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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Suspension Centers

Duval county's suspension centers made the Times Union today. This is a piece I wrote about them almost 18 months ago. -cpg

The editorial praising suspension centers for misbehaving school children elicited a response from me; it was me slapping my forehead exclaiming, “Are you kidding me!” In addition to sending them there why don’t we pat them on the back and give them a big bag of gumdrops too?

Being suspended is supposed to be a punishment, have we forgotten that,
has our touchy feely, politically correct society gotten to that point? If done correctly suspensions can have several positive outcomes. If disruptive children are sent home for a few days it gives the other students an opportunity to have a positive learning environment and teachers an opportunity to teach. The teachers lament is, if little Johnny or little Suzy wasn’t here I could teach, most students that get suspended are little Johnnies and little Suzies. Bottom line, the suspension of an unruly child often gives other students a chance to learn and teachers a chance to teach.

More importantly however is a child’s suspension gives a parent an opportunity to act like one. I knew if I was ever suspended from school there were far worse punishments than that waiting for me at home. Too many parents have abdicated their responsibilities or left it to the schools to discipline their children, well society isn’t supposed to work like that, parents are supposed to teach children how to behave and schools are just supposed to teach.

If instead of sending them home all we are going to do is send them to a suspension center which sounds like a glorified coddling center to me what’s the point in suspending them in the first place? Where is the punishment? If schools are to become the discipline tool of the family let’s not play around and let’s do it right. If we don’t it’s only all of society hangs in the balance and if you think I am exaggerating or using grandiose terms for effect, just read the crime report or law and disorder sections of any paper.

Discipline has become a huge problem in many of our schools as evident by another teachers lament and that’s the inmates are running the asylum. When we don’t give children consequences for their actions, and remember for a consequence to be effective it must have meaning, we are in danger of creating more problems down the line. Violent, disruptive and disrespectful children often become violent, disruptive and disrespectful adults. When a student gets to the point they need to be suspended it rarely is the first problem the school had had with the child. Furthermore many students who are suspended are often the recipients of multiple suspensions, this is because suspensions aren’t consequences to them and now inexplicably we are watering down suspensions further with suspension centers.

I personally don’t expect the suspended student to learn anything from not being in school, all I expect is now I will have a few days of peace where I can make sure my other students do.

Instead of going to a voluntary suspension center for a few days something that will unlikely make a difference, why not send the repeat offending child to an alternative school for nine weeks. A school where there is no P.E. or art, no talking in the halls or in the cafeteria, for every day you miss a day is added on and for every bad day you get an extra week. We can have character education and social workers there and then they can get those services for more than an easily forgettable few days. Then let’s make the parents responsible for getting them there and hold them accountable when they don’t. Why not do something that will matter, that has teeth, that will make a difference, because if we’re not going to do that then what is the point, and friends what we are currently doing isn’t worth of a hill of beans to far too many.

If students know going to an alternative center is a real possibility how do you think this will affect their decision making process? Furthermore as I stated above, students who are suspended are often those students who are repeatedly in trouble, after nine weeks away from their friends in a very restrictive environment how much repeat behavior do you think they will have? I’ll tell you how much affect a three day suspension has on many of them, it’s none.

To be honest though I don’t think it should stop there. Once you turn fifteen if you get in two fights in a year thanks for coming but instead of taking the risk you might assault someone else you can go home and be your parent’s problems for a year. Threaten or hit a teacher welcome to the alternative school for the rest of your academic career. Get caught at school with drugs (I recently had an 18 year old student return after just three weeks) feel free to reapply next year.

I don’t particularly like the idea of having these students on the street, but to be honest keeping them in the schools scares the heck out of me and has a detrimental effect on the other students. If a kid comes to hang out with his friends or to see what trouble they can find, it’s time to tell them they are no longer wanted because keeping them takes resources away from the kids that want to be there that have an opportunity to do well. In other words a few bad apples are threatening to spoil all the apples in the cart.

Ask your son or daughter if they know any students who are always in trouble or who never do their work, I bet many of them will know a handful. If a teacher has to constantly deal with disruptive children then that’s time taken away from your child. I hope your child just doesn’t need that little bit extra to be successful.

We have to wake up, by coddling these children, by not giving them real consequences for their actions, by sending them to suspension centers, which are voluntary by the way, we are courting more tragedies. I say more because we already have tragedies in our streets daily. Young people are committing and being the victim of crimes at a terrifying rate and it’s just a matter of time before this violence invades our schools more than it already has. Do we need a student or a teacher to be gunned down in the halls before we stand up and demand something meaningful be done.
In the last few weeks at my school there have been several vicious assaults that probably wouldn’t have taken place if the perpetrators would have received real consequences for past behavior. I say again we are courting tragedy, I just hope it’s not me or one of my peers, or your son or daughter that it happens to.

Suspension centers are those ideas that sound good in a vacuum, that are created by far off academics or people brainstorming around coffee and doughnuts, not by the teachers and administrators in the schools on the front lines, and I mean front lines because with some of these students it’s like going to battle daily. Suspension centers are like putting Band-Aids on bullet wounds which we will have in our halls and our classrooms if we don’t start doing something.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting, this is really what we all need to know, i am also looking forward for more updates.