Parents: Unruly students threaten safety at Kent schools

KENT, Wash. - Parents and school staff in Kent say something must be done about the special education policies that are harming the health and safety of teachers and children in the classroom.

And on Wednesday night they packed a school board meeting to give administrators an earful.

The Kent School District does acknowledge that budget cuts have reduced the number of special education teachers and programs.

But parents say dangerous situations like being evacuated from a classroom multiples times because of unruly students must end. They are standing together with teachers calling on the district for more resources to manage special needs student who learn in regular classrooms.

"I don't think it's right for them to hit me, to kick me, to try to bite me," one teacher told the school board at Wednesday night's meeting.

Karen Roberts, who teaches second grade at Emerald Park Elementary, says, "You have no idea the lack of instruction that occurs or doesn't occur when you are constantly dealing with this one student."

Parents say classrooms can be dangerous.

Photos from the teachers union show a classroom after they say a student was a having a behavior problem - desks and chairs are tossed like toys.

"I've actually been there when its happened and it's complete chaos," says one father.

The union says some teachers have even been sent to the emergency room because of violent students. Parents say - no more.

"In Kent we have the money for these much-needed programs positions," says parent Debra Stephenson. "Why, why are we not putting resources in the schools to help these needy student, their teachers and all their classmates?"

The district says the concerns are being heard.

"That has a real powerful resonance with the board - but the board has to make those decisions, and they're tough decisions," says Chris Loftis of the Kent School District.

The district says it has brought in two independent agencies to evaluate their special needs programs - but just what changes will be made is not yet known.

"When you need $5.5 million to restore programs, but you only have $4 million to do it, that's where the rubber meets the road - that's where the tough decisions come," says Loftis.

But parents respond that students shouldn't be short-changed on their education because teachers are too busy dealing with behavioral problems.

"Every child in the Kent School District deserves a quality public education," says one father.

The board will be presented with the findings from thoe independent agencies on May 14. At that time they will decide if money from the recent levy will solve this troubling problem.