Kent parents protest special education policies

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by HEATHER GRAF & DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Drewmikk

KING5.com

Posted on April 23, 2014 at 6:04 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 23 at 11:19 PM

KENT, Wash. -- Some parents in Kent feel their kids aren't being provided a safe learning environment.  Wednesday evening, they packed into a school board meeting to voice those concerns and push for change.

One by one, moms and dads stood at the podium and faced school board members.  They described violent outbursts, classroom disruptions, and a loss of education time as a result of what they called gaping holes in the district's special education policies.

Teachers also spoke up about the problems.

"I want all children to be able to have what they need, but I don't think it's right for them to be able to hit me and kick me and try to bite me and my colleagues," said kindergarten teacher Elaine Harrelson.  "I don't think it's right, and I see it happening more and more."

Parent Beth Stoughton says violent outbursts inside her childrens' kindergarten classroom at Fairwood Elementary School have become almost routine.

She said her twins have told her about the teacher's "safe word."

"When the teacher says the code word then the classroom would leave and go to one of the neighboring classes," said Stoughton.

Another parent, Mike Kelly, said his son's second grade class at Fairwood is evacuated about once a month because of a student's outburst.

"The learning environment is being disrupted," said Kelly.

He and Stroughton are two of the more than 300 Kent parents and teachers who signed an online confession asking for more support for students with behavioral issues.

A spokesperson said the Kent School District has not seen an increase in violent outbursts, but the school board is reviewing what it calls the district's "inclusive education" program.

A special called meeting on the issue has been set for May 14th.  That's when school board members could decide to make changes to the way the district handles students with special needs and behavioral issues.

Parents are asking for a full autism program for grades kindergarten thru twelve.  They also want to see a smaller ratio of special education teachers to students, at least one full time counselor at each elementary school, and at least one full time behavioral specialist in buildings with high needs.

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