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Does a 5 Year Old’s Refusal to Sit on The Rug warrant a 911 Call?

Usually when you send your child to school you don’t expect to get a call to head to the emergency room.  A recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “Parents Protest Emergency Calls” writes about a group of New York City parents who are taking legal action to prevent public schools from using the ER to cope with their child’s severe temper tantrum.  The article states that more than 22% of the 15,130 calls for ambulances placed by NYC schools in 2011-12 were related to disciplinary infractions.  Wow, that’s a huge  number of kids (3,329 to be precise) ending up in the ER for “bad behavior”.  The attorney representing the parents feels that schools are using hospital ER’s as time out rooms.  For example, a parent says one time her son was taken to the ER for “not listening and refusing to sit on the rug.”  The attorney says the law states that “children can be transported by EMS ONLY when a child’s life is at stake or it’s clear that a small delay will jeopardize the child’s health.”

The problems are numerous with this “behavior management approach.”  It’s costly to the city, it’s hugely time consuming for parents, it threatens job security for parents, and it causes all sorts of psychological damage to the child.  The article quotes a mother who says her son is now afraid of hospitals, police officers and doesn’t want to go to school. Can you blame him?  And even more troubling to us at Think:Kids is “he feels like he is always a bad kid and he’s always in trouble.”  We aspire to help kids, parents and teachers understand the lagging skills and teach them so kids don’t have the sense they are all bad and that they are stuck in this punishment loop which leads to school failure and often severe psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.

Two questions arise; are children, preschoolers in New York City, becoming more violent, unmanageable and dangerous causing the rise in ER visits or are teachers receiving poor or little training in managing disruptive behavior?  At Think:Kids we feel it is the latter and see a huge opportunity for the Department of Education to help teachers better understand and identify why kids melt down.

For Think:Kids we see this as a huge opportunity for better training of teachers. The first step has been taken!   The New York City School Safety officers who work in the schools have a contract with Think:Kids, and are receiving CPS training on just the sort of issues that land kids in ER’s.  Hopefully, teachers will want to join in and learn a better way to manage tough kids in their class rather than hitting 9-1-1.

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