Senator and former Guam Department of Education Superintendent Underwood decided to hold the round table discussion after a video on social media showing a one-to-one aide getting physical with a student with special needs went viral.
Guam – Senator and former Guam Department of Education Superintendent Nerissa Underwood vows to follow up on student safety concerns after a round table discussion at the Legislature last week.
She says, “That round-table addresses the safety of our students, not only those in regular programs but those who are receiving Special Education services. We had a number of community members who testified about the experiences they’ve had relative to their family members or students they know who’s safety was compromised within GDOE.”
Underwood says she not only wants to make sure that there are certain policies in place to protect the island’s students, but assure parents that their children are protected in school. At the discussion, she received these recommendations. “Among the recommendations that they made is to ensure there is appropriate training and accountability for those who are providing direct services to our students, especially those that can fend for themselves, those with disabilities,” she says.
Another recommendation is to keep 1:1 school aides full-time, instead of part-time, so there is continuity with student support services. Right now, she explains, that every year, new school aides would be hired and GDOE would have to re-train them and start all over again. Underwood says, “I also recommended that there should be cameras installed and I know the procurement is slow but that should be expedited. I also noted that teachers, school staff, administrators and parents should also do their part. They should hold their children accountable. If something happens in school, it’d be very helpful is for parents to work with their teachers and administrators to make sure students won’t behave the same way they did.”
During the round-table discussion, GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said as far as the Special Education programs, they will strengthen their safe training and take a look at how often they need to train 1:1 aides and also take a look at the quality of training. In regards to student fight videos, Fernandez says those videos only reflect a very small portion compared to the entire school population.
“Not every student will be able to meet those expectations and that’s when we we run into issues when we have students who exhibit severe and disruptive behavior and that’s what I think is the focus of the hearing. What do we do with those students? My emphasis to the community is that this doesn’t start and end in the school system. We don’t teach kids to be violent but at the same time, it happens in our community and we all need to work together to find a way to prevent and address violence in our schools. Even though it’s a minority, it’s important that we address it,” he explains.
Fernandez explains that the department’s goal is to promote positive behavior. In fact he says, GDOE is implementing the Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) in each school. He says they will continue to work hand in hand with the Guam Police Department, the Probations Office and the Attorney Generals Office to prevent those type of incidents at the schools.
Underwood says, “We’ll be meeting with the Superintendent. We’re committed to providing the support to address the priorities. I believe if we keep the communication going and engage all of those who took the time to come and tell us about the problems and provided solutions that I think would make the campuses a safer.”