Wardynski Blaming the Victim, Family, and Community

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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.”

Blair: “Quiet.”

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.”

Blair: “Stop.”

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.

Strong Leaders

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.

 
Russell
"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.

19 Comments

  1. So, hey. Guess where I work? IN A BUSINESS.

    In business meetings, unless specifically stated up front (and honestly, I’ve never seen this done), there is ALWAYS a Q&A. ALWAYS. Because in a business, everyone is a stakeholder – employees, investors, suppliers – and you want all stakeholders to be crystal clear on the expectations/standards/etc.

    Also: if what happened at Butler happened in a business? At the least – say, there was no evidence but a half-naked girl roaming the hallways, crying and battered – there would me immediate action, usually involving the separation of the victim from the alleged attackers. But if there WERE evidence, such as videotape, not only would the above happen, but a business would assist in generating a police report.

    Most importantly, in a business, if they failed to provide the basic duty of safety on their grounds, they are low-hanging fruit in a court of law.

    “This is a business meeting.”

    No, sir, it is not.

    1. I have worked in the business world for 8 years and the education field for 16 years. I agree with Sarah. In any meeting involving a discussion of issues pertinent to employees, supervisors, the customers (in this case, students & parents), questions are taken, considered, discussed, and addressed by the ones in charge. Dr. W. doesn’t seem to think he owes anyone an explanation. HE is an autocrat and therefore, thinks that “his way” is the only way.

      I do not know why the girl involved in this tragic bullying incident was in the restroom or even if it is true that the incident took place 20 minutes after class began. I do have to wonder why so many girls were loitering in the restroom, but I couldn’t even begin to speculate on what happened that day and why. Those girls do know, however. Let’s ask them.

      During class, students will often say they have an emergency situation. I understand this. Am I supposed to stop class and drill them on why they must go to the restroom? I think we all might be embarrassed if this was done.

      Another issue to consider. . .teachers cannot be everywhere. Are we going to be asked to police the bathrooms during class changes and during our planning period? We already have to police the halls during class changes. In my day, students went to their lockers &/or the bathroom, then went to the next class. Yes, we talked and laughed and socialized, but we did not terriorize others, run, hit others, etc. I do not ever remember teachers watching us walk to classes.

      And by the way, teachers have to go to the bathroom sometime, run by the office to check their mailboxes, get materials ready for the next class, etc. I really resent “hall duty” when I could really use those precious 3-4 minutes to catch my breath, erase the board, read an email from a parent or coworker, and/or get out what I need for the next class. But I’d rather do “hall duty” than “bathroom duty”.

      Teachers are being required to do too much; we need to use our time and energy to plan and teach, not babysit and be hall monitors and bus monitiors and file reports and do all the record keeping that we’re now required to do.

      Middle and high school kids should be expected to act appropriately in the hallways and bathrooms and be immediately punished if they choose to do otherwise. The “process” and “paper trail” we have to follow takes entirely too long. If the kid does wrong, take him/her to the office, call his/her parent, and get them OUT of our school, that moment, that day. it’s too bad is Mom has to take off work to fetch her child; etiher she comes, or the pollice can remove the student. Troubled and troubling students need help getting and staying on track. Parents and law enforcement can help. Teachers need to be in the classroom teaching those who can behave and want to lean.

      And all supervisors ought to have to answer questions posed by staff members and parents. Even Dr. W. ought to have to answer. This is not the military “General W”; it’s a school system! You cannot just issue your orders and expect the rest of us to agree with all you say and do and to jump when you say jump, think what you want us to think, or act like soldiers under your command. My students, coworkers, and I are not your little soldiers. We are people, learners, and educators with lives and thoughts/beliefs of our own. WE DON’T HAVE TO DRINK YOUR KOOL-AID, SIR!

      1. I’m really, REALLY getting tired of the way that people who disagree with Wardynski disparage the military. Terms like “little soldiers” and the suggestions that the Army is a place where blind allegiance to arbitrary nonsense is the norm insult people who not deserve the discourtesy. Wardynski’s leadership style and temperament are personal and professional weaknesses — they are not characteristic of most successful military officers. Please stop indicating otherwise!!

        1. witsend:

          You are correct that we should not disrespect our military and the Army in particular. I will not tolerate that on this blog; however, I do not believe that T. Johnson was disrespecting our military. I believe he was, as you are, criticizing Dr. Wardynski’s completely lack of leadership in this school system.

          That was clearly not something the military nor the Army taught him. You are correct that such an absence of leadership and responsibility are the exact opposites of our military officers.

          I thank you and T. Johnson for taking the time to speak your minds. I welcome and encourage a variety of viewpoints on this blog.

          Russell

  2. Nice work Russ, as is common. I’m not there in Huntsville, so I can’t offer much. However, your Board and Dr. Wardynski’s approach has long interested me. In this instance, it seems to me that the top down (dictatorial?) model applies only up to the point where blame is so easily whipped out. I hear what he’s saying, but only up to a point. That point is that we must then apply his/their “if only the kids and their sorry parents would …” to standardized testing and other measures of “teacher effectiveness” worshiped by Broad acolytes and all the other “reformers” who now seem to dominate education. I think his words were, “when we have the cooperation of folks.” Teachers who haven’t measured up who plead lack of cooperation (much less poverty, cultural factors, detached parents, gangs, …) would have the hammer lowered on that defense. The “no excuses” crowd needs to decide if what’s demanded from the lowly teachers goes for those on up the food chain. Respectfully, john gunn of Auburn, Alabama

  3. If the system is covering up unsafe learning environments we are asking for a devastating incident or two. It is just a matter of time and the blame game will not be enough.

    1. Principals are instructed to reduce the number of suspensions or else. They do this by placing disruptive students into other classrooms for other teachers to watch and by having the parent “sign out” the student. Discipline notices mysteriously disappear from the student’s file

  4. “Gangs don’t start in schools. They start in communities. They start in households.”

    He said that?? Um, Dr. Wardynski, the school IS the community for children. In this day and age, children encounter and bond with their peers in schools, not their neighborhoods. If we actually bring MORE community involvement into the schools, more family involvement into the schools, the children will have role models to emulate and better guidance than merely their peers.

    “Bullying: that doesn’t begin in our schools. It comes into our schools.”

    Comes from WHERE? Does some random child decide he or she doesn’t like another child at the local McDonald’s, and perversely decides to stalk the victim to school? No, since the SCHOOL IS THE COMMUNITY for children, that’s where most bullying starts as children find their awkward way of interpreting the adult standards of hierarchy. I used to think I was “bullied” when I was in elementary school and junior high, but compared to the depths society allows some children to sink to, I was merely disliked in a frequent, verbal manner. Even so, that started IN SCHOOL by other kids I only saw IN SCHOOL.

    Idiot.

  5. how do we rally and contact the state board? will they do anything to help us? it’s like we’re under the rule of a dictator up here! this is getting out of hand!

  6. I wonder how much those metal detectors cost tax payers?

    Does anyone see the irony in the lengths the supe and the board go to to make sure public meetings are safe and orderly while they blame tax payers for the unsafe, disorderly environment inside the schools tax payers hired them them to oversee?

    What if Ann Roy Moore had blamed the Lee bus wreck on the parents and the community?

  7. The Board is supposedly “W’s” boss and the voters need to be mindful of this when any of the board members run for re-election. Also “W” once again is misleading the public on the discipline statistics. He is comparing the discipline so far this year with the discipline of the entire year last year. Furthermore, teachers are required to go through a chain of command before sending any disciplinary referrals to the office. This means that most of their time teaching is spent on disciplining…oh but I forget. The laptops are now the “teachers.”

  8. Would a petition drive to remove the super and the board cast any influence on the state board of education. I would be in the line to sign it. At this point a state take over might be better than the mess we have now.

  9. It is obvious big money from big business have won elections in recent years. Big business made major contributions to the mayor, school board and city council seats. These people think they know all and can’t be moved but dollars and cents always prevail in these NEW times. I highly suggest boycotts of all businesses especially the background businesses in the city. Economic development is the major driver of attention. If a significant amount of revenue drops in the city along with the petition drive our real children voices will be heard.

    1. Start with the Committee of 100. These people are as culpable as BOE is this disaster b/c of their $ support to BOE members campaigns, and their pro-business education agenda.

      1. See their membership listing at http://www.HuntsvilleCommitteeof100.org
        Their political arm is BizPac:

        BizPac Board of Directors

        Ron Klein, Chair
        Interim Headmaster, Westminster Christian Academy

        Founder, Belzon Inc.

        ■Susan Anderson, Community Leader
        ■Scott Averbuch (Vice Chair), President, Averbuch Realty
        ■Greg Brown, V.P. & CFO, Brown Precision Inc.
        ■Charley Burruss, President, Kudzu Productions
        ■David Byers, Retired
        ■Robert Davis, A. I. Solutions
        ■Vince Dickens, YP, AMCOM Contracts
        ■Kerry Fehrenbach, Exec. Mgr., Intergraph Corporation
        ■Dave Hargrove (Comm. of 100 Chair), Regional Dir., AT&T
        ■Camillia King, YP, AMCOM
        ■Beth Martin, Madison Market President, Progress Bank
        ■Don Nalley, President, Beason & Nalley
        ■David Nast, President, Progress Bank
        ■Olly Orton, YP, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
        ■Susan Ozment, Realtor, Keller Williams
        ■Gus Tucker, The Heritage Club

  10. Fed Up, i have a idea if we can get hundreds of people to get on board. The Geek Palaver can help organize if we can get more people FED UP.

    1. The GP is a big guy and can speak for himself, so arguably this is none of my business, but folks, let’s not get stuck on Let Russ Do It.

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