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Robert Kennedy School Holds Classes at Metropolitan Hospital
Transcribed by Erica Anderson

Dr. Pola Rosen (PR): Metropolitan Hospital is for those students who have severe emotional problems. What are some of the handicapping conditions and some of the problems that students have who come to this hospital?

Althea Williams, teacher at P.S. 169’s program at Metropolitan Hospital (AW): Most of the kids that come to this hospital are runaways, kids with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and they just came to the hospital because the parents brought them in or they went to the precinct and the police brought them in. And they’re here for a week, two weeks, a month, according to how severe their sickness is.

PR: Is anyone ever here for several months or for a year?

AW: A couple years ago, kids were here when the parents refused to take them back [and] the hospital had nowhere to send them. Then they would get to the age of 18 and they were released on their own, or they were taken to the adult unit.

PR: Can you comment on your supervision of this program: How often do you come? And do students have a chance to have a normal life after they’ve been here? I mean can they go back to society?

Marsha Steinberg, Assistant Principal at P.S. 169 (MS): During the 2011-2012 school year, I supervised the Metropolitan Hospital site, the day treatment and in-patient program as well. I was here twice a week. The goal for the day treatment students is at some point for them to regroup to their community schools. And we will not have a day-treatment program for the 2012-2013 year. We will maintain our in-patient program, which is more restrictive and definitely much more intense. Hopefully these students can at some point go on to have an independent life. It is all dependent on how severe and how much treatment they’re going to need for their mental illness and disorders. They do receive medication here, medication is adjusted and monitored, and then they return to their program. Some of them are in community schools already and hopefully they don’t return to the in-patient [program].

AW: The kids return sometimes after a week. They’re supposed to come not before a month, but some come in after a week because they come off their meds and the parents cannot control them, or they fight with the teachers and they bring them right back into the hospital. If the parents want them, they go back after a month or back to the school. If the parent doesn’t want them or [they are really severely disabled, or] mental capacities are not functioning properly, they put them into state hospitals or they put them into another day treatment center.

PR: What’s the worst story or the worst problem you’ve come across, and I’m sure there are many.

AW: This one kid, he’s here still, he went away to the state hospital and they beat him up, and he came back and he is back here. He throws things, he fights with everybody, and they have to call the BEST team, a group of people who come in when the kids are disorderly. If they’re fighting to get the medication, they have to hold them so the medication can be administered. His parents don’t want him, the state doesn’t want him back, so we don’t know where he is going to go right now.

PR: How about you Ms. Steinberg? Any comments on that student, or anybody else here?

MS: We had a student who was a student here at P.S. 169 a couple of years ago, and now is a student at Metropolitan Hospital, sadly she was doing well at our school at 169 but just through family life and different circumstances, she ended up in a state facility. It’s sad to see that she’s 18 and back in the in-patient program. She never really struggled with the academics, but everything else is just so far removed from her that she’s unsuccessful. That’s really hard to see — an 18-year-old back here.

PR: Do they go to a classroom? Or do you come to them individually, at bedside?

AW: There is a classroom in the day area where they have lunch. The classroom is set up in the day area, and we have classes right there. We have fourth to 12th grade in one room, which is kind of chaotic because you have to teach grades four to grades 12 in the same area, at the same time.

PR: If you could change something, what would you change?

AW: I would change the separation, because there is no way a fourth grader can sit in the same room as a 12th grader. There is no curriculum, you’re just giving them work to keep them busy. You have to go in the middle, and choose something that the fourth grade and something that the eighth grade could do. So you have to use a lot of experiences. Some of them didn’t go to school for a very long time. Some of them haven’t been in school for the year and they have to come and sit in this class and they refuse to do work, cursing out everybody, and the little kids are following suit. So I would change that — separate the grades so the kids will be able to function better.

PR: What do you think about that, Ms. Steinberg?

MS: I’d like to see students be able to receive outside services when they do get discharged from this program, not only for the student but also for the parent. So I’d like to see them be able to get right on board with the psychiatry. I know a lot of the parents have good intentions, but yet struggle with being able to find services. I know it’s very difficult for a parent with a child that’s just been released from an in-patient program to have them back home and then the services are not in place.

PR: Can you share with us some of the good stories here at Metropolitan Hospital?

AW: There was one kid who was in here years ago and he wrote a book, and colleges gave the book to read and he went from being on drugs, living in the shelters, he went to Harvard, so he has degrees. And he wrote a book and it’s very interesting, his whole life story. I think kids sometimes go out and they go to college. We encourage them to stay on an educational path, if they come in and they’re very intelligent, because some of them are very intelligent.

MS: Not one story specifically, but on a positive note it really makes me very happy to see a student who is able to come out of this program in the in-patient and be able to return to their setting. So I have seen over my time, a few students be very successful here. With the help of the teachers, the help of the psychiatric staff, they’re able to make that transition.

PR: Hypothetical scenario: a student is very depressed and stays in his or her room. And doesn’t get out of bed. How does the hospital handle that?

AW: When I get over there in the morning, sometimes the kids are still sleeping. I will look on the list and see who is not on the list and say “Which room is this child in?” I go into the room, pull the sheets off, say “Come on, I’m here. Let’s go to school.” They say, “OK, give me five minutes.” Five minutes again, I’ll go back in there, usually they come out. If you’re persistent, they come out for school. So you have to keep doing that. But I want them to come out because sometimes there is nobody sitting there and I’m here. So I will go in there, pull the covers off from head to toe, pull the sheets off, you know, gently tap them, say “Come on, I’m here, let’s go to school.” And eventually they come out. #



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