Behavioral Policy

Will Proposed Changes to T/E Policy 5401 Prevent Police Involvement For Kindergartners With Down Syndrome Who Point Their Finger? Here’s Hoping!

There is a T/E School District Policy Committee meeting tonight, Tuesday, March 3, 7 PM at the District Office, 940 West Valley Road, Suite 1700, Wayne. An important item on the agenda is follow-up discussion of Policy and Regulation 5401: Student Discipline.

The agenda for the Policy Committee meeting contains a proposed draft of Policy 5401. The focus of the Policy 5401 discussion at the last Policy Meeting of February 4 and public comments at the regular school board meeting of February 24 involved the consultation of law enforcement in the policy.

According to the meeting agenda notes for tonight, Policy 5401 “will be brought back to the Committee at the next meeting with proposed enhancements, including a definition of consultation, a consultation form, and a decision tree to reflect the protocol for assessment of threatening behaviors delineated in the Regulation.” The question will become, does the updated version of Policy 5401 achieve its goals?

Maggie and Mark Gaines and their kindergartner daughter Margot with Down Syndrome, is the family in the middle of the District’s policy governing student discipline and police consultation.  In a read of the proposed changes to Policy 5401, my interpretation is that the transient threat of the Gaines’ 6-year old would not require a consult with the police.

In part the proposed change to Policy 5401 reads, “ … Based upon the available information, the Threat Assessment Team will categorize a threat as transient or substantive. If the Threat Assessment Team determines the threat to be transient, they may consult with police for students in grades 9-12 …” It would appear that police consultation will no longer be part of the process for elementary and middle school students if the threat is viewed as “transient” (as was the case of Margo Gaines, the kindergartner with Down Syndrome).

From the beginning, the focus of Maggie and Mark Gaines has been on the actual process of Policy 5401 and the specifics as to “how” and “when” the District should  consult the police. Do the proposed changes to Policy 5401 satisfactorily meet that goal? I don’t think any of us want to see T/E School District making national (and international) headlines again over police involvement for a special needs kindergartner pointing her finger.

Below is a Facebook entry by Maggie Gaines regarding the Policy Committee meeting tonight; and is posted with her permission.

Please come out and support Mark Gaines and me as we push the school board to adopt new language to protect all our kids.

I’ve said this in the past, but will say it again. THIS is what Democracy looks like. We cannot allow our local elected officials to make policy that affects all of our children without input from the community and without keeping a watchful eye on how and what they put into these policies.

It truly is our collective responsibility to ensure they get it right. This is especially true for Policy 5401, which though its intentions were largely good, missed the mark, resulting in the school insisting they were required to call the police on my 6-year old kindergartner for pointing her finger at her special-ed teacher and saying, “I shoot you.”

I decided to go public with my daughter’s story because I recognized this was an issue not only affecting my daughter but many kids in our school district and in other districts in our area and around the country. I have put myself and my family out in the public sphere to make change. And now I’m asking you all to stand with me and to push for change, too.

Let’s make sure they fix this.

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