Garrison School’s recent policy changes on how to handle student behavior appear to be turning around.
The school put a social worker on call to deal with student behaviors, aggression, and any emergency mental health situations.
Co-principal Amy Haarmann detailed some of the numbers on Wednesday at the 4 Rivers Education Board meeting: “We have had 1,381 calls, so our social workers have been very, very busy; but the nice thing about that is last year our referrals or crises as we used to call them, we had 2,168. This year we only 1,179. I think with our social worker on call is partly the reason that those are decreasing and I like to see that a lot. One of the biggest behaviors last year was ‘out of area,’ where our kids ran off campus and disrespect. This year it was a lot more noncompliance and physical aggression. Restraints – last year, there were 10 different students for a total of 147 restraints, and this year, there were 8 different students but we were down to 79. I think a lot of that is using the Ukeru that we had training on and being able to de-escalate and use other interventions before going hands-on.”
The new methods and interventions came in the wake of a scathing report by Pro Publica and the Chicago Tribune about the school’s number of police visits and arrests of students for behavior. Haarman says police response to the school has dropped, compared to last school year: “Last year, there were 24 different students that were the ‘well checks’ where we called the police when they left campus – we had 60 of those last year. Police came in 10 times to help us de-escalate. We had 15 arrests, 5 tickets, and we didn’t have any students that we sent to the hospital for evaluations. This year, there were 20 different students. We’ve had only 19 well checks of when they have left school grounds. We had 8 times where officers came in for de-escalation. We have had 9 arrests, 3 tickets, and 6 transports to the hospital for evaluation. We are finding our mental health is playing a big part into the physical [incidents].”
Enrollment is currently at 71, with the school seeing 3 graduate this past week. 9 new students are expected to come to the school next year.
Despite the marked improvement, the school is still awaiting the results of a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Education opened in February in the wake of the Pro Publica/Chicago Tribune report.