“600” Schools, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Text)
At a time when our nation is taking a critical look at whether or not it has been carrying out its responsibilities for the education of all its children, one of the problems which is commanding special attention in New York City is what to do for children, who obviously cannot be successfully and effectively educated in a regular school. The movement to help atypical children has progressed on an uneven front. Special programs have been developed for the physically handicapped, the mentally retarded, the emotionally disturbed and the socially maladjusted. New York City has led the nation for many years in developing and improving a wide variety of resources and services to meet the special and urgent needs of all kinds of handicapped children. This report represents a review of what has been done and what still needs to be done to educate one of these groups of severely handicapped children, those who are emotionally disturbed, emotionally handicapped or socially maladjusted. In most communities, there is such a small number of these children that it is not possible to set up special schools for them, and their problems must be handled either in a special class situation in regular school buildings, or in an institutional environment. In New York City, even though the percentage of such children may be no greater than it is in other cities, the actual number involved is so large as to require the organization of schools and school units specifically designed to meet the special and urgent needs of these children.
Through the years, additional schools have been added in response to the need for special facilities for the education of the increasing number of emotionally disturbed, socially maladjusted children. The number of “600” schools has doubled in the past decades and now approximately 5000 boys and girls, ages 5 to 21, are in daily attendance in forty-four “600” school facilities. About 2000 of these pupils attend fifteen day “600” schools, to which children have been assigned from regular schools, while the others receive instruction in classes conducted by the Board of Education in institutions, remand centers, residential treatment centers and hospitals to which they have been committed by the courts and other agencies … Almost twenty years ago, in May 1946, the Board of Education of New York City initiated a program establishing separate schools to be known as “600” Schools for the education of children so severely emotionally disturbed or socially maladjusted as to make continuance in a regular school hazardous to their own safety and welfare and to the safety and welfare of the other pupils. These children were characterized as defiant, disruptive, disrespectful and hostile to all authority. The underlying philosophy of the schools embodied the idea that the “600” Schools were to provide a therapeutic educational program, non-punitive in approach, in which the antisocial, hostile, disruptive behavior would be molded and redirected through positive, constructive approaches toward more wholesome, socially useful and socially acceptable patterns of conduct. Such schools were envisioned as rehabilitative centers where through the joint eif6rts of clinical, guidance and educational teams, these deviant children would receive new opportunities to participate in carefully planned activities and experiences that would lead to the kind of self-realization and achievements and insights necessary for one to become a personally and socially competent, productive citizen of our American democracy.
WHY “600” SCHOOLS?
It is generally recognized that the need which prompted the Board of Education in May, 1946 to adopt the resolution setting up a program of education in these special schools still persists. The establishment of the various programs in the early grades (Junior Guidance, Early Identification, Career Guidance, etc) has not, as yet, markedly reduced the number of those children who reach the upper grades with such extremely severe social, emotional and behavioral problems that they can no longer be contained in regular schools. Both these children and hundreds of others entering our secondary schools from outside of New York City must be transferred to special schools not for punitive reasons, but to receive the special help which they so urgently need to avoid hazard to their own safety and welfare as well as that of the other pupils in the regular schools.
It is true that during the 1963-64 school year, almost 100 children had to be discharged from the “600” Day Schools on the recommendation of a psychiatrist and had to be either transferred or returned to a State Hospital or discharged to Home Instruction. The Committee feels that many of the extreme behavior manifestations on the part of children are not necessarily symptoms of mental illness, but rather personality distortions growing out of the many social problems and pressures to which these children are exposed. A substantial proportion of these young people can be rehabilitated with the help of other agencies if adequate clinical and educational resources are made available to the schools. The Committee believes that the “600” School despite its limitations still offers the greatest promise, if not a last hope, as an educational instrument for salvaging these young people for society. There is every indication that as social dislocations are corrected, as home and family situations are improved and as more special facilities are developed in the regular schools, the number of children referred for placement in “600” Schools will decrease. However, in a city as large as New York, with its ever recurring population changes, there will undoubtedly always be many children who, while not requiring 24 hour a day custody, can be better educated in a special environment. The “600” School has been developed to meet this specific educational need…
The Committee is in full agreement that the “600” Schools have been functioning under severe handicaps, some of which will be discussed later in this report. However, in spite of the limitations which these handicaps have caused, the schools have made a definite contribution towards the rehabilitation of a sizable number of children referred to them. To this contribution must be added the great gains in more effective education made for the large number of other children by removing seriously disruptive, hostile pupils and providing relief from time-consuming teaching-learning problems.
A serious criticism has been made that, in these times, when so much dedicated effort by citizens and educators is put forth in an attempt to reduce so-called “de facto segregated” schools, the “600” Schools are ethnically unbalanced with a preponderance of the students being Negro and Puerto Rican. This by-product of the social and economic dislocations which prevail in large cities of our country, cannot be corrected by denying to those children, who need them most, the special clinical and educational services provided in the “600” Schools. The type of hostility towards society which manifests itself in a pattern of severe overt misbehavior, has basically been characteristic over the years of some children from all the minority groups who have been forced to live in slums and ghettos no matter what their ethnic or racial background. This is a situation in which the schools are trying to help those very children who are suffering most from the social evils arising from segregation and discrimination.
The “600” Schools are designed to educate emotionally disturbed and socially maladjusted children who are recommended for special programs because they are unable to profit from instruction in a normal school setting, where they make it extremely difficult for other children to receive unimpeded instruction and where they present a hazard to their own safety and welfare as well as to other pupils.
THE TYPES OF “600” SCHOOLS
The term “600” School includes several types of schools, each of which serves to meet a different combination of special needs of children, as follows:
THE DAY SCHOOLS
There are fifteen Day Schools - 11 for boys from grades 5 through 9 3 for boys from grades 9 through 11 1 for girls from grades 7 through 12
Students in the Day Schools have not responded to the intensive efforts of the home school to help them. They are of the acting-out type whose primary behavior disorder manifests itself in repeated disruptive and aggressive behavior, extensive in scope and serious in nature. These aggressive behavior patterns not only blocked their own learning, but also interfered with the education and safety of other children, thus necessitating their withdrawal from the regular school.
Rehabilitation is the focus of the work of the day school. Assisted by guidance counselors, psychological and medical teams, the teaching staff, through the use of small class registers (10-14), curricula adapted to special individual needs, intensified remediation in the areas of reading and mathematics, and the development of a positive mental hygiene climate, seeks to give the students well-motivated goals. The aim of the day school is to return as many students as possible to the main stream of education as quickly as practicable and, where necessary, to provide guidance and terminal education, whose rehabilitative value will make itself evident in preparing an adolescent for wholesome living, law abiding citizenship and job-adjustment.
[The other types of 600 schools are Institutional Schools, Treatment Centers, and Remand Centers, and Hospital Schools, as discussed above].
- Criteria for Admission 1.1 School grade placement in grades 5 through 12 (girls 7-12). 1 .2 An intelligence level above that provided for by the program for Children With Retarded Mental Development and determined by a psychologist. 1 .3 A history of repeated disruptive and aggressive behavior, extensive in scope and serious in nature, which either endangers the safety of the pupils or others, or seriously interferes with the routine learning in the classroom. 1.4 A history of truancy, if coupled with aggressive and disruptive behavior. 1.5 The failure of the pupil to respond to extensive and intensive efforts by the home school to help him, and the exhaustion of the resources of that school for the adjustment and therapy of that individual pupil.
- Steps in Referral 2.1 The referral to the “600” day school will be initiated by the field superintendent, or the appropriate assistant superintendent in the High School Division, or the High School Placement Unit. 2.2 Preliminary screening will be performed by the guidance coordinator or by other appropriately trained professional persons designated by the assistant superintendent. 2.3 All referrals must be approved by the field superintendent, or the appropriate assistant superintendent in the High School Divi~ion in the case of school referrals, or the assistant superintendent in charge of Guidance in the case of the High School Placement Office, and sent to the “600” school principal. 2.4 Accompanying the referral to the “600” day school should be a complete anecdotal record and all other pertinent data, i.e., copy of cumulative record cards, testing card and health record.
- Screening at the “600” Day School Level 3.1 The “600” school principal and the guidance counselor will study the referral. 3.2 The principal and guidance counselor should interview the applicant for admission, together with his parent. Should this interview reveal a serious medical history or indicate an excessively bizarre behavior pattern, admission should be deferred until applicant can be studied by the Bureau of Child Guidance Team. 3.3 Where referrals are “calculated risk” cases, initiated by clinical teams of the Bureau of Child Guidance other than those assigned to the “600” schools, “600” school teams should be consulted before acceptance.
…the Committee was also urged to take particular note of the following strengths so repeatedly observed: Although, in the course of its deliberations, the Committee was made cognizant of the urgent need for many improvements in the “600” School program, the Committee was also urged to take particular note of the following strengths so repeatedly observed:
THE “600” SCHOOLS
HAVE a staff, at the Bureau and in the schools, which has clung tenaciously to the idea that children given a chance, no matter how severe their problems may be, can be rehabilitated.
HAVE a program of education, in which first things have been put first so that the major emphasis has been on helping children overcome inadequacies in their personal lives and in their social adjustment.
HAVE a dedicated group of teachers and supervisors who have continued serving in these schools for many years because their satisfactions come from seeing the changes they have wrought in the lives of children with whom the regular schools and frequently the homes had failed.
HAVE a remotivating program for continued education for a sizeable number of children who have reached a dead end in the regular schools.
HAVE a program which makes it possible for some of the most seriously maladjusted children to be salvaged, prepared for jobs or equipped to continue to high schools.
HAVE a program which makes it possible for many children to be returned to special classes in regular schools. It is not enough, however, to point to the gains that have been made, commendable as they are. Of course, the good things should not be ignored as is too often the case. But, if the “600” schools are to really become a fully productive, vital and dynamic educational resource and an integral part of our school system, and if we are to resolve the doubts and anxieties which have been raised in the minds of the public and professional staff about their operation, we must plan to greatly intensify, expand and improve the personnel and services through a comprehensive program of improvements. Such a program will require greater expenditure of time, effort and money and an increase in clinical, educational and community resources if the “600” Schools and related services are going to meet the urgent needs of the children attending them and better serve the total needs of the children of the City of New York.