LaRocco’s Recovery: Editorial

We hope that Mr. LaRocco is continuing to recover. To catch you up to speed, LaRocco is the Southeast Guilford H.S. teacher who was assaulted recently while in the classroom. Click here for previous coverage. Today’s News & Record has an editorial about his case, which should be a lesson-learner down on Eugene Street.

It has to be every teacher’s nightmare: a brutal assault at the hands of a student. Lamentably, Michael “Rocky” LaRocco, a veteran special education teacher at Southeast Guilford High School, recently lived that nightmare. LaRocco, 55, was knocked unconscious and beaten by a 15-year-old student at the school April 27, according to a Guilford Sheriff’s Office report. Injuries to LaRocco’s eye, knee and ribs sent him to Moses Cone Hospital for treatment. The student was charged with assault inflicting serious injury, disorderly conduct and assault on a government official, and placed in juvenile detention after the incident. He was released to the custody of his foster parents on Monday. Disciplinary action, which may include long-term suspension of up to 365 days, has been taken against him, a Guilford County Schools spokeswoman said Tuesday.

LaRocco’s long history of working with disruptive students only makes the details of this case more disturbing. It was school procedure to send such students to his classroom, a designated time-out space for students with emotional or behavioral problems.

According to both sheriff’s deputies and LaRocco, he was escorting the student to the in-school suspension office when the student struck him in the face, knocked him down onto a concrete walkway, then continued to hit him. When such a seasoned educator is subject to so violent an attack, one has to wonder about the risk to less-experienced teachers.

The larger issue, of course, is that no teacher, administrator or other staff member in any school should have to face that kind of risk. But the reality is school personnel take such risks daily.

A state report shows Guilford schools reported 71 assaults on school personnel for 2005-06, with 13 of all assaults in the system resulting in serious injury. In 2004-05, the district reported 63 assaults on school personnel. But 29 incidents caused serious injury, more than twice those reported last year.

It’s easy to say that potentially violent students should be removed — not only from regular classrooms in public schools, but from the standard public school setting altogether. But there’s no fail-safe way to predict which child in any school will explode without warning, and when. Even so, if there’s one lesson to take away from the Southeast incident, it’s that more proactive approaches to signs and patterns of troubling behavior among students are needed.

For several years, Guilford schools have contracted with Youth Focus, which serves at-risk and troubled youths, to provide an alternative school setting for students with severe behavioral and emotional problems. But with only 24 slots and limited funding, the program can’t accommodate every child who needs it. Guilford schools and those across the state and nation have the incredibly difficult job of facing such juggling acts every day.

Still, at the end of the day, meeting the needs of students, troubled or otherwise, can’t come before the safety of adults whose job is educating them.

E.C. 🙂

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2 Responses

  1. Thus THUG “may” get long term suspension???? “May”???? Are you kidding? THAT’s the problem! This THUG should NEVER be allowed to step into a school in this county EVER again! The WIMPS on Eugene street better make sure that this THUG is punished SEVERELY or it will be blantantly obvious where our system is headed!

    My prayers are with this teacher and others that are bullied by the very students they are trying to teach.

  2. I just have this sick feeling that he will become another statistic. It’s unfortunate that Mr. LaRocco’s incident made the news (and I’m not trying to politicize his situation) but there are many other incidents daily involving mahy teachers and students…daily.

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