Schools Struggle with Elementary Behavior Issues; the Woodland Hills School District Was Not Prepared for the Trouble It Has Experienced in Elementary School Classrooms This Year. [Derived Headline]

By Behrman, Elizabeth | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 15, 2015 | Go to article overview

Schools Struggle with Elementary Behavior Issues; the Woodland Hills School District Was Not Prepared for the Trouble It Has Experienced in Elementary School Classrooms This Year. [Derived Headline]


Behrman, Elizabeth, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The Woodland Hills School District was not prepared for the trouble it has experienced in elementary school classrooms this year.

After the district ranked in the top 10 in the country for elementary student suspensions in 2011-12, it hired more teachers to reduce class sizes and assembled a team to help students who have chronic behavioral problems, Superintendent Alan Johnson said.

But the district still wasn't equipped to handle the number of alleged attacks on teachers -- at least 11 -- reported by the union this school year, he said.

On Nov. 6, district officials confirmed the principal at Edgewood Primary School was placed on paid administrative leave after teachers filed complaints about a lack of support when they reported being bitten, scratched and kicked by students. Last week, a kindergarten student put his hands on a teacher's neck while frustrated, Johnson said.

People are surprised to learn about behavioral problems teachers deal with at the elementary school level, he said. It's a problem that Woodland Hills and other districts have been dealing with for years.

"It's so removed from what most people would ever imagine about elementary level-aged students," Johnson said.

Edgewood reported 11 incidents -- each of them paired with a call to law enforcement -- to the state Department of Education during the 2014-15 school year. One student was cited for bullying, one for possession of a knife, one for possession or use of a controlled substance and eight for possession of another type of weapon, according to the annual Safe Schools report compiled by the state.

The school reported 10 incidents in each of the prior two years, which included complaints of assault on students, assault on school staff, fighting, possession of a firearm, disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment.

Edgewood has about 500 students in kindergarten through third grade, Johnson said.

Kelly Elementary School in Wilkinsburg reported 43 incidents to the state last year, including complaints of assault, disorderly conduct, fighting and rioting. Bellevue Elementary School in the Northgate School District reported 10, including one bomb threat and two threats to a student or school staff member. Penn Hills Elementary School reported 52 incidents, including vandalism, arson, theft and possession of a knife.

Most of the students causing the problems at Edgewood are in kindergarten or second grade, Johnson said. Some of them have special needs. …

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