Our opinion: A special needs school

When parents send their children to school, they have a reasonable expectation that their children will be safe within those walls.

We are all aware of the special precautions school districts, including the Warren County School District, take to keep the wrong people on the outside to keep the people on the inside safe, including cameras and locked entry doors. But, there can also be danger on the inside.

On Monday, parents of students at Youngsville Elementary-Middle School complained to the school board about violence at YEMS, violence that has apparently ramped up since the school district placed all of its special needs students in Youngsville.

Special needs students can range from those with physical and mental handicaps, who need special attention, to students who are saddled with emotional challenges that make them potentially dangerous to staff and other students.

One might imagine that there are a range of student disabilities throughout any district, a few students here and a few there who require special attention. Making that attention available is one of the primary duties of any district, but also an expensive one, requiring staff with special abilities, such as wrap-around aides.

Last year, along with the shuffling of students required by construction projects and the projected closing of some elementary schools, the school board decided to make Youngsville Elementary-Middle School and Youngsville High School the centers for special needs students in the county.

The numbers made sense, of course. It is less expensive to concentrate that specialized staff in one place than scattering it around a half-dozen or more buildings, each of which having only a few special needs students. And, there is a residential emotional support facility in Youngsville that relies on the public schools there for its clients.

But, students are more than numbers, and that concentration seems to have increased the potential for problems, not only for staff, but for the Youngsville Police Department, which has already responded to more serious behavior incidents at the two Youngsville schools this year than it did all of last year.

The great majority of the incidents have occured at Youngsville Elementary-Middle School. One can certainly make the case that the concentration of students requiring emotional support has given the school itself special needs.

Might one fulfillment of that special need be a uniformed officer in that school?