Trouble At Youngsville

Concerning trends have emerged at Youngsville Elementary Middle School in the wake of the Warren County School District’s decision last year to place all emotional and autistic support students at YEMS for the current school year.

Five assaults have been reported to the Times Observer by law enforcement since the beginning of the school year. None have been reported in the rest of the WCSD.

Superintendent Dr. William Clark acknowledged an increase in incidents at the school this year.

“There is a residential treatment facility in Youngsville,” he said in an interview last week. So “along with moving emotional support, (incidents are) up locally. There is no denying that.

“(I) wouldn’t say it is anything out of the ordinary,” Clark added, “just the number of overall incidents has increased. We’ll watch and we’re monitoring it because we’re getting the same concerns.

A group of concerned parents addressed the school board’s Curriculum, Instruction and Technology Committee regarding the issue on Monday night.

Scott Nelson, speaking for the group, raised several specific concerns to the board.

“What we have learned, students are missing certain ‘specials’ such as music. Or they are being re-routed in the hallway because of an incident taking place. Or they are being dismissed late because they cannot use the hallway outside of their rooms because of a situation that has happened, causing concern for parents waiting to pick them up or the buses waiting for students to leave. They are being subjected to violence and foul language on a daily basis. Under no circumstance should a kindergarten or elementary student witness or hear the things they do.”

As for the cause of the incident increase, Clark said, “Working with the social service agencies, it is a programming thing.”

He acknowledged that “everything is open for discussion” regarding moving the program, but such a recommendation has yet to be made.

The decision to move the programs was made before Clark was on board with the district, but he said moving autistic support and emotional support to YEMS was “trying to consolidate services, speech, OT.”

“We’re taking a hard look to see how we can do better,” he added. “(We are) definitely aware of it (and are) trying to see if we can improve overall operations The safety and well-being of the students is first and foremost.”

Clark said housing programs brings unique issues. “Unfortunately this one gets magnified a little bit (with) those kids having such issues. (We are) trying to address the issues by working with the agencies.”

Nelson was adamant that the group is not looking to cause conflict or portray an “us versus them” situation.

“We are not here to start a conflict,” he said. “We welcome dialogue from families of support students that have been moved. We need to be proactive in our schools.. Whether it is in education or safety, we cannot wait until there is an unfortunate event with the aftermath and say ‘Well, I guess we should have done this instead or that to save money.’ I’m not comfortable with a dollar sign placed upon the heads of the children.”

He added that the group’s emphasis is to determine via “open and honest dialogue” what can be done “collectively to solve these problems.”

Board President Arthur Stewart suggested that the issue be referred to committee for review and suggested the Curriculum, Instruction and Technology Committee as the appropriate entity. He specifically asked for feedback regarding staffing issues related to the programs, the physical configuration of the school as well as the number of police calls made.

The issue will likely be before the committee at its meeting next month.