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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

What to do with angry, unstable students

Photo: Pixabay

In A day in the life of school social workers, Hechinger’s Peggy Barmore looks at how Schenectady (New York) schools diverts troubled students from the classroom and tries to get them back into class.

In 2021, the upstate New York district “started to see more students, even those in middle school, landing in long-term suspension because of post-pandemic behavior problems,” Barmore writes.

(Nathaniel) Wylie, who has trained in therapeutic crisis intervention, now works with kids in grades 6 to 12 who have been suspended from their home schools and are attending tutoring at the district’s Washington Irving Educational Center, where the diversion program is housed. He helps students learn to manage the behavior that led to their suspension — usually fighting, drug or weapon possession, or assaulting a school staff member or administrator. “These are students who behave in ways that, if they were outside of the school building and a police officer was around, they’d probably get arrested,” Wylie said. . . . In exchange for agreeing not to contest school discipline charges, parents or guardians can opt students into the diversion program, keeping them connected to school and receiving school-based mental health services and supports with the possibility of a shortened suspension.

Wylie and school psychologist Rafael Medina coach a weekly boxing club. The coed club was created in 2008 “to give students an outlet in response to the death by suicide of four high school students in a six-month period.”

Principal Matthew J. Bowerman writes in Edutopia about how he tries to calm classroom conflicts and keep troubled students in class.

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