Mainstreaming and murder

A 15-year-old with a long and troubled history killed the principal of his rural Wisconsin school last fall. The Wall Street Journal asks if mainstreaming disturbed students is at fault.

When Eric Hainstock didn’t get his way in kindergarten, he told other children his father would kill them. In fifth grade, he tried to spray a homemade concoction he called blood into the mouths of classmates. In sixth grade, he threatened others, fought, and talked “about killing himself and others.”

Worried about these and other incidents recounted in internal school reports, teachers and a school psychologist recommended that Eric, who was diagnosed in second grade with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, get more one-on-one attention, or be placed in a special private school. Instead, he was one of millions of special-education students mainstreamed in regular classes.

I think there are questions about how best to educate students with emotional and behavior problems. This boy would have been happier in a special ed class or a special school where he could have received more individual attention. I’m sure his teachers and classmates would have been happier without him. But it’s a huge stretch to suggest that mainstreaming leads to murder.

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  1. Cardinal Fang says:

    It’s not even obvious that this very disturbed boy would have been less violent if he were in a different setting. Maybe he would have killed the teacher of the special ed class he was in.

    The students in the classes he was mainstreamed in would have been better off without him, but if he’d been put in a special ed class, he would have disrupted it. In general, there are not special ed classes specifically for violent kids, so he would have been disrupting kids with other problems, who would have been even less able to deal with a disruptive, violent classmate.

  2. No child should ever be considered an adult. He should not be in the adult system. He needed help since the day his Mother abandoned him. He was a bullied, abused child. Bullying is one of the top 3 reasons why children take guns to school.

    Visit to help Eric. Stop the warehousing of our children. They are our future.

  3. Nobody can say that placement of this child in a more restricive setting, such as the private school or an alternative school away from a main campus would have prevented the murder from happening.

    But it is possible that the more intensive help and controlled environment would have been able to prevent this from happening. Experienced staff, even though they are usually trained on the job and are usually out of field teachers initially, might have picked up on an upcoming crisis. The alternative settings have greater security options than a regular school also.

    Surely it is a slippery slope to move students away from the regular or mainstream setting. But it is also a slippery slope to never move kids to a more restrictive environment.

    I have experience in both settings and know that some kids thrived in a more restrictive environment. I also know that some kids were able to move back to the regular setting later in their school career… and some needed to be placed in more intensive programs than our rural district could provide.

    It takes judgment. You have to what is best for all students. This child was clearly a danger to others, if the reported incidents are accurate.

    Also remember, there is no ESE lawyer to help kids like this one after they have committed a violent crime. They go to prison and are then preyed upon… for a long, long time. Guaranteeing them a right to be mainstream, regardless of their behavior… and then using IDEA to protect them from the consequences of bad behavior… hurts everyone.

  4. Cari,

    And in this case the principal’s future was death. We should help the children, but we also have an obligation to protect people from the children and teens who would like to do them harm.

    We need to stop thinking that we can place emotionally and behaviorally disordered students in non-restrictive environments. We need to think about the welfare of the other students, teachers and staff.

    There are “locked door” units at some schools for the extremely emotional disturbed in which an almost one to one staffing level is maintained. If that’s where the violent and disturbed need to be, we might need more of them.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    The Procrustian bed of mainstreaming has to be one of the biggest enemies of education. Justice for juveniles is close. Bad deads require bad consequences.

  6. Walter E. Wallis says: