The Brighton Area Schools has denied a Level III grievance by the Brighton Education Association, which represents the district’s nearly 325 teachers.

The union filed the grievance on behalf of a group of teachers at Hawkins Elementary School because of disciplinary problems they were having with some students. Hawkins houses the majority of the district’s elementary-age special education students, although administrators said regular elementary students were also misbehaving.

It is alleged that classrooms would have to be evacuated up to three times a day because of disruptive students. As a result, a considerable amount of valuable classroom instructional time was lost. In addition, some teachers have charged that when they complained to school administration, they were not listened to, or worse, that there was retaliatory action taken against them. A large number of Hawkins teachers attended a recent meeting of the Board of Education to tell the board that it was difficult for them to teach their classes due to the disruptive atmosphere.

The behavioral problem is being blamed in part on a state law passed in December of 2016, Public Act 394, which prohibits touching a student unless the child is deemed a danger to himself or to others. The measure is known commonly as the Seclusion and Restraint Law. As a result of the law’s application during the last two years, a visitor to many Michigan public schools might see a teacher or paraprofessional following a student around as the child roams the halls, possibly even causing damage, with the adult doing nothing about it for fear of breaking the law.

According to Board President Andy Burchfield, after a closed door meeting on Monday, the board voted to deny the grievance “on the basis of procedural and substantive issues.” He said the BEA has the choice of accepting or rejecting the board’s response to the grievance, saying only, in his words, “We’ve rendered our decision.” The BEA has not yet responded to calls from WHMI asking whether the union intends to pursue the grievance further. On Monday, the Board of Education unanimously ratified a new 3-year contract with the BEA, and the union membership is meeting this week to review the terms of the agreement before conducting a ratification vote. (TT)