School board candidates square off

October 16, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

The original argument was a blow-up between two teens in a special program for emotionally disturbed students.

But it led to a difference -- albeit a more civil one -- between the two candidates for Carroll County's school board.

At the Board of Education's monthly meeting Wednesday, candidate C. Scott Stone said at least one staff member of a new special-education program had been physically threatened by a student and that state police had to be called in during an incident at a school.

"What is the board doing to ensure [staff and student] safety?" Mr. Stone said.

Board President Cheryl A. McFalls, who is running for re-election against Mr. Stone, said she was unaware of these incidents and threats.

"I find it interesting that you have been chosen to bring their message to the board," Mrs. McFalls said.

After the meeting, when she was asked to clarify her comment, Mrs. McFalls said, "I thought it was a real political ploy and he [Mr. Stone] was trying to get his name in the paper. It would have been more appropriate to go through staff."

Mr. Stone said later that the staff person who spoke with him feared reprisals if he or she complained further in the school administration.

"It may be that if I was not a candidate and not attending meetings, yes, maybe the person would never have called me," Mr. Stone said.

But he said he is in a position to bring such concerns to the `` board's attention.

"There was a breakdown in communication in the system," Mr. Stone said, responding to Mrs. McFalls' claim that he is using the incident for publicity. "She is aware of the weakness and was pointing a finger at a convenient outsider."

The program at the Muncie Center, on the Springfield Hospital Center grounds, has 16 middle school and high school students who are of normal to high intelligence but have emotional and behavioral problems.

Peter B. McDowell, the county's director of secondary education, said the incident about one week ago involved an "altercation" between two students. When staff members tried to calm them down, one student cooled off but the other didn't and was subsequently suspended.

Mr. McDowell said staffers called state police only to get a ride home for the student who was still angry. The staffers feared that a fight would start on the bus home if the two students rode it together, and the youth's parents could not be contacted immediately.

Once the youth's parents were contacted, however, they objected to the state police ride because it would appear punitive. Mr. McDowell said the program administrator drove the teen home.

Mr. McDowell said the program's staff and school officials know that the students are subject to crises and emotional outbursts, and the program has a special "crisis-intervention teacher."

When a student's behavior requires it, this teacher takes the student aside and works with him or her until the student is ready to return to class, he said.

Mr. McDowell said the program is not meant to take students who are known to be physically threatening.

He told Mr. Stone that he believed the situation has been under control since last week.

But Mr. Stone said that he had talked with the staff member as recently as Tuesday night and that that person still had concerns.

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