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Summary: Billy Preston is a grade nine student in Greg Smiths applied science class.

He has stormed out of the class and subsequently has been suspended for one day by the vice-principal, Erica Best. Billy has had some traumatic experiences in his life and his explosive behaviour seems to be common in many of his classes however, there is not consistent documentation to support this. Mr. Smith and Ms. Best are in the process of working out an action plan for Billy. 1. What are the fact/key elements of the case? The key elements of the case are that a boy Billy has experiences great tragedy in his life and has not dealt with the issues. He bottles the emotions inside and then explodes or has inappropriate behaviour in class and at school. One of his teachers Greg Smith has dealt with a similar tragedy as a young boy as well. This creates a connection between the two. Mr. Smith sees Billy struggling and wants to help him; he has put ideas forward but feels as though the administration and senior staff at school does not support him. Finally, when the vice principal Erica Best and Mr. Smith speak they realize they both want to help the boy Billy, not only that but that Billy wants help from Greg. The vice principal encourages Greg to be the lead on helping Billy at school. 2. What do we know about Billy Preston? About his teacher, Greg Smith? Billy Preston is a boy in Grade 9. He has experienced much loss in a short amount of time. Billy has experienced the loss of his stepfather in a car accident, then only months later walking in on the suicide of his mother. Billy has tried to share this information with an old school counsellor, however he has had many explosions and behaviour concerns occurring on a regular basis at school. The schools inconsistent approach has Billy slipping through the cracks rather than getting emotional and psychological help to deal with his grieve issues. Greg Smith is a Grade 9 Applied Science teacher. He has also dealt with loss at a young age. He has taken an interest in Billy due to the similarities he sees from when he was young and going through grieve stages. Greg is eager to put into place a plan that is consistent to help all staff members approach Billy with the same expectations in order to create routine and consistency. 3. Describe the situation of the past six months and of the past day as seen by Billy Preston, by Greg Smith, by another student in the same class. The past six months for Billy has been an emotional rollercoaster. He has the loss of both parents, the trauma of seeing his mother dead through suicide, being placed in foster care, going to a new school, as well as feeling racially targeted and put into classes that lower the expectation for him.

Greg Smith also sees that Billy is in a class that was probably not right for him and that was chosen based on behaviour due to loss rather than his academic ability. He has seen the school lose senior staff that encouraged and ran a debate team, leaving the task to the rest and no one picking it up. The population of the school has been changing and Mr. Smith feels that the students need a black role model in order to have a positive association with their heritage. Mr. Smith sees that teachers are not on the same page and not working together for the betterment of the student, Billy. Other students in the class have been exposed to the irrational behaviour and emotional storms that occur with Billy. Their lessons would be interrupted as the teacher, Mr. Smith, tries to keep calm and then continue with the lesson. The students would also note the change in student population, the change in programs (loss of debate club), etc. 4) Describe the major dilemma(s) in this case. The major dilemma in this case is a series of complex factors that are causing student Billy Preston to react in a negative manner toward his teachers. Some of those factors which are compounded include: his biological father leaving his mother, his step father dying in a car accident, his mother committing suicide, his perceived racism at his school and the difficulties that he is facing coping with all these in connection to his education as a grade 9 student. 5) What actions should Greg Smith take to resolve the major dilemma(s)? What role should the vice-principal, Erica Best, take in resolving the dilemma(s)? There are multiple major dilemmas in Billy Prestons life. Mr. Smith feels that Billy needs to immediately see a grief-counselling specialist to help him deal with the tragedies he has been facing in his life. Moreover, Mr. Smith wants Billys other teachers and administration to work together to help Billy resolve some of his issues. Setting up a team meeting to discuss patterns in Billys behaviour may be his first step. Mr. Smith had been looking at Billys student records and talking with other staff to find out what had been done with this student in the past when he reacted in a negative manner. Mr. Smith soon discovered that there were no comprehensive and consistent reports on Billys behaviour and no clear policy on an action plan for when he got into trouble. Therefore, a standardized incident report form may need to be introduced to the school as well as a discussion of the importance of documenting Billys behaviour consistently by his teachers. He may also suggest that Billy talk with the guidance department to discuss the possibility of a taking a transfer course in the future if Mr. Smith feels Billy could be in an academic science class. The Vice Principal, Erica Bests role is one of both a mediator and disciplinarian. Ms. Bests initial response to Billys actions in Mr. Smiths class was a one day suspension. Certainly, Ms. Bests response was hasty and Mr. Smith did not want for Billy to be sent home although Ms. Bests made the decision and that was final. As vice principle, she should inform her staff of the circumstances that lead up to a suspension and make her staff aware of incident report forms.

Upon further discussion, Ms. Best followed up with Billy and discovered that he did need both psychological and emotional support and when asking him who he preferred to work with him in the school Billy suggested Mr. Smith. Ms. Best followed up with Mr. Smith and asked him to take the lead in assisting with Billys I.E.P. She also suggested that Mr. Smith look into additional qualifications courses to perhaps prepare him for a future as a councillor. Subsequently, Ms. Best should be involved with the development of a behaviour plan for Billy and may suggest that part of this plan consists of seeing a grief counsellor. She should also be willing to support Mr. Smith with PD funds to take courses to prepare him to be a councillor. 6) Consider the consequences of these actions for Billys social/emotional well-being, academic life, and future. Consider the consequences for Greg Smith, Erica Best, other students at Sandford Secondary. Billys life is undoubtedly quite complex and will be so for many years to come; although the school, teachers and administrators care for his well being and psychological and emotional state and want to help Billy through this difficult time in his life. The consequences for Billy are potentially disastrous if immediate intervention does not take place and it seems that Billy has found a teacher who wants to help him, that is Mr. Smith. As a result of a consistent behaviour plan and grief counselling, Billy will have a more structured environment, he may be better able to understand what is expected of him and understand why he feels the way he does. Knowing he has the option of taking a transfer course many help to increase his engagement in class. Billys reaction to Mr. Smith may not have come from boredom or racism or a lack of academic challenge but we, as teachers need to consider that all these factors including his personal life contributed to his behaviour that day in Mr. Smiths class. The consequences for Mr. Smith, Ms. Best and the other students at the school involve Mr. Smiths continued commitment with Billy and his potential interest in becoming a future counsellor at the school. For Ms. Best, she needs to have better protocol with behavioural students in Billys situation. Certainly it is easier for a vice principal to suspend a student rather than to work out the issues although certainly Ms. Best has to re-examine her practices since Billys emotional and psychological state may have caused him more harm than good to send him home so hastily. Consequently, the other students in the school will be affected by the actions of these two educators. Perhaps asking another student to work closely with Billy (Peer Leadership) could help him to feel more comfortable in the school. 7. What do we learn from this case? i. Collaborate to set up a behaviour plan. It is important for the school (teachers, administration, counselors), the parents/guardians, health services and the student to work together to establish behaviour plan for the student.

a. The document Supporting Minds: An Educators Guide to Promoting Students Mental Health and Wellbeing (2013) outlines the tiered approach for supporting students. Tier 1: creation of a positive and supportive environment in the school and classroom that benefits all students Tier 2: prevention programing for students at risk Tier 3: intervention, including outside referrals for students in distress ii. Determine the underlying issues for the behaviour. Often a disruptive or inappropriate behaviour is the visual or verbal expression of a deeper-rooted issue. Seek assistance from professionals. Its important for teachers and schools to realize that they do not have to solve every issue on their own. Seeking professional help when necessary may provide the student with the specific resources they need. The importance of proper documentation. If the school had an incident report form and a policy for filling them out they may have been better able to get to the root of Billys problem. Attached is an example of a standard incident report form but the school might consider adding is a section for the student to write their explanation of what happened. Bill 157 Keeping Our Kids Safe at School outlines that it is mandatory for a teacher or staff member to fill out an incident report for incidents that may warrant suspensions. Training staff to use this form ensures everyone is aware of the circumstances that could lead to a suspension (see attached form for a list of offenses). 8. Does this case study lead us to question our assumptions or recognize our beliefs? This case may lead us to question our beliefs about why children behave the way they do. Whether it is a genetic or environmental cause, much of the behaviour that we witness in a (Ontario Ministry of Education)classroom is the result of a combination of factors. As educators, we need to determine the root of the issue before we can try to accommodate or facilitate education for the student. Taking the time to get to know your students personally and recognizing that our role often involves educating the mind, body and spirit is important. This case also leads us to question the placement of in (Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario) individuals in applied programs. The advocacy group, People for Education, released a study in April noting that students opting for the applied courses tend to come from poorer, more ethnically diverse neighborhoods. They have suggested that school boards need to start collecting data on race, income and special education and take a closer look at the placement of students in applied programs. Finally, it leads us to question the importance of having teachers that are role models for students, not only to model behaviour but also cultural role models. A study by Ryan et al. (2009) found that the proportion of visible minority teachers in Canada in consistently less than the proportion of visible minority students. It study states that teachers of colour are particularly well positioned to establish relationships with students of colour, deliver relevant pedagogy, and prepare students of colour for a world that may marginalize them.




Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario. (2013): Bill 157: Keeping Our Kids Safe At School Act - Advice to Members. Accessed: 22 October 2013 from %20-%20Keeping%20Our%20Kids%20Safe%20at%20School%20Act.aspx. Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013) Supporting Minds: An Educators Guide to Supporting Health and Mental Wellbeing.Queens Printer for Ontario, 2013. Ryan, J., Pollok, K., Antonelli, F. (2009) "Teaching Diversity in Canada: Leaky Pipelines, Bottlenecks and Glass Ceilings." Canadian Journal of Education 32(3): 519-617.