|A letter from Principal Phillips|
We wanted to explain why we made the decision to cancel the screening of Ross Greene’s The Kids We Lose. Although when at all possible we like to preview a film before making a decision to show it, in this case we only had access to the film on Tuesday. PS 321’s staff are huge fans of Ros s Greene’s work and philosophy that “kids do well when they can.” We are so excited that he will be coming to speak here on May 15. We had assumed that this film would focus on this philosophy and help both parents and teachers think about strategies for working with children with behavioral challenges.
Our staff, in their enthusiasm for Ross Greene’s work, had requested a showing after school on Tuesday, which we were able to accommodate. As teachers watched the film, they realized that we had misunderstood the focus of the film. It is not about positive ways of working with children with special needs. It appears to be an expose of schools that respond t o children with severe aggressive behavior in very inappropriate ways, including physically hurting them. The film ends with an adult who had been mistreated this way in school and is in prison for shooting his fiancée.
Although we have no doubt that there are places where this kind of abusive treatment of children happens, and that there is good reason to have a film that exposes this kind of treatment, it seemed inappropriate to show it to our families at a PTA sponsored event. We would hate for any parents to think that we are worried about this kind of abuse happening at PS 321. And, because of the extreme nature of the children’s behavior in the film, it might m ake parents wonder if some of our PS 321 students with special needs are like this. We fear it would stigmatize them at a time when we are making concerted efforts to help our community understand and be inclusive of a wide range of students.
Also of concern, our evening workshops can’t run longer than 90 minutes, which is the length of this film. We would not have had time for any discussion, which, after we saw the film, seemed ill-advised.
Given all this, we felt that this film would not help parents or teachers gain an understanding of children with behavioral challenges and ways to support them. We felt that it could do the opposite and make families wary of having general education students interact with children with special needs.
As a school community of educators and parents, we have tremendous respect for Ross Greene’s work. We are very much looking forward to his upcoming talk, and feel honored that he has agreed to speak here. We are quite sure that Ross Greene’s talk will move us forward as we think about ho w to work most effectively with children with challenging behavior.
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