A representative from the governor's office will talk with Hernando school workers and parents Thursday about the classroom chaos that can be caused by children with a history of violence. Peter Dunbar, legal counsel to Gov. Bob Martinez, will discuss the governor's legislative proposals for dealing with the education of juvenile offenders.
"If you analyze the cycle of serious juvenile offenders, you'll see that we have a system that doesn't handle them," Dunbar said Monday.
That is not news to the Hernando County Classroom Teachers Association, which is sponsoring Dunbar's visit.
"The impetus for inviting him here is really an incident that occurred at Parrott Middle School," said association president Dennis Caltagirone. "Two kids were involved in a real donnybrook. Ultimately four teachers had to break it up. .
. In the course of this, one teacher was really badly kicked, punched and bitten. And this wasn't a unique situation."
Violent behavior has increased in recent years, Caltagirone said. The existing legal system rotates violent children from the school to the juvenile system and back to the school, he said.
"Teachers feel children with criminal types of problems have no place in the regular classroom. They just don't," Caltagirone said. "The gut reaction of the teacher in the classroom _ and we're talking about children with criminal problems _ is that those children don't need to be returned to the regular classroom."
Caltagirone said Hernando teachers, parents and non-instructional workers need legislative help to make classrooms safe places of learning.
"What teachers want is relief _ for themselves and for the rest of the kids in the class, who are trying to get an education," Caltagirone said Monday.
The help may come through changes in the mandatory education laws, through the establishment of state centers for treating, housing or schooling children with violent behavior patterns, he said.
"We will be asking Mr. Dunbar to go back to the governor and propose legislation that puts teeth into a positive way of dealing with these kids on a statewide basis," he said.
Dunbar said Martinez has a legislative package addressing these concerns. "It's a matter of legislation and funding," he said. "One of the problems we've confronted here in the Capitol is that we find a Legislature, particularly the House, that's basically closed-minded to new, good ideas."
Dunbar said he hopes to hear firsthand about the problems encountered in the schools and to use that information to convince the Legislature that changes are needed. That is one reason he is visiting Hernando.
"I want to have open ears and an open mind for what is being said in Hernando County," he said.
The public is invited to the meeting, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Central High School auditorium on Ken Austin Parkway.