Less than a week after police were called to Haven Middle School twice in the same day for physical altercations, Superintendent Devon Horton is acknowledging “ongoing climate and culture issues” at the school, and is promising to improve safety for staff and students.
In a message to the District 65 community, Horton says he is “very aware of the challenges” that children and adults are facing at Haven, behavior and discipline challenges which he says “have been long-standing.”
But while the district will add discipline-and-counseling-related staff, and also train more employees in conflict resolution, Haven teachers are lining up outside the school each morning and walking in as a group, showing concern and solidarity.
In one of last week’s incidents, a staff member ended up going to the hospital as a student fight spilled over and the employee was knocked down. Police do not believe the employee was targeted.
The superintendent says that District 65 is bringing on two new counselors at Haven, eight hall monitors, and a third assistant principal.
He also says 30 staff members district-wide have been trained in in Crisis Prevention Intervention, a method of de-escalating potential fights.
However, Horton says, the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to train the staffers until the current school year, because of the time needed. Such training must occur on-site, and the District was on remote learning for much of 2020 and 2021.
There was only one trained crisis Intervention employee at Haven the day of the incidents last week, and that individual, Horton says, was dealing with other students when the altercations occurred.
“I realize the number” of crisis interventionists at Haven “may appear low,” Horton says, but at least eight more will be trained for the school.
Besides impacting crisis intervention training, Horton says the pandemic has had a lingering impact on both students and staff.
He also says safety is the district’s top priority, and “Haven’s landscape must be intentionally addressed.”
Horton says one of the recent incidents was a “spillover” from something that had occurred at the Robert Crown Center.
The superintendent also states that the behavior and discipline issues at Haven are not necessarily representative of a larger issue district-wide.
However, Horton says, some students at Haven need “deeper social and emotional support,” but adds he is confident the culture and climate at the school will improve.
Meantime, some Haven parents have been providing social and emotional support for teachers who have to deal with the Haven situation.
Several dozen parents and guardians have been gathering outside the middle school in the morning to back the educators. One participant says about fifty parents and guardians were on hand Tuesday, and plan to be there the next couple of mornings as well.