to punish them for filing (Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration) complaints.”

The union’s complaint follows a series of investigations into workplace safety in Rutland schools beginning in 2013.

The Vermont Department of Labor found from March 2012 to April 2013 there were “numerous cases of employees being exposed to scratches, bites, contusions, concussions, and other problems” when dealing with aggressive students at Rutland Intermediate School, which covers grades three to six and has about 600 students.

A second complaint prompted an evaluation by the Labor Department of Northeast Primary School from August 2015 through January and documented 71 incidents of violence committed by “physically and emotionally challenged students.” The incidents included kicking, hitting or punching, biting and scratching. Northeast has about 200 students.

In one case a student hit a para-educator “in the forehead with a hard plastic object and slapped her in the face.” Another teacher reported being hit and kicked for at least 20 minutes.

According to Rutland Education Association President Ellen Green, some teachers were so badly injured that they had to be hospitalized.

“We’re talking really violent behaviors,” Green said.

Joanne Earle, a para-educator at Northeast who worked with an autistic child, said she was physically abused for a period of 75 days. “It wasn’t a pretty sight. It really wasn’t,” Earle said.

Rutland Northeast Primary School
Rutland Northeast Primary School. Photo by Andrew Kutches/VTDigger
According to Earle, a para-educator for 10 years, the 5-year-old hit, kicked and bit her. The child would undress and throw dirty diapers and sometimes threw a chair or desk. Earle said she filled out 29 complaints documenting 60 attacks during that time and had post-injury interviews with the principal after every incident. But nothing changed, she said. Earle said the school did not have adequate staff support to address the needs of certain students.

Earle, who is now on leave after being diagnosed with cancer, said she has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and fibromyalgia — chronic muscle pain — as a result of the abuse.

“That school last year was just horrendous,” she said.

Three other para-eductors in the Rutland public school system declined to comment for this story, citing concerns over federal regulations that protect student privacy.

VOSHA, which is part of the Department of Labor, faulted the school earlier this year for not having a clear policy for dealing with violence in the workplace, for lack of support from top management, and for failing to provide medical and psychological counseling for workers who have experienced violent incidents. The Rutland district was fined $4,500 and reached a settlement with the state to pay about half that.

J. Stephen Monahan, director of workers compensation and safety for the Department of Labor, said he was not aware of workplace complaints of violence from any other school district in recent memory.

“Teachers and para-educators have been pleading for a real process and having the administration work with them to have a system of reporting incidents, how to de-escalate, all those sorts of things,” said Darren Allen, Vermont-NEA communications director. “And it just has never happened.”

Moran was especially critical of the union’s frequent use of the word “violence” to describe the conduct of schoolchildren, most of whom have emotional or psychological disabilities. In one case, the Labor Department referred to young students as “aggressive patients at your facility.” Monahan said the reference was probably taken from an investigation of a nursing home and accidentally left in.

The REA’s Green, who teaches Spanish in the high school, said that although the majority of cases involved students with special needs, they were not the only group implicated.

“We know that students engaged in behavior, in some cases intentional, that caused injury to teachers and staff,” said Monahan. “How you want to label that is up to you. But it’s behavior that shouldn’t be accepted. And staff have the right to perform their jobs without fear of injury.”

Moran also challenged the complaint’s characterization that the Rutland Public Schools system had seen a “spike” in violent incidents. Moran said that like most school districts in the state, Rutland has seen an increase in the number of students with special needs. She said the district has a day program for those students and has been working with the New England Center for Autism to train teachers in how to engage with children with emotional and behavioral difficulties.

The district has adopted standards developed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, conducts teacher and para-educator trainings, and has psychologists who work directly with special needs children.

Still, Moran acknowledged that teachers have been injured. “We attend to that,” she said. “We’re terribly disappointed if any member of faculty or staff is hurt in any way.”

Yet it was precisely the administration’s response that prompted the union to file its complaint. The assistant superintendent, Bliss, as directed by the Labor Department and in consultation with staff, issued an updated safety protocol for the school system, which covered the use of personal protective equipment and procedures for dealing with behavioral issues.

In the memo Bliss referred to “slips, trips and falls” as the No. 1 cause of injury in the workplace and mandated that all employees wear closed-toe shoes with a high-traction sole. The teachers union felt the inclusion of the ban on certain types of footwear was highly inappropriate in a document responding to the kinds of workplace issues raised by the Labor Department.

“To them it was essentially a slap in the face,” said Allen, “a sign that they were not taking this seriously enough.”

VOSHA seemed to agree. Program Manager Dan Whipple described the shoe requirement as “very odd” in the context of complaints about workplace violence.

Green, the union president, characterized it as deliberate. “The shoe thing is so far removed from anything we discussed it’s just to me very obvious retaliation for having gone to VOSHA,” said Green.

However, the matter had already been addressed in a grievance process adjudicated by the school board. In July, the school board denied the union’s complaint and said there was no evidence the directive was intended as retaliation. The board also noted that members of the teachers union were on the safety committee and could have addressed the issue during meetings in which the new workplace safety measures were discussed.

“Committee members had the opportunity to participate and submit input virtually,” the board wrote, “and that failure or unwillingness to do so rests solely with the individual and is not an indictment of the committee decision-making process or the outcome.”

Green said the decision to file a complaint was not voted on by the union — about 94 percent of teachers are part of the REA — but members had the opportunity to comment on the letter Bliss circulated after it was sent out. Green said she sent an internal letter seeking comments and questions. About 100 para-educators work in the Rutland school district, who are represented by a different union.

The complaint seeks acknowledgment from school administrators that they unlawfully intimidated and discriminated against faculty, an order that they cease and desist from retaliating against employees, and a requirement that they reimburse any employees who purchased closed-toe shoes after Bliss’ July memo.

But Green said the primary objective was to make the schools safer. “There is student-on-staff violence, and we need to deal with it constructively together. And that hasn’t happened.”

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  • Dave Bellini

    Management at the school has failed. Employees have the right to be safe. It’s NEVER OK to get assaulted, punched, bit, slapped, etc. What happens when these kids get older and can seriously harm someone? Find a school that doesn’t have these problems and ask what they do. What about Mom and Dad? Where are they?

    • edward letourneau

      State and Federal law prevent a solution, and nothing the union wants will change that. — If the union leaders were smart, they would be pushing for changes to the law.

      • Janice Prindle

        Not true. This is not a problem with special education, it is a problem with how this school district responds to certain students who get physical. My school (before I retired) had a classroom phone to contact the office immediately, a designated official to take charge of the student acting out, removing him from the classroom, and the administration worked with the student, parents and hired psychological services.It wasn’t up to teachers and paras, the union had nothing to do with it. This wasn’t a huge problem in terms of scale. Rutland obviously has a leadership problem, with school administrators pushing the problem back on teachers instead of undertaking the tougher (and more $$) job of dealing with what’s going on with that student (often, abuse at home) and getting help, which the law entitles them and requires them to do.

    • Jamie Carter

      These are special needs students, many of them are severely deficent in their abilty to communicate verbally and resort to physical means of communication. I’m not condoning the behavior but every behavior interventionist should be prepared for this and have full knowledge that it’s a possibility. Is that a management issue… of course not. The principle has no control over whether or not an autistic child scratches their interventionist. To say otherwise is ignorant to what these disabilities actually mean. I’m not condoning the behavior, but if you can’t deal with it you are in the wrong line of work. It’s akin to a roofer complaining they have to with heights.

      • Stacey Bradley

        You are wrong and don’t know the difference between a BI or a para by your comments. A BI is trained to deal with these types of behaviors. A para on the other hand, is most of the time not trained as such but simply is someone who is hired to assist a trained/ certified/licensed educator. Many school districts are cutting costs by trying to switch to using paras when BIs are really needed. In Rutland the average BI salary is about $37,000 with the most experienced making as much as $45,000. Paras in Rutland start at $20,000 with more experienced ones making $27,000. So its more a case of the school district trying to save money by hiring a carpenter’s apprentice to put on a roof and then ignoring it when the apprentice is saying it is way above their skill level and pay grade. It is the school district struggling to minimize costs or hold them down due to outcry from tax payers and getting school budgets voted down. Try getting more info before making uninformed assumptions.

        • Penelope Chevalier

          Maybe school districts wouldn’t be so desperate to cut costs if the teacher’s union didn’t bleed taxpayers and communities dry in order to pay teachers salaries and benefits that have grown to be double or triple the average Vermont taxpayer.

          This taxpayer is fed up and will always support the school board, the school district, and everyone else struggling to keep up with teacher demands. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re earning $50,000 to $100,000 with four months of vacation each year, cadillac retirement and free health care, you can put up with a few smacks from the kids. You reap what you sow, and I no longer have one ounce of sympathy for any teacher in Vermont. You spend less time working than any other profession, stop whining about working after school and every other problem you need to deal with. The rest of us are working harder and dealing with much worse. My mother was a teacher for thirty years, and she is disgusted by the greed and laziness of our teachers now.

          • Janice Prindle

            It’s not 4 months of vacation every year. That time is for required professional development, rewriting curriculum, lesson plans, and much more. And while teaching I never had a work day that ended in the classroom… meetings with students, faculty and parents, student work always came home, also parents to contact, etc. Mine is not a Cadillac retirement and the health care isn’t free, teachers have to pay a share of it along with the Medicare once eligible. This article isn’t about a “few smacks” (which if you’re a parent you must realize is not something to put up with, or you’ll be creating a larger problem). The teachers here are as concerned about the future for those students who can’t manage their behavior. And, I imagine, for the morale and tone of the whole school, the sense of safety for other students. “You reap what you sow.” That would be justice for anyone with the attitude you expressed here, based on no understanding of what teaching is today.

        • Lee Wojeconek

          You are correct in characterizing the difference between a behavior interventionist and a paraprofessional. However, I don’t know where you are getting the info about salaries. Also, how many behavior interventionists–as in trained behavior interventionists–do you think there are in the Rutland area? I don’t mean in terms of those currently employed. I mean, how many do you think there are in the applicant pool? You can get an idea of the correct answer by investigating how many behavior interventionist training programs there are in Vermont.

        • Jamie Carter

          Oh I know the difference. But thanks. Wow, that’s great BI pay in Rutland, way outside the norm in the northern part of the state where it is much closer to para pay.

          As a side note, perhaps paras could use some of their training time in child restraint. That maybe useful.

        • Jamie Carter

          “Try getting more info before making uninformed assumptions.”

          My only assumption is that the school district would adequately hire and train staff and that said staff would utilize some common sense and be prepared for their job and their job duties. But you are absolutely correct, apparently those assumptions are wrong. Thanks for educating me on how poorly run the school system is, how poorly trained the staff are, and how in over the heads everyone in Rutland seems to be.

      • Neil Johnson

        If a student can not refrain from violence within the class room, how long should they be in the public school system? A teacher would be fired immediately. Justice is supposed to be blind. How can the rest of the students function when their is so much continuous drama in class rooms, they get drama at home, now they get it in class rooms? Are we really doing all of these children a service that benefits them?

        • Lee Wojeconek

          I understand the desire to keep aggressive behaviors out of the classroom. That being said, federal special education law requires that all students with disabilities be provided with a free appropriate *public* education in the least restrictive environment. You could argue that these children belong in a placement outside of the regular classroom or school. But, the district still has to pay for that placement. And that expense becomes part of the budget for the district. Which gets passed down to us, the tax payers.

      • Janice Prindle

        It is transparent that you’ve never worked in a school or with students with disabilities. Just about every year I had one or more students with autism, for example– scratching, etc., NEVER. Disabilities do not “actually mean” violent attacks, inability to communicate verbally, and notice the article said that special ed students were not the only ones acting physically. Of course it IS a management issue. Is there an emergency call system, a designated administrator to physically remove a violent child from the classroom, a commitment on the administrative level to working with the parents, contracting with psychological services, etc., all of which was routine at my school? We did not have many instances of this problem, but when one occurred (more often violence against classmates), there was a protocol, as there is a legal requirement to meet that student’s needs, even if that means institutionalization. This is the principal’s (note spelling) and the superintendent’s role.

        • Janice Prindle

          Just to be clear, my post was in response to Jamie Carter’s.

          • Jamie Carter

            Could you please clarify your post then. I’m not sure if you had a student scratching you every year at Thetford or never? And how long ago was that? There was never this type of issue when I went through school either, and yet it most certainly is a problem today.

          • Janice Prindle

            Never. At all. I’ve been retired for 4 years. It remains to be seen if this problem is widespread– I doubt it– instead of one that is growing in one school system because administrators refuse to accept that it is a problem. Again: nothing in the article or in reality suggests that special ed students or those on the autism spectrum are automatically violent– or that only these students were involved in the attacks. Makes more sense to look at what’s going on in this district (opiate epidemic a factor?) and what the district isn’t doing that others are, to handle problems that arise.

      • Lisa Cotrupi

        Paraeducators are NOT interventionists and do not get compensated as such. Most are well aware of why students react the way they do and are more than sympathetic. Training is key as well as sufficient staffing. The level of aggression can be overwhelming and has increased dramatically and not always just students with disabilities or severe trauma.

  • We let kids and young adults act like animals and then we’re surprised ?
    We’ve gutted all disincline from our schools and now we’r shocked?
    Principles and teachers have no say, schools are run by bureaucrats and centralized government and we’re wondering why public schools struggle?

  • Tom Grout

    What the heck does closed end non slippery shoes have to do with a bunch in the face or a kick to the shin?

    • Mark Keefe

      Get on a waxed floor in your sock feet and have anyone (not in sock feet) try to playfully push you at shoulder level or touch you lightly with their foot on your leg. Now try the same exercise in non-slip, securely fastened shoes.

  • Janice Prindle

    Being “terribly disappointed” if a staff member is injured, but insisting it isn’t “violence” and directing staff to wear shoes with traction?
    Right there is the disconnect of which teachers and staff are complaining.
    Denying there is a problem is tantamount to blaming the messenger for bringing bad news, instead of looking into the scope of the problem and what is feeding into it, for the students’ sake as well as teachers and staff. Sounds like at the very least, new leadership is needed.And their first step should be listening to their staff: what factors, what policies do they see contributing to the violence? The next step is research: How does Rutland’s experience compare to other districts? What could they be doing differently?

    • Jamie Carter

      if the policy is closed toe shoes that’s what it is. Why is that such an inconveince?

      • It’s not “such an inconvenience”, it’s that they gave this useless rule INSTEAD OF addressing the actual injuries and incidents. In effect they are trying to blame it on the teacher’s shoe, when the shoe is not the issue.

        • Jamie Carter

          Perhaps the two are not related. They don’t have to be do they? Or why can’t the union say, sure we will wear closed toes shoes now address our concerns. The level of blame, spite and general lack of personal responsibilities shows me why this generation acts the way it does. It’s what they are being taught.

      • Stacey Bradley

        The problem is the response of the admin. Closed toed shoes have nothing to do with student on staff violence. It is not so much that staff are upset over having to wear closed toed, high traction shoes but that it does nothing to acknowledge the original complaint. It’s like going to your boss to report that the toilet in the bathroom is blocked, overflowing and flooding the floor and your boss responds with telling you to make sure you wash your hands before returning to your job and then walks away.

  • Jamie Carter

    “Another teacher reported being hit and kicked for at least 20 minutes.”

    I’m confused by this statement… who allows themselves to be kicked for 20 minutes. Move away from the child, ask for assistance, or restrain the child.

    • Older people sometimes wear an alert button around their neck. Seems like teachers in these environments should wear something similar that they could use to call for help (from within the school) that would come immediately when they are overwhelmed or injured by a student. And, violence is violence no matter who is committing it or what their challenges are. Kids who are violent should be removed to special schools where they can be handled by experts. Can you imagine the terror of the OTHER students who have to witness this? Do we have to focus ONLY on being fair to the child who is being aggressive?

      • Wendy Wilton

        That is a great idea.

      • Stacey Bradley

        Welcome to the modern school system where everyone gets “mainstreamed” in the name of equality. A alert button is a good idea but truth of the matter is that often schools are so short staffed, with many more “special ed” students that they are required to provide whatever services they need, that there very well may not be anyone free to go help. Most schools can’t afford to have staff hanging out to be “on call”. Taxpayers don’t want to pay, schools have to cut corners where they can. And yes there are more and more of these students entering into the school system. None of which will get better until we start addressing the core issues, addiction, poverty, lack of resources and support for these families. And yes it does affect the other students negatively but that is federal mandates for you. In trying to create equity for one group of students, we are creating ineqity for the rest.

        • Jamie Carter

          Perhaps the teachers, that seemed to be so concerned here, would be willing to take a modest pay cut to ensure that staffing levels are adequate and corners aren’t being cut. You reap what you sow and greed has caused cost cutting measures that lead to this sort of situation. I sincerely hope the VNEA is proud of the job they’ve done.

          • Janice Prindle

            Like the faculty at UVM, where you teach, one of the most expensive state schools in the US? Even for residents?

    • Stacey Bradley

      So perhaps the staff getting kicked for 20 minutes was the only way to prevent said child from injuring another child? Again your lack of knowledge on this subject is coming thru. You would have an adult leave a child? Perhaps if the staff had stepped away, the child would have really hurt themselves. As for calling another teacher, again maybe they were in a different room and to try to phone or page someone was not an option. Also again, is the staff member properly trained to deal with such behavior? If it is only a para, most likely not. And I am guessing that restraining the child would still result in getting kicked or hit. Unless you truss them up like a thanksgiving turkey and I am pretty sure that is not allowed. You seem to have a lack of experience in dealing with children and the education system.

      • Jamie Carter

        “So perhaps the staff getting kicked for 20 minutes was the only way to prevent said child from injuring another child?”

        That is never the case… unless said staff is not properly trained in which case they should either pay more attention in their annual training, or find another line of work. Not everyone is cut out for every job.

        “Unless you truss them up like a thanksgiving turkey and I am pretty sure that is not allowed. You seem to have a lack of experience in dealing with children and the education system.”

        Staff hired to work with these children are trained in restraint. Perhaps it is you that are lacking in knowledge here.

    • It’s clear you’ve never worked in a public school. Moving away from the child and getting assistance isn’t always an option.

      • Jamie Carter

        Actually I have… and I do. And I also understand moving away from the child or getting assistance isn’t always an option, which is why I offered a third option… restraining the child which staff are trained in doing.

        • Janice Prindle

          You teach at UVM according to your campaign bio. A far cry from a public school, mandated to meet the needs of all students.

          • Jamie Carter

            Currently. Is UVM not a public school?

          • Janice Prindle

            It’s a university, which is free therefore to select its student body and expel troublemakers.
            Not remotely the same as public K-12 schools.
            Which you have campaigned to undermine by school choice and your attacks on teachers. So what is the extent of your experience working in a public school, to lend any credibility to your comments lecturing Rutland teachers, misrepresenting special ed students, and insisting this is not a management problem?

  • I am curious as to how the protections of a safe workplace and workers’ compensation programs for injuries suffered on the job (regardless of cause) are playing into this discussion.

  • Ruth Barton

    If these students (how many) are attacking faculty and staff (how many), what about the danger to other students? I can’t believe they are limiting their attacks to only faculty and staff. I would think other parents would be complaining and eventually there will be a suit.

  • Rich Lachapelle

    We should not be too surprised when this violent behavior is excused by some professionals as a “means of communication” in this age of “everybody is a winner”. There is rampant crime, including violent offenses being committed against Vermonters by opioid addicts and we are told by some professionals and public officials that they are just “managing their disease” in the only way they know how. According to the “laws of liberalism” the people targeted by criminal junkies seeking to finance their addictions are lower on the victimhood hierarchy scale than the junkies themselves.
    We live in the age of excuses but apparently with some politically correct exceptions. A person who is assaulted and told to wear more protective footwear is like a woman who has been sexually assaulted being told to dress more modestly.

    • Paul Richards

      “We should not be too surprised when this violent behavior is excused by some professionals as a “means of communication” in this age of “everybody is a winner”. ”
      You mean like the looters who were allowed to burn Baltimore? I guess that was free speech?

  • David C.Austin

    This is one of the results of 40 or so years of failed educational and social policy. There has been a marked increase in the leve of violence and anti-social behavior in our society. And it is not just those with special needs who are the culprits. We ought to be asking why. There are a number of professions where the threat of being physically assaulted comes with the territory. We have come to a low, low point if teaching school is now among them. Sounds like the folks at the Supervisory Union could use a refresher course in Labor Relations 101.

  • Stu Lindberg

    With all of this chaos happening in state run public schools it is no surprise that homeschooling and small independent private schools are becoming so incredibly popular with parents.

    • Janice Prindle

      David Austin and Stu Lindberg, You are both quick to blame this on public education. When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail, and the hammer isn’t helpful. The extent of violence here is a problem with the Rutland school district, not universal. In my years as an educator (recently retired), it was not a problem at all in my school (under 400 students) nor did I ever hear of it being a widespread problem elsewhere (though every school has had a difficult student from time to time). That is why I suggested that Moran’s first response should be to get a handle on the scope of the problem, not dismiss it out of hand. In my experience, the quality of school leadership (superintendent, principal, dean of students) plays a huge role in setting the tone for what will be acceptable, and enforcing it. Only they can hold parents accountable, and ultimately, if a student needs to be institutionalized for an inability to manage violent behavior, only school officials can make that case.

      • David C.Austin

        Janice, To be clear, There are any number of factors that have contributed to this and all the other ills of our society. I agree with you that this particular issue is the responsibility of the administration. It is entirely unreasonable for a student who is physically assaultive to remain in a classroom with others. It is unfair to other students, teachers, staff, and to the student themselves. I have a number of friends who are teachers, and this problem exists statewide. I attended public schools, received an excellent education, and am indebted to those who taught me. My criticism of public education is reserved for those at the administrative level. The problems associated with it today rest with them, and those that determine policy, both at the state and federal level. If this were any other industry, the Suprintendent would have already received a visit from the Department of Labor. The Board of Directors would be asking for a resignation. Educators deserve the same respect.

        • Janice Prindle

          Thanks for clarifying, David. I apologize for misreading you. I agree with what you’ve expressed here. Too much too-down policy dictated by politics and administered by politicians rather than educators. My point was, we should not be so quick to blame or rail against broad social causes while dismissing the specific local problem and the specific individuals (administrators) involved. Which all too often comes from a political intent to undermine/ eliminate public education. Start with the school administrators and hold them accountable. It seems we do agree on that.

  • Any one associated with education should not have to put up with physical attacks from students,special needs or not. Where is the higher leadership on this issue? They clearly are not listening because they do not know how to handle these situations. So who really needs some training?

  • Ruth Barton

    On the other hand I just read where a Springfield woman was sentenced to a work crew for pinching a police officer. I guess it’s alright to abuse teachers but not police officers, so these kids better wise up before they get out in the “real world,” the police won’t care if they are “special ed” or not.

  • There is no mention in the article of what steps, if any, the Rutland City School District has taken to implement an evidence based school wide PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) program. A faithfully implemented program would result in a changed school climate for all students and staff, and focus tailored supports for the children who need more intensive interventions. Here’s a link to the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for more information.

  • The simple fact of the matter is, is that this situation is the typical result of the sort of thinking handed from Washington on down to local school systems, without the proper means of working with children of special needs, or the needed funding. It is a “band aid curer,” and the problem is only going to get worse, and the Teachers Union is as much the blame. Tax credits should be offered to allow parents of special needs children to send their children to schools with properly trained staff so that their children will have a REAL chance to improve and get something out of the educational system, aside from the glorified baby sitting they get instead. Local school systems experiencing these sort of problems are only microcosms of a nationwide epidemic, if you will.