Toilet training kindergartners — a growing concern?

Recorder Staff
Published: 9/11/2017 9:23:39 PM

GREENFIELD — After a group of kindergarten teachers spoke out about growing concerns over students coming to school without being sufficiently toilet-trained, a recommendation has been made by the school’s policy committee to potentially address this issue in the future.

Over the summer, teachers went to a policy and curriculum subcommittee to discuss an uptick in students in their classes this past school year who were not fully toilet-trained, looking for possible solutions from the School Committee and the superintendent.

Whether this is a wider and growing problem around the district, or even across the state, is undetermined at this time, but it was enough of an issue to prompt teachers to confront the dilemma this summer.

Four meetings later, member Susan Hollins and the subcommittee decided Thursday to revise language about “alternative programming” at the schools that will allow for the superintendent to have a more clear discretion about how to confront a potential problem like this.

The language of the policy, though, did not speak specifically to toilet-training but looked to speak in broader terms. It will be presented before September’s full School Committee meeting.

The paragraph written by Hollins added to some existing policy language about alternative programs — normally thought about when talking about behavioral issues for high school students — opened up the conversation formally to alternative programming for any group, like kindergartners.

This means that, in a coming year, if Superintendent Jordana Harper thought that there should be a program developed to help students with toilet training, so that they are more prepared for school, then she can work on it. Nothing is currently in the works.

The first question that Hollins, the head of the subcommittee, had to address was whether a student who is not toilet-trained is eligible to come to kindergarten. After extensive review of policy language, both locally and across the state, Hollins said she found that if the child is the right age, then they are all set.

“It became clear looking at the laws that if the children are eligible for kindergarten, they are eligible for kindergarten,” Hollins said.

With this knowledge, Hollins, alongside member Don Alexander, looked to what could the school do to make sure that students who were coming to school could function in the school setting to the best of their ability.

They set out to shape the policy in a way that could address any issues children may be having and that the superintendent could then address if a problem cropped up.

“I think there have always been a couple children who weren’t toilet trained but it seems like more now, but it could be the particular year,” Hollins said.

She suggested that it’s possible this problem is in part because there are not necessarily bathrooms in every kindergarten classroom.

Hollins, who was superintendent of Greenfield schools until 2014, said in the 1980s she had developed an alternative programming for kindergartners that gave them not one, but two years of schooling, before they began first grade. She was not suggesting that in this case, but said she has seen alternative programming work successfully at a younger level.

With a positive recommendation, the School Committee will get a chance to discuss it more at its next meeting.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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