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Getting to the root cause of disruptive student behavior

WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

Whole child teams are in place in the Buffalo Public school district working to improve behavior among students. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the issue of disruptive student behavior surfaced last week when the Buffalo Teachers Federation issued results of a student behavior survey.

“Disruptive behavior has a root cause. Our disruptive children are in pain. They need help,” declared Jessica Bauer Walker, executive director, Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo.

This organization assist the city school district. But Walker is also a parent of students who attend International School 45. When it comes to disruptive behavior, Walker said she realizes it is a major challenge for teachers and administrators to manage.             

"So I'm here as a parent and community partner, actually working with teachers, who are leads in their schools, co-chairing these whole child teams – talking about all the different elements are children need to be safe and supported and, again, a partnership type of model. So we have the folks in the school including a teacher, administrators, our food service workers, our physical education teacher, our nurse – we’re bringing together all the supports that are available in the school for the social and emotional and physical needs of our children because we know healthy children are better learners,” described Walker. 

Jessica Bauer Walker, executive director, Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo, appeared at a recent DCPP news conference to speak about student behavior.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

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Since 2011, the city district has been using results from Youth Risk Behavior Survey. It's a national research tool from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  In recent years trauma has emerged as a major behavioral problem for some city school students.

“Some of data that came back from that with the last survey in 2015 said that 35-percent of our students have seen somebody beaten, stabbed or shot in their neighborhood, it's a pretty significant number, that 14-percent of our students have been physically harmed in their own homes, 16-percent of students have lived with someone who has had a mental health diagnosis and 25-percent of students have lived with someone who has a substance abuse or alcohol abuse issue,” Bauer explained.

“Looking at these numbers – we’re thinking about disruptive behavior – it’s pretty challenging for someone, especially a child – who is not a fully formed human – who doesn’t know how to respond to some of these issues to come to school and be expected to focus and learn. So if our teachers and administrators and our schools are not aware of those issues that some of our students are dealing with – clearly they’re going to have some disruptive behaviors.”

The District is supporting the use of Positive Behavior intervention through Trauma Informed Care and Restorative Justice.  Walker said as both a parent and community partner, she wants to assist teachers in supporting their challenges in city classrooms.

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