Blaming The Victim
At the end of citizens’ comments tonight, Dr. Wardynski offered a response to the calls from the community to make our schools safe by blaming the victim for being in places where they should not be (like the bathroom), blaming parents for not raising their children better, and blaming the community as a whole for creating the problems in the first place. He accepted no responsibility of any kind for the incidents of violence that were shared with him tonight.
And the board of education nodded their agreement and shook Wardynski’s hand while Mr. Blair called out parents in the seats for raising questions about the ridiculous claims Wardynski was making.
Here is the video and transcript showing his response to parental concerns. Please watch it if you did not watch the board meeting live. You will be astonished by his statements and David Blair’s yelling at citizens to “Hush!”
So under a variety of statutes, policies, federal laws, we monitor student behavior in our schools closely. We know when students get in trouble; usually it’s when they’re not where they’re supposed to be. They’re in a bathroom twenty minutes after class has started and all the other classrooms are full with kids who are learning. They happen in stairwells, when a child’s in a stairwell where they’re not supposed to be. And all the children are in the classroom where they are supposed to be. That’s the preponderance of where we have discipline problems. We don’t have problems in the classroom of children having their clothing removed or being bullied. Because that’s where the adults are that are supervising them. It’s when children stray from where they’re supposed to be that we begin having trouble. Well, we do a lot to prevent that.
[Citizens raise questions.]
Blair: “Hush! Quiet!”
Wardynski: “This is a business meeting.”
Wardynski: We do a lot to prevent that. We spend a great deal of money on security systems. We spend a great deal of money on security officers and on security personnel. And their work is to ensure the children are where they’re supposed to be and they’re in class. And that they’re behaving the way that their supposed to behave. But when that doesn’t happen, children do become victims of a variety of indiscipline incidents, and they can be incidents of bullying. They can be incidents of skipping class. A whole range of things. And we have a policy manual that we ask parents to sign. And we ask children to sign. And that policy manual prescribes where children are supposed to be, what they’re supposed to be doing, what the consequences are when they don’t do that. And it also talks to parents about that. Cause we’re not alone in this job.
Gangs don’t start in schools. They start in communities. They start in households. Indiscipline may take place in schools, but it begins in a variety of locations. And so we expect to be full partners with parents and the community when we deal with problems of gangs, bullying and indiscipline, all these other matters. And so when we look at security tapes, we know what’s going on. And when we get statements from students who say they didn’t see anything, and then we can see them on cameras, we take action. And in a variety of situations recently, we have taken action. We’ve suspended children from school immediately without any witness statement from victims.
The victim did not cooperate in many cases. The victim did not provide information of children’s names in many, many cases. In fact, they gave statements that said they didn’t know anybody. But when we see them on TV cameras, we take action and they’re put out of school. They’re put out of school under the policies of this district, which are prescribed and signed to by parents and students, called the policy handbook of Huntsville City Schools. Now.
[Citizens raise questions.]
Wardynski: “This is a business meeting.”
Now, when people ask for transfers, there’s policies that prescribe that as well. They’re outlined in the parents student handbook. If a safety transfer’s required, that’s governed by state statute. And we have to have evidence. We don’t just move children between schools. We need evidence. Because the evidence also leads to the cleaning up of the schools and the removal of children who cannot behave. There’s no evidence in many of the situations we’ve heard of recently. We have video tape, and that’s all we have. The video tape doesn’t cover necessary areas of the school. So we take action and we remove people when we have evidence and we have cooperative folks who give us names. And the kids are gone. That’s the way the system works.
And when it works properly, you see a decline in indiscipline. And that’s what we do see. So, when one looks to the schools for the first seven weeks of the year last and the year before last, one can see we’re down 60% from last year in terms of indiscipline that would be characterized by, uh, fighting, the natures of things that are listed on this chart: threats, disorder, harassment, menacing.
[Picture changes to the single slide being displayed on the screen.]
We’re down 40% from two years ago. And the reason we’re down is the cooperation of parents, the cooperation of teachers, children who are where they need to be, security systems and staff who are making sure they are where they need to be. But again, we need the cooperation of parents, and we need the cooperation of community. Schools don’t do it alone. We do a great deal. And a great deal is being done. Uh, we had a nice presentation here last week on gangs and our community. Uh, there was never an idea that gangs begin in our schools, but they do come in. And it’s our job to deal with them when they’re in our schools, but of course we need the help of parents and community and so forth to deal with them when they’re not in our schools. Bullying: that doesn’t begin in our schools. It comes into our schools. Now it may take place in a bathroom. It may take place in a stairwell. It may take place in a hallway. And when we take notice of it, we take action against it. And that action’s a variety of things from education, and a No Place for Hate program, to suspending and disenrolling students. And those students are brought before disciplinary action immediately when we have information we can action.
[Citizens raise questions.]
So these are the results that we see. And these are the results that are governed by law, and statute, and policy. And so, when we have the cooperation of folks, we can draw that green bar down even further.
So many good things are also happening in Huntsville City Schools. For example, today we had help of over 600 hours of volunteers who went into our schools to read to children in our pre-k programs. Volunteers came from all over our city, all over our school system, and so they’re helping us build strong kids, strong relationships with adults, um, and a future that’s going to be very bright for those kids. So we work to educate kids in our classrooms and that’s where the reading took place today. And we work to improve the behavior of children both in the classroom and when they’re not in classrooms where they belong. And we will continue to do that. Thank you.
“Where They’re Not Supposed to Be”
In the first 45 seconds of his five minutes of comments, Dr. Wardynski told the parents, citizens and entire community six times that if a child is being bullied, it’s because they’re “where they’re not supposed to be.”
In other words, it is entirely the victim’s fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“This Is A Business Meeting”
Rather than actually listen to the people whom he claims later in his comments he needs cooperation from, twice Dr. Wardynski loudly states, “This is a business meeting.” As if that statement predetermined his right to espouse offensive and dangerous ideas of blaming the victim for being attacked.
You’re right, Dr. Wardynski. This is a business meeting, and you are our employee. As such, it’s your responsibility to listen to the questions and concerns that are being raised from the community in response to your comments.
Mr. Blair, you should be ashamed. But I’m sure you’re not.
“Gangs Don’t Start In Schools”
“Gangs don’t start in schools. They start in communities. They start in households.” In other words, assuming that we have a problem, it isn’t actually our problem. It’s the problem of the community and the household.
Well, Dr. Wardynski, sometimes gangs do start in schools and denying that is not addressing the problem. The National Institute of Justice definition of a gang does not list any characteristic which would preclude the formation of a gang in a school.
But either way, let’s call this for what it is: shirking of responsibility by the superintendent. Just as he sought to place the blame for violence on the victim of that violence, now he’s seeking to place the blame for gangs on anyone other than himself.
And really, Dr. Wardynski, if you actually expect to be “full partners with parents and the community” as we work together to address problems, it would help if you would actually communicate with your partners rather than shout them down in public meetings.
“The Victims Did Not Cooperate”
Why would you ever expect them to do so when you’ve just told the entire city that it’s the victim’s fault if they’re victimized?
“We Have To Have Evidence”
At this point, Dr. Wardynski simply just stops making any form of sense. “There’s no evidence in many of the situations we’ve heard of recently. We have video tape, and that’s all we have.”
Um, I’m fairly sure that a video tape is actually considered evidence, Dr. Wardynski. In fact, just seconds earlier, you were claiming that, “But when we see them on TV cameras, we take action, and they’re put out of school.”
If video tape isn’t evidence, why are you putting students “out of school” based upon it?
“When It Works Properly, You See A Decline In Indiscipline”
You also, as was pointed out to you tonight by one of the parents you were shouting down, see a decline in indiscipline when you establish an informal policy of requiring discipline problems to be handled in the classroom, and no where else.
When teachers are told they cannot report discipline problems, well, discipline problems are going to decline.
Your chart showing a 60% decline in discipline problems from last year is a completely manipulated number. When he claims, “And these are the results that are governed by law, and statute, and policy,” he’s absolutely correct. These numbers are the result of an unwritten, but heavily enforced policy, that requires that teachers no longer report discipline problems to the office.
Still not convinced?
Dr. Wardynski spoke non-stop for over five minutes on the issue of discipline problems occurring in the schools. And even though he had been specifically and directly accused of ordering teachers to stop referring discipline problems to the principals of the schools, twice, at no point during those five minutes did he say:
The claims that I’ve ordered principals and teachers to handle discipline problems in the classroom, and not to report them to the principal, are ludicrous.
Nope, not once, did he say that or anything like it.
Dr. Wardynski likes to pontificate on the qualities of “strong leaders.” At no time has anyone ever defined strong leadership as a refusal to accept any responsibility. Until now.
And the board of education continues to not only let him do it, but give him bonuses for it. And because they are terrified for their own safety, they brought the metal detectors back out tonight. I suppose parents and students asking for safe schools are considered threatening now as well.
I do, however, wish to thank district security for the restraint and basic human decency that they showed tonight. David Blair and Casey Wardynski could learn a thing or two from them.
Dr. Wardynski blames students for going to the bathroom. He blames parents for allowing their students to go to the bathroom. He blames the community for allowing the development of gangs. He blames everyone else for the failure of his policies of refusing to allow teachers to report discipline issues.
He has made our schools unsafe. He’s put our children at risk. He’s done it intentionally and willfully, and he’s blaming us for his actions.
A few days ago, I took a some grief for going so far as to claim that Dr. Wardynski has no decency.
I was being far kinder to him than he was to the victims he was abusing tonight.