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Hands Off

Stan Kricek is an intern (student teacher) with three weeks left in a small self-contained class for middle school students with severe emotional disabilities. Left alone to teach a lesson, Stan instructed a student to pick her head up off her desk and get back on task. He placed his hand on her shoulder as he spoke to her. Soon thereafter, Stan is accused of hitting the student.

 

"Get the hell out of my face!" Alicia yelled as Stan Kricek, the intern teacher, stood beside her desk.

"I’ve asked you once and I am asking you again to sit up and try to work on your assignment. I’ll be glad to help you, but you need to pick your head up off your desk and stay focused," Stan responded in frustration.

"I told you I’m not doing this stupid work!" Alicia said with an angry glare.

"You have a choice," Stan said as he placed his hand on her shoulder and looked her in the eye. "Either sit up and start working, or sit here during your free time next period. It is your decision," Stan added.

In a sudden outburst, Alicia jumped up, and pushed Stan out of the way. "You make me sick! I want Ms. Hutchins back," she shouted as she made for the door.

"Alicia," he called after her, "you are not allowed to leave the classroom without permission!" Alone in the classroom with the other students, Stan had no alternative but to let her go. Luckily, his supervising teacher was coming down the hall and intercepted Alicia as she headed for the exit.

"Where are you going, Alicia?" Ms. Hutchins, the supervising teacher, asked as she blocked Alicia’s path.

"I’m outta here, I don’t need this shit!" Alicia responded, fighting to get past Ms. Hutchins.

"I suggest you make your way back to class before you get yourself in trouble," responded Ms. Hutchins calmly, trying to reason with her. Within seconds, the police officer assigned to the school turned the corner.

"Is everything all right, Ms. Hutchins?" Officer Campbell asked in his typically stern voice.

"I think we are okay here, Officer Campbell," replied Ms. Hutchins. "Alicia and I are just about ready to head back to class."

"You’ll let me know if you need me," came the response from the end of the hall.

Alicia Johnson was a new 8th grader at Benson Heights Middle School. She had been removed from her mother’s care at the age of 9 due to abuse and neglect and had since been in four different foster homes. There were allegations of abuse at her first foster care placement, but no charges were filed against the foster parents. Alicia was simply moved to a different foster home. Her school records indicated she was placed in a self-contained classroom for students with severe emotional disabilities when she was eight years old because of disruptive behaviors and sudden violent outbursts. Anecdotal notations in her records indicated behaviors such as defiance, throwing objects at teachers and students, hitting and kicking classmates, use of profanity, running out of the classroom, and destroying classroom materials. The records also indicated that Alicia had above average intelligence as measured by the WISC-III and academic skills that were on grade level or above.

Ms. Hutchins peered in the window to see what Mr. Kricek was doing. He was leaning over a student in the back of the class, helping him with the assignment. The remaining four students, all male, were sitting quietly, independently doing their work. Alicia entered the room first, followed by Ms. Hutchins.

"I’m glad to see you decided to come back," Stan said to Alicia. Alicia didn’t say a word. Without any expression of emotion,  she approached Stan. Stan’s immediate thoughts were that Alicia had decided to apologize. As he stood up to face her, he caught a glimpse of her fist coming toward his face. In a reflex, he lifted his forearm just in time to deflect the glancing blow. Another blow was on its way when Ms. Hutchins intervened.

"You have one minute to make your way to Principal Davis’s office. Don’t make me get Officer Campbell down here!" exclaimed Ms. Hutchins.

Stan couldn’t believe what had just happened. "What in God’s name would possess her to take a swing at me like that?" he thought to himself.

Stan had been interning in Ms. Hutchin's class for the past eleven weeks. From time to time, Ms. Hutchins left Stan in charge of the class. She felt it was important for him to "test his wings" and was comfortable with his skill level in terms of instruction and behavior management. So far, he had been very successful and he thought he had been able to build a good rapport with the students. Today’s events told him otherwise.

The class was silent as Alicia was escorted to the principal’s office. An hour passed, and Stan was planning the next day’s lesson when Officer Campbell showed up at the door.

"I’ve been asked to come get you, Mr. Kricek. The principal needs to see you in his office right away. I’ll stay with your class until you return," stated Officer Campbell as he grabbed a chair to sit down.

"Class, finish up your work and I’ll be back in a few minutes," Stan stammered as he walked out the door.

As Stan approached the office, he could see the principal, Ms. Hutchins, and Alicia gathered around the desk.

"Please wait outside while I speak with Mr. Kricek," Mr. Davis said to Alicia as he beckoned Stan to enter. Without giving Stan time to sit down Mr. Davis blurted out, "You have been accused of hitting a student, Mr. Kricek."  Before Stan could respond Mr. Davis continued.  "I’m not saying you did it, but we have to report this incident to the Child Welfare Office and you will be sent home until further notice."

"I didn’t…." Stan attempted to defend himself but he was interrupted by Mr. Davis.

"I know, Mr. Kricek, but we still have to report it. You will need to be present for a hearing, here in this office, at 3:00 tomorrow," replied Mr. Davis.

Stan couldn’t believe what he was hearing. All he did was place a hand on Alicia’s shoulder. What if the other students decided to back up Alicia’s story? "What a way to start a teaching career. What am I going to do?" he thought to himself.

 

Discussion/Study Questions

1.    List what you learned/know about each of the characters in the case.
2.    What do you think is motivating the thoughts/actions of each of the characters?
3.    What are the issues/problems in the case?

 

Additional Questions

1.    Why do you think Alicia reacted as she did in the beginning of the case?
2.    Do you think Stan’s behavior management strategies were effective/appropriate?
3.    What laws, regulations and procedural safeguards should you consider when planning and implementing behavior
       management strategies?
4.    What are teachers’ rights and responsibilities in relation to managing student behavior?
5.    Should teachers ever touch students?
6.    Do you think it was appropriate for Ms. Hutchins to leave Stan alone in the classroom?
7.    Should supervising teachers ever leave interns/student teachers alone in the classroom? Why or why not?

 

 

CEC Competency/Knowledge Areas Addressed in the Case

Major Areas:

Ethical considerations inherent in classroom behavior management.

Applicable laws, rules and regulations, and procedural safeguards regarding the planning and implementation of management of student behaviors.

Rights and responsibilities of parents, students, teachers, and schools as they relate to individuals with exceptional learning needs.

 

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