Salem-Keizer’s new superintendent sees opportunities for change:

A December 2022 Statesman Journal investigation found that throughout the 2021-22 school year, major disciplinary incidents — including physical threats, fights, computer misuse, sexual harassment and other aggressive behaviors — increased in Salem-Keizer by nearly 55% compared to 2018-19.

District employees claim they have not been adequately trained on what to do when a student becomes violent.

Castañeda said those incidents are small in number but important in their significance.

These incidents are not “small in number.” They’ve been so prevalent that the teachers union has filed a lawsuit against the district. 

Castañeda also pledged to make sure staff are getting training in key moves that help de-escalate students when they are experiencing a heightened emotional state.

“Getting our staff access to the right kind of training to recognize those signs and know how to intervene early keeps them safe,” she said. “Also, very importantly, it helps students learn how to see those things in themselves.”

“I also think there’s more work to do in making sure that our students with more sustained needs, but not quite clinical needs, have got staff support and have got the kind of services they need when they need them,” she said.

That extra support, and staff training, won’t come with a bigger budget, Castañeda said.

“I think it’s a matter of making sure that we’re using people as well as we can when students are ready to receive those services,” she said. “If we wait until situations have escalated, it’s much more intensive for everybody to provide the services than catching them in the early stage.”

I think this really misunderstand the problem. There may be some instances where de-escalation techniques can help, but what we’re really talking about are students who have no self-regulation. What I want from the superintendent is a commitment to holding people, notably these students, accountable for their actions. Everything else in window-dressing.