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Duval County creates criminals by ignoring discipline

Whenever the Times Union runs a piece about discipline I like to rerun this piece because it is still as appropriate as ever.

My friend leaned forward to better hear what the administrator was saying. At first he wasn’t sure because he couldn’t imagine a school administrator saying anything close to what he thought he had just heard.

If you want to make merit pay, the first thing we look at is referrals, if you have written a lot of referrals you will not get merit pay. Also If you think you are on the bubble of being retained or being surplused the first thing we look at is referrals, if you have written a lot you may have room for concern. Not even with a wink and a nod here was this leader of teachers telling her staff not to write referrals and that to do so could cost them both money and or their jobs.

Sometimes a lot of referrals can be indicative of poor classroom management other times however it can be indicative of poor classes. If a kid doesn’t respond to my teacher voice or look, doesn’t care if I call home, can get on the computer or where they sit, if a kid doesn’t care about school then there is no other option but to send them out on a referral that way I can teach and other kids can learn. But what do I do now that money and my job are on the line. Well some teachers scared for their futures will endure toxic leaning environments in their classrooms and that leads to a whole host of other problems.

Duval County doesn’t get it. When we fail to discipline, the problems don’t miraculously go away. On the contrary they get worse and they create other problems as well.

This year the Duval County school system will create doctors and lawyers, teachers and business men, they will create engineers, scientists, and accountants too but sadly they will also create more than their fair share of criminals and bad citizens as well. And they will do it at the same schools that your sons and daughters, your nieces or nephews or your neighbor’s kids go to.

If you want evidence think about my friend who was pistol whipped last January during a robbery or my neighbor who was recently gang raped in broad day light on the street or the residents of 45th street and Moncrief who were terrorized for over a year by a gang of street punks. Of the thirteen young men arrested for crimes ranging from homicide to drug possession four are still teenagers. Over the summer a half dozen young men all under the age of 18 were convicted of murder, one case involved a pizza, another three dollars

If you want further evidence just walk through the halls between classes at most neighborhood schools and you will see there is little fear of or respect for authority.

I can point them out to you, the second year freshmen with six F’s and one D on their latest report card. The junior who doesn’t bring any materials to class and tells me he can’t write with a pen only a pencil when I offer him a pen. The multitude of students who have massed dozens of tardies in my class with no penalty, or seem both outraged and confused when I announce to them that we have work to do, something we do even on Fridays. You can also see the girl that hijacks my forth period class every day, yelling at me telling me no, even when I ask the most reasonable of requests, like please take your seat and quietly do your work. I could go on and on.

For the most part day after day I let it go. You see I have to pick my battles. If I fight everything then I am considered the problem and my classroom management skills are questioned, or if I write up to many black students it’s whispered that I might be a racist. These are things that as a teacher you don’t want to be thought of as.

In my class students get several opportunities to be disrespectful to me or to refuse my reasonable requests, instead of just the one they should, before I send them out. When I do some students question my logic, they tell me nothing’s going to happen to them and that I will be the one that gets in trouble, though when they say it, expletive deletes usually accompany their words.

Sometimes they are back in a few minutes with cat eating grins on their faces because they were just asked not to do it again, though administrators call it counseling. Other times they receive the most minor of inconveniences, I say inconveniences because for something to be a consequence it has to be meaningful. That’s if even that happens.

A colleague of mine recently stumbled across boxes of unprocessed referrals from last year. I suspect they weren’t processed because referrals affect a schools grade, the only alternative I could think of is the administration is either lazy and doesn’t care or they were directed to ignore the referrals by higher ups. Who cares if children are taught its okay to be defiant, disruptive and disrespectful, which is what happens if they receive no consequences for their actions as long as the school grade improves.

Above isn’t exclusive to my class or school by any means, it happens all across the county and at every grade too. First graders threatening teachers, fifth graders caught having sex, middle schoolers assaulting school board employees and worse are all nearly daily occurrences here in Duval County. A few here and there are removed but most are sent back to their classes with no real consequences where quite often their behavior worsens. A student attacking a teacher and scratching their cornea gets a one dy suspension in at least one county school. Looking up a teachers address on google maps so they can come visit them later gets a period of in school suspension at another.

When we ignore bad behavior or don’t deliver real consequence for it, it invariably worsens and why wouldn’t it. I am not a bring swats back to school kind of guy, but what about having children work all day Saturday or after school. Why can’t schools mandate community service hours like the legal system can, and then have the police pick them up to make sure they do it. What do you think happens to children who receive no consequences, well I will tell you, they grow up to be adults who think they can do whatever they want and are easily angered when they can’t. They join gangs, they commit crimes and they are not the person you want sitting next to you at work.

Involved parents of good children don’t think this doesn’t apply to you or your family. What does your child think we he sees no consequences given to the disruptive student, do they think they are cool; do they mimic their behavior or fall into that crowd? Do we want to even take the chance that they might. Furthermore even if they don’t, if a teacher spends just ten percent of his or her time dealing with the unruly student, then your student is missing 18 days worth of instruction. I know teachers who say they spend up to fifty percent of their time working with the students who are discipline problems or don't care. If your child is in one of those classes, do you know how much instruction they are missing? Also what about the child thaat just needs that consequence one time to straighten out, to see the light. Whats going to happen to them if they never get it.

I know what you are thinking and you are right, of course it’s the parents of disruptive children’s responsibility, and yes it is their job to keep these children in line, to raise them right. The thing is, if we know some parents are abdicating their responsibilities, and it is painfully obvious that more than a few are, then isn’t it up to us, society, and the school system to step up and do something because if not us then who. Isn’t it time we stopped just hoping they did the right thing and did the right thing ourselves, regardless of effort or cost.

And the cost being prohibitive is another tired argument, because make no mistake we are already paying for it. Its’ not pay now or pay later, it’s we are already paying now and we are going to have to pay a lot more later. Think about it, we are already paying for it through higher insurance rates, crime and more police on the streets; we are footing the bill with violence and blood. How much is it worth for your daughter not to be raped or your son not to be murdered, or are you just content hoping it doesn’t happen to them, you or somebody else you know or love.

How many of those kids in the 45th street gang did schools make by ignoring their behavior or by giving them no real consequence for it. How many mothers are saying he was such a good boy until he got mixed up in the wrong crowd? How many could we have saved had we done something, my bet is more than a few.

Please don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good kids here in Duval County the vast majority in fact want nothing more but to come to school and learn but there are kids that the schools need to look out for, because if they don’t then society will have too.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more. My principal threatens my evaluation if I write kids up and she is getting pressure from downtown. I guess we are all pressured to make Vitti look good since he lied to Judge Davis. What teachers and students who want to learn have to endure day after day is absolute hell. And my union rep said "We don't do discipline. That's not our fight. Stop writing referrals."

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