Dr. Wardynski was busy this weekend dealing with a public relations issue that, as he put it, “will be replayed endlessly on TV in the local market here.” You see, Dr. Wardynski isn’t terribly concerned about student safety, or the fights that have been occurring and are even drawing the attention of the state’s auditors. He believes that he’s made things better in our schools. As he claimed on Saturday, “Over the last four or five years, we’ve done a lot to improve school discipline.” His primary reason for making the “SUPETalks” video on Saturday afternoon was not an attempt to address the fights that have been happening in our schools at an alarming rate. No, his primary concern is to address the issue of recording fights.
In case you didn’t see the video online, on the news, on eTV, via the SchoolCast message this morning, on your favorite board member’s Facebook page, please take about ten minutes to watch Dr. Wardynski reassure every parent in the district that “Superintendent Addresses Recent Behavior Concerns.”
If you prefer to read his comments, you may do so here.
The new procedure was detailed starting at about the 5 minute mark, but here’s what he read on Saturday:
The superintendent may take reasonable measures to prevent violence at schools and to promote the safety of students, employees, and school visitors. Such reasonable measures may include in appropriate circumstances review of students public social media when such students have a history of violence, or where whose conduct in schools or in the community demonstrate a clear risk to students and employee safety.
If the superintendent determines that a student’s social media post reasonable constitute a serious threat of physical violence to students or employees, the superintendent may initiate such disciplinary action as he deems necessary to alleviate such a threat. If the superintendent determines that a student has made posts to social media, indicating either that a student or another student, uh, propensity towards violence or gang affiliation, the student, uh excuse me, the superintendent may also refer such student to any applicable school-based, district-level student supports. The school-based, district-level student supports may in appropriate circumstances include recommendations for non-mandatory counseling, supports for such students within the informed consent of the student, uh, parent, or legal guardian.
After watching this and reading what he said above, you’re probably thinking to yourself that I’m just looking for things to complain about. After all, he was clearly trying to “keep violence out of our schools.” He said so repeatedly. Much of the rest was at times unclear (“school-based, district-level student supports” just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?), but the “keep violence out” was clear enough.
Here’s why I didn’t write about this yesterday: I’ve learned from experience to wait until Dr. Wardynski puts things in writing.
As the new Procedures for Safety Information that Dr. Wardynski detailed on Saturday wasn’t posted online until this morning. Here is a copy of the actual new procedure.
As you may notice, the procedure that Wardynski put into effect “upon publication” on Saturday is significantly shorter than the procedure he printed this morning.
One wonders if the board members (or hopefuls) promoting this new procedure, this “bog [sic] step forward” had read it before Saturday? Did they know that the bulk of this approach was directed toward those recording the event rather than those fighting? Did Huntsville Council of PTAs President Preeta Francis read the actual procedure before she announced that the “PTA was all for the new procedure?” (By the way, Ms. Francis does not speak for every PTA member in the district. She only speaks for this small group of individuals.)
It is absolutely clear that the primary purpose of this new “bog step forward” is to keep students from recording fights, rather than, you know, keeping students from fighting.
Defining Recording Fights as Sending “Inflammatory or Obscene Pictures”
So after Wardynski shared his “new” procedures for “recent behavior concerns” on Saturday, he added the following three paragraphs of detail:
The following procedure for removal of technology privileges for students violating sections 1.19E, 3.25E or 3.25K of the Code of Student Conduct is in effect upon receipt. The lead cabinet officer for implement [sic] of this procedure is Director of Behavior Learning. The Director of Operations will support implementation of this procedure by identifying violations of sections 1.19E, 3.25E or 3.25K using school supervision technology, tips from school personnel and students, and information gathered by Campus Security Officers.
Privileges for students to use personal technology such as cell phones, computers, tablets other devices capable of recording images or sounds shall be suspended for a period of one year following completion of the semester in which a violation of sections 1.19E, 3.25E or 3.25K occurs. Students who have violated these sections of the Code of Student Conduct may not bring such non-school system technology into school facilities for the aforementioned period of time.
There is also a footnote offering a definition of “public social media” as seen in the first paragraph which reads:
“Public” posts are those the student makes available to anyone viewing his [sic] social media page or account. “Public” posts also include posts that students or parents bring to the Superintendent’s attention.
I don’t think most people assumed that “public” posts meant any post that anyone has seen, but let’s focus on the two paragraphs above with the details about the Code of Conduct violations.
The new procedure specifically calls attention to 1.19E, 3.25E or 3.25K. You may find these Violations below. The “1” refers to the Class of Violation (1 is bad; 3 is terrible), the second number refers to the specific Class 1 or Class 3 violation (19 or 25), and the letter refers to the Guidelines for Technology Infractions. You may see these below:
What Wardynski is seemingly arguing here is that recording (not participating in) a fight at school is, in his assessment, “the distribution of obscene or pornographic materials, or that violate any other applicable law or municipal ordinance,” of that it constitutes, “Viewing, sending, or displaying obscene, profane, lewd, vulgar, rude, disrespectful, threatening, or inflammatory language, messages, or pictures.”
If the superintendent determines that this is a Class I offense, it should be addressed “in-class.”
I suspect that Wardynski will treat this as a Class III offense which would result in expulsion for up to ten days.
WAAY Quotes Ward: “Students Who Record . . .”
Today, WAAY posted a story about the new procedure that Wardynski instituted on his own on Saturday, and they quoted Board spokesperson, Keith Ward saying, “under the new policy [procedure], the students who do this [recording fights] and post the video to social media could lose all their technology privileges at school, get suspended or expelled”
Mr. Ward spent far more time in that interview talking about suspending and expelling students for recording a fight that for fighting in the fight.
Does anyone else see a problem there?
Events at Huntsville High School Today
So this morning there was another fight at Huntsville High School involving a student who had been involved in a fight last week. I’m not sure what the student was doing at school, but evidently the student was allowed to return today as the fight took place about 10:00am (which was sufficiently late enough to have a student who shouldn’t be in school removed from school.)
During the fight, a teacher rushed into the room not only to break up the fight, but also to insist that students keep their cell phones in their pockets. They were threatened with in-school suspension if they did not comply.
Again, yes, the the authority figure rushing into a room during a fight was at least as concerned about the recording of the fight as the fight itself.
Additionally, there are numerous reports online tonight of students being called into the office at Huntsville High to be told that they were going to be punished for recording fights that occurred during the week of the fifteenth, two weeks before the new procedure was implemented Saturday, February 27, 2016.
Here’s the thing: if recording the fight is “transmitting obscene material,” isn’t the material being recorded also obscene?
Evidently not to the superintendent. Fights behind closed doors aren’t a problem. It’s the reporting of the fight that’s the capital crime.
So upon review of this information, it becomes clear that the superintendent’s Addressing of Behavior Concerns isn’t actually concerned about the behavior of fighting in schools at all. The behavioral concerns that the superintendent is attempt to address are the behaviors that embarrass him. And nothing else.
Wardynski did not write this new procedure to address fighting or the ne’er do wells who plan violence online and then come into the school. He did not write this procedure to keep our children safe.
He wrote this policy so that he would not be embarrassed by videos being “replayed endlessly on TV in our local market here” and for no other reason.
This is a cheap, intimidation tactic of a bully wishing to control his own press. He omitted the primary reason for the new procedure on Saturday to convince people that he has the best interest of children at heart.
The only reason to keep this information quiet during his ten minute video was to deceive people about the true purpose of this new procedure.
If you didn’t believe that Wardynski needed to be fired before today, what more will it take?