Pain, Protest As Marblehead Schools React To Restraint Report

MARBLEHEAD, MA — Dozens of teachers pledged to stand with their colleagues at the Glover School who the teachers said were being “unjustly disciplined for the failed safety policies and protocols of the Marblehead Public Schools” at the School Committee meeting Thursday night about 24 hours after the release of a report on the Nov. 20 student restraint incident that included “a finding of neglect of the student by certain educators who implemented the restraints.”

Interim Superintendent Theresa McGuinness said in a statement Wednesday night that “findings confirm what the video of the restraints showed” in that the use of the restraints was “not authorized by law.”

“The educators have been on administrative leave since Dec. 5 and the interim superintendent will be taking appropriate action consistent with law,” McGuinness said in the statement.

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(Also on Patch: Marblehead Student Restraint Was Not ‘Authorized By Law’: Report)

Marblehead Education Association leadership said on Thursday that it was the administration’s failed practices around student safety protocols that were at fault for the conditions that led to the improper restraint and that the MEA would continue to fight for educators and for safe working and learning environments for all staff and students.

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MEA leaders decried the third-party investigation process that led to the report and the expected $2.3 million in additional cuts that the school department will be asked to endure as the town faces a structural deficit and failed tax override votes to supplement school funding the past two years.

“It is unconscionable to consider deep cuts to our school staff and programs,” MEA Co-President Jonathan Heller said. “Budgets are moral documents. It’s time to invest in our children and see where Marblehead stands when it comes to public education.”

McGuinness reiterated her message to the school community from Wednesday that next week there will be a distributed plan for re-training of all employees in the district on the School Committee policy and the regulations with respect to restraints. She said the legally redacted investigation report will also be presented publicly at the next School Committee meeting.

“Undeniably, we are experiencing challenging and, frankly, bad times,” McGuinness said at Thursday’s meeting. “And it’s tough.

“Our focus during this time, even though it’s difficult, is to continue to stay centered on supporting our students and each other as we move through these challenging times and forward.”

School Committee member Alison Taylor expressed her support for the teachers and conceded: “I don’t know how anyone is going to want to stand up and in be in these positions again — I don’t blame them.”

“I am so incensed by this because it simply defies logic,” Taylor said. “You have people who were doing nothing but the best for them, for the student at hand, for any student at hand, for the rest of the students. … And here we are seemingly only blaming the people who were really trying their hardest to do the most they could with the littlest resources because we can’t get anybody to help them.”

School Committee Chair Sarah Fox said she was very surprised to read the findings Wednesday night and laid the blame for the teachers not being fully versed on the restraint policy as a failure of previous district administrative and student services leadership.

“It didn’t need to get to this point,” Fox said. “We’re not serving students right. We’re not serving staff right.”

(Scott Souza is a Patch field editor covering Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott. He can be reached at X/Twitter: @Scott_Souza.)

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