Around 50 parents and former teachers attended Monday evening’s Winterset School Board meeting to express concern with how the district is handling behavioral issues, especially at the elementary school.

School board members heard from over 20 of those present, many with “horror stories” regarding discipline issues at the elementary school.

Parent Bryan Snyder said his child had witnessed “multiple room clears every week, sometimes daily” throughout the year and “begged” him to not make him go back to school.

“He witnessed his teachers and other students get assaulted, projects destroyed, personal property broken and was assaulted and ridiculed on multiple occasions ... He doesn’t even want to go to school now,” Snyder said to the board, adding that his family was considering other districts to send his children to.

“This last school year has, for lack of a better word, been hell,” Snyder told the board. 

A room clear is when a teachers has to stop instruction and escort well-behaved children to safety in the hallway while the student having behavioral issues often “destroys” the classroom. 

“These kids that are destroying class rooms and assaulting individuals should not be in the classroom and they should definitely not be rewarded for bad behavior and given an iPad to play on. They need to learn there is consequences for their actions,” Snyder said.

Other parents had similar stories, saying that after a “room clear” the “good” students then had to go clean up the mess that was left by the student that caused the room clear in the first place.

Parents got emotional as they spoke about their children who used to love school, but now hate it, to the point of “being suicidal second-graders.”

Parents demanded “solid solutions” to the problem, saying they wanted to be part of the solution, but wanted to see “more from the administration”. Many of them said they felt the board was “unreceptive to their concerns”.

Former teacher concerned

A former teacher talks to school board members with concerns about a lack of support for teachers.

“What it comes down to is the one on one of giving the authority to the teachers and the principal to do common sense things and make that happen,” one parent said.

An elementary associate at the meeting spoke up, saying she had been hit, kicked, cussed at and more on the job. 

“I have been an associate for six years, I used to look forward to it,” Holly Michaels said, adding that “it wasn’t like that six years ago.”

Several parents also said that teachers were not being supported and that they were “afraid” to come forward to administration and ask for help for fear of “retaliation.”

“When we send our kids here, they are under your supervision, your watch. You need to back the teachers,” Steve Sawyers said. 

Winterset School District Superintendent Dr. Susie Meade said that while Winterset does “have problems ... they are getting better.” She also said that it was “not a Winterset only problem” and that other districts were also struggling with behavioral issues. 

“Every student deserves a safe learning environment and of course we’re working to ensure this happens,” Meade said.

Meade also said that the schools were bound by “many significant laws that dictates what they can and can’t do.”

“If past practices worked with our current students and they were legal, we would be using them,” Dr. Meade said. She also said she wanted to make a statement to the public regarding the issue:

“All of us working in and for the Winterset School System are dedicated to making the learning environment the very best it can be for all of our students. I have always and will always encourage parents and employees to share their concerns. I encourage you to meet with your child’s principal and/or myself if you have a concern. We can’t help to make it better if we are unaware of your needs. It is clear that our primary focus needs to be on supporting students who exhibit unexpected behavior for a school setting. This summer and next school year we will be focused on finding even more solutions to better meet the needs of our students. 

“This is a process that will take time to change,” said Meade. “If you have an idea or would like to be part of the process, please contact me.”

Editor’s note: The Madisonian is interested in hearing all sides of this issue. If you have information you would like to share, please contact us at madisonianeditor@gmail.com. Look for upcoming articles on this topic in the Madisonian.

Managing Editor at the Winterset Madisonian.