Julia Washington is a paraprofessional at Southeast Middle School assigned one-on-one to Marvin Smith, aged 12, a 4th grade student with Down Syndrome and a hearing impairment. His vision is correctable to 20/20 with glasses. Marvin’s IEP calls for the services of a one-on-one paraprofessional because Marvin’s hearing impairment is severe and deteriorating rapidly.
Julia has been working with Marvin for two years: this is the beginning of her third year with him. She is very protective of Marvin and friendly with his parents.
Academically Marvin functions comparatively well. He reads at about the 3rd-grade level, for instance. His parents work tirelessly with him at home. He can communicate orally, though with increasing difficulty, and he is learning American Sign Language from an itinerant teacher licensed as a teacher of the hearing impaired (THI). Marvin’s parents and many of his teachers hope that he will graduate from high school with a regular diploma and then attend community college, but time will tell.
Marvin actually spends about 70% of his school day in a general education 4th-grade classroom. Mrs. King is the teacher, but Julia hasn’t worked with her before. Five other students receiving special education services are also placed for some or most of their day in the classroom.
Ordinarily, Julia’s presence in Marvin’s life helps protect him from being picked on. But Julia is not always at Marvin’s side: she has other duties that take her away some of the time.
Unfortunately, Gene Adams, who also receives special education services in Mrs. King’s classroom, has behavioral problems—and an IEP that includes a plan for managing them. Gene is not actually a “bully”—that is, he doesn’t go out of his way to torment vulnerable students (like Marvin). But he can be unpredictable and rough. This pattern makes him appear surly—his behavior looks something like bullying.
- If, while on duty in the cafeteria, Julia observes Gene yelling at Marvin, she might do many things. What would you do? What would you say? To whom?
- If Julia is worried about what Gene might do to Marvin, can she talk to Mrs. King about it? Should she?
- If Gene shoves Marvin to the floor, what can she tell Marvin’s parents about Gene?
- What if Julia thinks that Gene is a bully and needs to be expelled from school? How should she deal with her opinion about his behavior and how the school should deal with it?
Think about these questions and talk about them with others in your group (if you are working in a group) or with a colleague or friend (if you are working solo).
This challenge is drawn from the real world of schools, where issues are difficult. Most of the time there are better and worse answers rather than “right” answers. Knowing more about confidentiality can help you answer tough questions like these in ways that are better rather than worse!