How can a child who can’t read, punctuate or spell be getting straight A’s? It happened in Martinsburg

May 9 – Back in the day, the state of emergency in schools was mostly used for terrible weather conditions or infrastructure issues in the district buildings. 

In Martinsburg North Middle School in Berkeley County, that’s not the case. 

The West Virginia Board of Education issued a state of emergency for the school because of what’s going on with students in the building. 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “You read this and you just want to cry. It’s about how it’s just chaos in that middle school. There’s kids in the hallways, kids in classrooms doing anything they want, threatening each other. Now this was brought about by a team that visited and witnessed all this stuff. I mean, it’s amazing that the kids seemed to have no fear of continuing to behave this way even when they were being observed. You would think they might notice extra people in there observing them. There’s no learning going on there. They talk about the fact that the percentage of students that are proficient is very, very low – 5.6% in math, and 24% in English. I find it kind of disturbing they say the statewide proficiency average for middle school kids is 54%. Like we’re supposed to be celebrating that. Kids feel unsafe. It’s dangerous. I think what’s particularly shocking is it was actually observed by another group a year before, that sort of made some recommendations that never really seemed to come to fruition. I wonder how much is this going on in schools, not just that one school? We hear about some of these same stories, even in schools locally.”

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “It’s jarring to read the accounts that the Department of Education at the state level made. It sounds like it was the Wild West inside of that school building and it’s highly, highly unusual for a state to step in and essentially take over the governance of a school building. That must be how bad they feel or urgent this situation is. The only thing I can think of that was ever similar to that was here in Pennsylvania, remember years ago, the state took over Harrisburg city schools for a brief period of time. My other question when I read that, is there going to be any accountability for school leadership in that building at the school board level? Clearly a lot of things were slipping through the cracks here and I would hope that the school board is also examining this. How did this happen? Is the building principal going to be held accountable, other people that had oversight of that building? This stuff should never happen to the level it was there.”

The bigger picture is what is the future for the children in the school? 

Barkdoll said, “Think about the long term ramifications on all of those kids. It sounds like they’re already way behind and as they keep moving through the system, that probably keeps snowballing and there’s probably going to be a big portion of those kids that may have problems then as they become adults. There’s where all of us need to be invested in this because everyone’s going to pay when a situation like this happens.” 

Jansen added, “Really disturbing, two points of fact here. This principal was put on administrative leave last week, and she’s been there for 13 years and was getting stellar reviews from the school board year after year. Something is so disconnected there. It’s just you feel like stuff has been normalized that people aren’t even looking at it with alarm anymore. One mom reported that her daughter cannot read, punctuate or spell yet she was getting straight A’s. So there’s something wrong with the teachers, with the school board, with the administration. But I’m worried. I don’t think it’s an isolated incident. I think we see this kind of stuff. I’ve heard from teachers in the Chambersburg Area School District. I’m not saying this level, but I’m hearing the kind of disrespectful, dismissive attitude from kids. They have no respect for their teachers. We’ve got to get away from this lack of authority. The other story I want to ask you about, really disturbing as well. This New Jersey story of an elementary school girl that was abused for two years in the bathrooms there by a classmate. We’re talking first and second grade here. It was reported to the teacher, the teacher found a note saying this boy is bad from the student, this is a year ago. (The teacher) asked her about it. That little girl told the teacher he’s bad and touched me down there. She told the little girl to apologize to the little boy for accusing him of that. Why is this little boy going regularly into the girls’ room? I can’t help but think this has to do with bathroom policies in this elementary school district.”

Barkdoll said, “It just breaks your heart when you hear, it’s bad enough the incident happened, but then when you read into the story and it sounds like this was going on for years. How did this occur? Clearly, there’s a lack of oversight in that school building that could have been going on for that period of time. In that New Jersey case, by the way, that’s the classic recipe, I think for maybe a civil lawsuit to be brought. The ingredients being the school was on notice. They knew it was a bad, dangerous situation, did nothing to intervene and clearly there were damages caused. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see civil litigation filed there. But again from afar you just wonder, how does this stuff happen? I mean, you have adults in these buildings that are supervising, controlling the environment, but yet these kinds of things seem to keep happening.”