Years ago, James Duran didn’t think too much before suspending students who came to his office with stories of swearing at teachers, disrupting class, or even arriving late to school.

“I can tell you that I was suspending upwards of 300 kids a year. And I’ll tell you, I’ll admit it, that’s just what we did in schools. We suspended kids,” says Duran, the veteran dean of discipline at Skinner Middle School in Denver. “Looking back, it was a big cop-out. Basically it just gave kids permission not to be in school.”

Duran wasn’t the only one pushing kids out. In 2010, more than 3 million students were suspended from school, or double the level of suspensions in the 1970s. Meanwhile, more than a quarter-million were “referred” to police officers for misdemeanor tickets, very often for offenses that once would have elicited a stern talking-to.

school_to_prison_pipeline_3The practice of pushing kids out of school and toward the juvenile and criminal justice systems has become known as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” and in 2013, NEA members and leaders made a formal commitment to close it. Fueled by zero tolerance policies and the presence of police officers in schools, and made worse by school funding cuts that overburden counselors and high-stakes tests that stress teachers, these excessive practices have resulted in the suspensions, expulsions, and arrests of tens of millions of public school students, especially students of color and those with disabilities or who identify as LGBT.

For those students, it isn’t just an interruption in learning, although it’s definitely that, too—if they aren’t in school, they aren’t learning. A suspension can be life altering. It is the number-one predictor— more than poverty—of whether children will drop out of school, and walk down a road that includes greater likelihood of unemployment, reliance on social-welfare programs, and imprisonment.

“My eyes were opened by a young man I met who had spent 21 days in a juvenile detention center, basically for talking back in class,” says NEA Executive Committee member Kevin Gilbert. “As educators, we need to step back and look at our discipline structures. We need to make sure they’re going to help, not hurt students.”

Consider the Maryland 7-year-old who was suspended in 2013 for chewing his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun. Or the Michigan senior expelled in October for forgetting the pocketknife in her purse. Or the seven North Carolina teenagers who were arrested and charged with “disorderly conduct” in 2013 for an end-of-the-year water balloon fight.

I was suspending upwards of 300 kids a year. And I’ll tell you, I’ll admit it, that’s just what we did in schools. We suspended kids. Looking back, it was a big cop-out.

Then there’s Patricia Cardenas—a Denver high school junior. She didn’t realize a warrant for her arrest had been issued when she was in middle school until she tried to get a driver’s license last year.

“I had a really difficult time in middle school. My parents were getting divorced, and we were moving, and I was just a train wreck. One day this girl showed up from high school, and she came after me,” says Cardenas. “When the cops came, this one teacher kept saying, ‘Give her a ticket, give her a ticket!’ I didn’t think he had given me one, but I guess he did.

“Looking back, I know that teacher didn’t like me, and honestly I think she was pushing me out,” says Cardenas, who is active with Padres Unidos, a Denver community group that fights the school-to-prison pipeline. “Today my first priority is school and I’ve gotten it together. But it didn’t used to be like that, and nobody asked me what was going on.”

Let’s Talk about Racism

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, which last year ordered school districts to respond to student misbehavior in “fair, non-discriminatory, and effective” ways, Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than White students, while Black and Latino students account for 70 percent of police referrals.

James Duran

James Duran

Also, students with disabilities are twice as likely to be suspended than their non-disabled peers, and LGBT students are 1.4 times more likely to face suspension than their straight peers. In Ohio, a Black child with an emotional disability was 17 times more likely to be suspended than a White, non-disabled peer. Combine these “risk factors,” and you’re talking about a child who might as well stay home.

The bias starts early. Black children represent 18 percent of pre-school students, but account for 48 percent of pre-school suspensions. Yes, we’re talking about 4-year-olds.

“It’s crystal clear that Black students, especially boys, get it worse,” said Jacqui Greadington, chair of the NEA Black Caucus. “Studies have shown that a Black child, especially a male, is seen to be a bigger threat just because they are. They are. They exist.”

In fact, according to research, Black students do not “act out” in class more frequently than their White peers. But Black students are more likely to be sent to the principal’s office for subjective offenses, like “disrupting class,” and they’re more likely to be sent there by White teachers, according to Kirwan Institute research on implicit bias. (White students, on the other hand, are more likely to be suspended for objective offenses, like drug possession.)

The Kirwan Institute blames “cultural deficit thinking,” which leads educators to “harbor negative assumptions about the ability, aspirations, and work ethic of these students—especially poor students of color—based on the assumption that they and their families do not value education.” These racist perceptions create a stereotype that students of color are disrespectful and disruptive, which zero tolerance policies exploit.

“I see it. I work in it. And I know it exists,” says Betsy Johnson, a Montgomery County, Md., middle school teacher who co-facilitates an NEA GPS Network community group about school-to-prison pipeline issues.

“No one wants to put it on the table, but when we have those courageous conversations, when we deal with structural racism, and when we do look inward at our own biases and differences, we can begin to heal,” says Johnson. “We can begin to understand. And when we begin to understand it, we can pass it down to our children.”

For Georgene Fountain, a Montgomery County, Md., teacher who authored the 2014 revisions to NEA’s formal policy on student discipline, which encourages the use of preventative discipline and rehabilitative measures, the wake-up call came from Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

In her 2012 book, Alexander points out that nearly one in three Black men will spend time in U.S. prisons. “When I [met Alexander] she looked me in the eyeballs and said, ‘What is your organization doing about this?’” recalls Fountain.

school_to_prison_pipeline_2

The School-to-Prison Pipeline: What NEA is Doing About It

In 2013, the NEA Representative Assembly, spurred by Fountain and others, committed NEA to end the school-to-prison pipeline. Since then, NEA leaders and members have helped raise awareness of the issue, shape district and state policies, and provide resources on restorative practices.

“With education resources being cut nationwide, many educators are so caught up in trying to do more with less,” says Gilbert, “and many are not aware that when they remove a student from the classroom, they may be unknowingly feeding the school-to-prison pipeline. We’ve got to make more educators aware and we’ve got to give them better tools and skills.”

In 2014, the Montgomery County Education Association and superintendent worked together on a new student code of conduct that minimizes suspensions and allows students to learn from their mistakes. Meanwhile, other districts have signed “memorandums of understanding” with local law enforcement agencies that keep minor offenders out of criminal courts.

NEA Executive Committee member Kevin Gilbert wants his colleagues to ask this question: Do our discipline structures help, or hurt kids?

NEA Executive Committee member Kevin Gilbert wants his colleagues to ask this question: Do our discipline structures help, or hurt kids?

It’s clear that suspensions don’t really work. “They’re a way to get the kid out the classroom, but that’s a really short-sighted view because that kid is coming back,” says Daniel Kim, an organizer with Denver’s Padres Unidos, which helped win a 2013 Colorado law restricting use of suspensions and ex pulsions. (Since its passage, suspensions in Colorado have fallen by 25 percent, while school attendance and punctuality have improved by 30 percent.) Maryland also passed a similar law last year.

But it’s also clear that educators can’t just end suspensions and hope for the best. “We still have far too many situations where teachers are being assaulted, and it’s not taken seriously,” says Charlotte Hayer, president of the Richmond (Va.) Education Association. For teaching and learning to take place, schools must be safe and caring places, she adds.

To Hayer, the answers must include teacher training on cultural awareness and diversity. “You need to teach teachers how to build relationships with students who might not be like them,” she says.

Recently, many teachers have been getting the training they need through increasingly popular “restorative practices,” that help educators get to the root of disciplinary issues. Teachers using them often “circle up” with students when problems occur, which means having in-depth, facilitated conversations that force students to practice empathy and take responsibility for the way their actions affect others.

Last year, to help members master that process, NEA partnered with the Advancement Project, the Opportunity to Learn Campaign and the American Federation of Teachers to release a restorative practices toolkit. “Start by reflecting on your own practice, and what you do in your classroom,” urges Harry Lawson, associate director of NEA’s Human and Civil Rights department.

None of these answers are easy, acknowledges Sarah Biehl, of the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, and the solutions are made more complicated by issues around high-stakes testing and funding cuts. In California, the average school counselor has more than 1,016 students on his or her plate. Meanwhile, the year-long standardized testing frenzy that occurs in U.S. classrooms makes teachers anxious and stressed.

“Suspending a kid or sending them to the office is easy and quick. The things we’re asking schools to do in place of those things are not easy and quick,” Biehl says. “The answers are complicated, and I understand teachers need resources and tools to make these changes.”

It’s not easy or quick at Skinner Middle School anymore. This school year, James Duran has suspended just one kid. “Our approach is to keep the kids in, to do some kind of restorative approach, and maintain the attitude that ‘you’re going to school and you’re going to learn,’” he says.

Just the other day, a student came to his office after cursing his teacher in the most offensive ways. “I really did it this time,” the student announced. “You’re going to have to suspend me, right?” he asked.

But Duran just chuckled. To the student’s annoyance, Duran told him, “No, I am not suspending you. I’m keeping you here.”

  • islesfan

    Yes, it is clearly far better to keep the disruptive, unruly, and frankly dangerous kids right there in class with the others. That way, no one gets an education, so it is all kept fair.

    • Nate Tucker

      Did you read the same article I did? The one posted above? Nowhere did it say that dangerous students would be kept in class. The author even mentioned about the problem regarding teachers getting assaulted. I also remember reading that the teachers are still sending the students to the principal’s office, thus removing them from the classroom until the student is ready to behave. Do you honestly believe that a student should be expelled for a water balloon fight? Or even questioning the teaching of the instructor? Isn’t asking questions the sole foundation on learning?

      • M

        When my daughter was in the third grade, she was suspended for three days for having her tongue pierced. She didn’t really have her tongue pierced. She had taken a jewel off her jean jacket and set it on her tongue. She was pretending to her friends. The rule stated that the student had to get the same punishment as if they really had done it. That started her on the path to being a “bad student”.

        • Socal Teacher

          Where were you as the child’s parent? Parents have a tendency to forget that they, not schools, hold the primary responsibility in instructing, encouraging, and disciplining their children. You’re child did something stupid to look cool. That’s fine, kids do stupid things. Stupidity has its own set of consequences. Your own apparent tendency to blame and not accept responsibility is more likely what stayed your kid down the “bad student” path.

        • Guest

          And that is a perfect example of why “one size fits all” policies do not work in education.

      • Sonia Z

        The author quoted another person- Charlotte Hayer- who then states teachers need training in cultural awareness and diversity! And yes! A student should be removed from class if he/she is disrupting the educational process. A student should ask questions, but never in a way that is disruptive or disrespectful.

      • James Realini

        Nowhere in the article was their mention of how the “suspended” student would receive education on how to participate in a class room without disruption. Cultural awareness and diversity training is wonderful for emotional understanding but it does not prevent disruption. If a teacher is to be “in loco parenti” of their students then we need to teach the children that while in a group they can not prevent the others from learning even if the parents won’t or can not. I understand that kids are still maturing and developing social skills, but I’m not aware of any rational culture or diverse group of humans on this planet that has disruption of the group, disrespect of adults, or denying the rights of others to learn as acceptable behavior.

    • guest

      The sad truth is many administrators discourage classroom teachers from sending unruly, disruptive students out of the classroom. If the kid happens to have an IEP, good luck on having any action taken.

    • Mario Ruiz

      Islefan, some times, I think that’s precisely the plan. Keep everybody dumb, by forcing everyone to deal with disruptive, violent students.

  • ThrowAway

    I see. So you’re more interested in censorship than addressing reality. All that leads me to believe is that you’re a product of the kind of education system you advocate. Most impressive. But I’m not sure it will bring about the end you desire.

  • Teacherswife

    Much of this sounds great – but in a classroom where a teacher is already under pressure to prep students for all of the standardized testing that they are now subjected to (and upon which the teacher’s yearly evaluation may depend), exactly how much time will they have to devote to “circling up” so that they can have an “in depth facilitated discussion to force students to practice empathy and take responsibility for the way their actions affect others”? When will the “in depth facilitated discussion” of the work they are supposed to be doing take place – in short, when will all of the REST of the kids in a classroom get a chance to get back to learning things OTHER than that you can get the entire world to revolve around you if only you are a big enough disruption. Perhaps the facilitated discussion should take place with the disruptive student, the teacher, the principal and the parents OUTSIDE of class time.

    • guest

      “Circling Up” sounds like a strategy developed by a person or persons sitting at a desk someplace brain storming ideas for teachers on the firing line to implement. First of all, it isn’t a good use of time. Certainly one session isn’t going to make much of a difference, if any at all. Secondly, the classroom with all students attending probably isn’t the best setting. This should be led by someone properly trained in the process with kids in a group who have similar behavior problems. Valuable classroom time isn’t wasted and time taken away from students who want to learn.

    • guest

      I totally agree to this comment. I am a 6th grade teacher in Oklahoma and after only 2 years teaching, I am considering another profession. Imagine going through college, getting a degree, and then having a 12 year old curse you out, only to be brought right back into your room. There are times I don’t feel safe in my classroom, which isn’t anything compared to some areas. I see an article that is saying what we are doing isn’t working, but nothing giving logical solution to the problem. We are responsible for teaching them “State Standards” or risk losing our job. We aren’t licensed or trained counselors, which is what they are expecting us to be. It sounds like we need counseling rooms to send students to, where they can work out their problems, while the rest of the class gets to do what they came to school to do, which is learn.

  • Rich

    I worked in Denver Public school for 21 years. I left for for a better school district in the suburbs of Denver. DPS is both a horrible place to work and to send your children. In the years I worked there students were sent back to the classroom high, smelling of alcohol, or after being involved in violent acts. I had a student hide a gun near the school and he was in class the next day. I had two students who were involved in high profile murders in the community. I had numerous students that were involved in gangs and had extensive criminal records. I saw students who were violent and abusive both towards staff and other students and all they got was a slap on the wrist and a “restorative justice” session. At one high school I worked at the administration refused to process behavior referrals on black students because, as I was later told, they were afraid of having the Civil Rights commission filing a lawsuit against them. The school often did not report it’s real behavior data to the state. I remember one year they state listed my school as only having three fights in a year. I had to laugh as there were times I was breaking up three fights a day. The phrase “school to prison pipeline” is really code for sweep the problems under the rug because we don’t want anyone calling us racist.

    • Rafael Negron

      So, we should hand over the keys to the realm, is that what I’m reading? These reports come from individuals that for the most part have never spent enough or anytime in the classroom, and for the most part never at the high school level. We are also reading material sponsored form and by the government/teachers unions, unions whose agenda for the last 40 plus years has been to line there own pockets. They have experimented with our children for 40 plus years, with a new fangled teaching method, every 5 to10 years. These still people have not been able to justify a 50% failure rate in most high school across this nation. Their main argument is that more money is needed. In many states 80% like California most of the money goes toward teacher salaries and pensions. Yet a small Island nation like Sri Lanka ranks higher in the world and spends half the money per student then every state and territory in this country. We need to quash these people and give control back to the people. We need to hold parents for the actions of their offspring, and also dispense the appropriate punishment regardless any other stipulations. Everyone should beheld accountable for their own actions. Many students on my campus had no fear of reprisal for their actions, regardless if their actions caused physical harm to another or others. I had an administrator inform a student to inform me, that this student had a right to fail my class or any other class he wished to fail. This psycho babble has to end, the government/teachers union run conglomerate needs to be disbanded. Pre 1960’s system, or version of said system produced the greatest industrial and technological country the world has ever known. Post 1960’s has been a dismal shadow of the previous 200 years. Wake up America, someone is making a good effort at controlling the masses, enslaving America by way of creating an undereducated and dependent society.

      • Socal Teacher

        Comparing education in the US (50 states) education system (compulsory, open to, and the legal right of every child up until at least 18 regardless of interest, ability, circumstance or desire) to a small nation-state where education is viewed and treated as a privilege, and also which utilizes corporal punishment is comparing apples to vodka.

        And while union leadership is out-of-touch with its members, possibly in collusion with their purported opponents, they are keeping us in something skin to a living wage which is more than you can say for nearly every other sector of employees. Take the union-busting talk to the fools who think people should only teach for the love of the kids and can live off of pixie dust.

        Public Education policy often does seem intent to dumb down the masses; but, in your low-waged, non-union United States of America, nearly all the people would need to be stupid to tolerate stagnant/falling real income, personal income taxes higher than businesses, cuts to social & community building govt. programs, increased military spending, the renaming of earned social supports like social security & medicare to entitlements while leaving real entitlements of businesses like subsidies alone.
        Maybe Education policy makers and Unions are in cahoots with the billionaire multinational business owners, and government to create a nation of idiots who accept low pay-no benefit jobs. They want them either stupid enough to either ignore everything or even more stupid to the point where they’re convinced that they’re not part of the same stupid crowd they look down on.

        • Felecia Prince

          It’s ALL about LOVE!! Where is your Love for the Students? Do you have that REAL Love?

          • SAM253

            I ‘love’ when all these free loading welfare chimps go home for the day. that’s where my love ends

        • Rafael Negron

          I appreciate yours comments, I used Sri Lanka a small country where education is compulsory form the age of 5 to 14 years of age, and education is a fundamental right. Serving close to 4,030,00 students throughout the island. A literacy rate in 2012 of 98.1%, also a national university system that is free. The University of Sri Lanka which is affiliated with the University of London is free if the student has the high grades to attend. This is a small island nation with approximately 9,830 schools to serve its students. In 2011 the national education budget was 2% of their GDP, according to the world bank. The U.S. fiscal year 2011 national budget for education is + 3% of the GDP, and for fiscal year 2015 is estimated to be +6% of The GDP according to usgovernmentspending.com. As for wages, I was a Regional Occupational Program Instructor with a teaching credential, and 37 years of industry experience in my subject matter plus 4 years of teaching at post secondary level. On my campus, the only time I was approached by another staff was when their automobile broke down. I was not considered a real teacher, and there was an attempt to have me join the union. After being in the Teamsters for 25 years, I really didn’t want anything to do with the teachers union. An anecdotal incident in relation, was inside a large chain craft store, trying to purchase bulletin board items for the classroom, I was asked if I wanted to a teacher discount. Since I didn’t have a union card. the clerk stated that I could not receive a discount, because I was not a real teacher. That said, there are many other countries doing it better for less. In a cursory of the topic, the U.S. does not even rank in the top10, we are in 14th place. There is an educational system that does excel in the U.S. and that is our DoDEA military educational system. Students are held responsible for their actions, as well as their parents. The DoDEA system with a 73.4% graduation from high school in 2011-2012. There is a lesson to be learned here, why can’t the Department of Education take notice. Yet, I’m starting to ramble on, we are being led down a road that leads to nowhere, as I stated in my first comment, giving away the keys to the realm. Does anyone real the movie “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

        • Rafael Negron

          I appreciate yours comments, I used Sri Lanka a small country where education is compulsory form the age of 5 to 14 years of age, and education is a fundamental right. Serving close to 4,030,000 students throughout the island. A literacy rate in 2012 of 98.1%, also a national university system that is free. The University of Sri Lanka which is affiliated with the University of London is free, if the student has the high grades to attend. This is a small island nation with approximately 9,830 schools to serve its students. In 2011 the national education budget was 2% of their GDP, according to the world bank. The U.S. fiscal year 2011 national budget for education is + 3% of the GDP, and for fiscal year 2015 is estimated to be +6% of The GDP according to usgovernmentspending.com. As for wages, I was a Regional Occupational Program Instructor with a teaching credential, and 37 years of industry experience in my subject matter plus 4 years of teaching at post secondary level. On my campus, the only time I was approached by another staff was when their automobile broke down. I was not considered a credentialed teacher, even though there was an attempt to have me join the union. After being in the Teamsters for 25 years, I really didn’t want anything to do with the teachers union. An anecdotal incident in relation, I was inside a large chain craft store, trying to purchase bulletin board items for the classroom, I was asked if I wanted to a teacher discount. Since I didn’t have a union card, the clerk stated that I could not receive a discount, because I was not a real teacher. That said, there are many other countries doing it better for less. In a cursory search of the topic, the U.S. does not even rank in the top10, we are in 14th place. There is an educational system that does excel in the U.S. and that is our DoDEA military educational system. Students are held responsible for their actions, as well as their parents are held responsible for the actions of their off spring. The DoDEA system with a 73.4% graduation from high school in 2011-2012. There is a lesson to be learned here, why can’t the Department of Education take notice. Yet, I’m starting to ramble on, we are being led down a road that leads to nowhere, as I stated in my first comment, giving away the keys to the realm. Does anyone remember the movie “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

      • Felecia Prince

        Do you love your students? All students?

        • Dom D

          Where did they grow you?

          • Felecia Prince

            I love to serve, I love to teach, I love ALL my students. To answer your question, Fertile Soil, Rocky Soil, and Desert Sands…Over 26 years….You name it…I’ve been there; As the writer Langston Hughes Wrote, “Life for me, aint been no Crystal Stair”, But Nothing can separate me from the Love of God. And if he can love us inspite of, I can love my students regardless. It’s All about love Dom D…Real love will turn some students around.

      • Robert Gregory

        Bravo!! Hear Hear!! Rich and Rafael, I second

      • Anonymous Cop

        I saw this article in my wife’s NEA magazine so I wrote my response here if you’re interested: http://wp.me/p5uuFm-77

    • Felecia Prince

      Do you have real love for students? All students?

      • James Realini

        Felecia I do “love” my all students. I agree that suspension doesn’t really help the disruptive student, but how do you convert disruptive students who believe that no zero tolerance means no consequences. Sure we can work with that kid, take time to refocus that kid, but does the class room teacher have the time to do this AND continue with the rest of the children? Show me a system that can take care of disruption without disrupting every one else’s education and we can solve the problem and truly “love” ALL our students equally.

        • DrLiz

          I sincerely hope that Felecia is a troll or just having a batshit crazy day today. If not, it’s people like her who prevent us from having real conversation about these issues. By demanding to know if we don’t “love” the kids, then we all get defensive and spend time saying OF COURSE OF COURSE OF COURSE I LOVE THE KIDS. Guess what? I don’t “love” all the kids. I like them, I like teaching them, but no…I don’t love them. That’s actually kind of creepy.

          That said, I’d like to ask what are we supposed to do with kids who consistently misbehave or have such extreme emotional issues that they cannot handle school? Schools weren’t set up to handle kids who want to set you on fire or who have IQs of 20 and thus cannot control themselves and their behaviors. I like the idea of restorative justice, but is that going to work when you have a 7 Mile Dog and a Cyrus Street Discipline involved? (Hint: No). We often find ourselves in a situation where one or two kids are ruining it for everyone else in the class.

          • James Realini

            Yes, DrLiz

        • Felecia Prince

          James, Students should be “Truly Loved” even if the problem is NEVER solved……… In your statement you asked a question “How do you convert disruptive students who believe that no zero tolerance means no consequences?” There is ALWAYS a consequence: Positive and/or Negative. Think about this, “Can you through fuel on a fire and expect a different result than probably a much BIGGER FIRE?” We as teacher must work on putting fires out and the ONLY way that can happen where the fires can be contained longer would be with respect, kindness, and love……tough love if needed; but it’s still REAL LOVE. Thank you James for your response. Have a Wonderful Day!

          • James Realini

            Please don’t assume that I (we) haven’t tried constructive discipline or trying to understand. I think the frustration displayed by most who post here is about those students that reject our attempts and we have reached a point where they are preventing learning for the rest of our children. While each child is important, which children do you save when it is one who disrupts? What you may not see behind the frustration on this site is that while I may love the child, the system does not care enough to provide for a way out of their disruptive behavior unless you require the teacher to put aside the education of the class for the possible salvation of one who disrupts. When a system of triage is conducted, there is supposed to be a system to take care of the urgent cases or there is only abject rejection (in medical terms you say the patient is beyond salvation). So if anyone is not loving the children it is the system (run by those in the ruling class) who do not care to provide an alternative to the disruptors. Where is the proposal from Mary Ann Flannery? All she offers is the assumption that teachers just don’t know enough to care about their kids and that we shouldn’t remove disruptive students from the community. That’s not a plan, those throwing the problem under the rug.

            I always have a wonderful day because yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a present.

          • Felecia Prince

            Which do we save? Who are we to judge and decided which to save? These are children, people; maybe not you;
            but what if someone made that decision about you if you weren’t all you should have been back in the day? What if someone just through you out the community if they labeled you as a “disrupted student”? For chronic cases, I agree that other measures must be taken; but, it still MUST be done in LOVE, just TOUGH LOVE. The words that Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer shared about Cardale Jones, the 3rd string quarterback that went on and led their team to the NATIONAL championship on Monday night should be heard or read by ALL teachers and people in general. Those words for those that have an opened mind, would be perfect for what we are discussing today. The book, about The Honorable Judge Greg Mathes, have you read it? If not, you should, it would be great for this discussion. James, we aren’t in the saving business, because God does that; but as teachers, we should love

            them enough to give our very best and the chronic behaviors, they require more. How much are you willing to
            give? It takes all of the fruits of the spirit….read Galatians 5:22. Iagree with you that THERE must be a system to take care of the urgent cases.

            In closing, we must be careful with the word, “assumption”? Do we REALLY KNOW what she means? Do you feel that teachers DO KNOW enough about their kids? Do we really KNOW enough to help them? Isn’t that a
            process? Which takes TIME. Another word Educators complain about,Time. Now, if you remove a student that
            we label “disruptive” from the community, will this solve the problem? There are more where that one came from. We MUST STOP avoiding the problems and DEAL with the problems; tackle the problems; We can’t keep throwing people out and expect ALL our troubles will be over; life just doesn’t work like that; We MUST LOVE those that are still NOT easy to love.

            Oh yes, for DrLiz, that you said “Yes” in your reply on yesterday; Would it make you happy that a teacher who makes a BOLD statement such as, “Guess what? I don’t “love” all the kids. I like them, I like teaching them, but no…I don’t love them. That’s actually kind of creepy”, be your own child’s teacher? With statements like that from teachers, we should now clearly understand. Now, that’s “disrupted” (from the Cambridge Dictionary: to prevent something, especially a system, process, or event, from continuing as usual or as expected; to destroy).

            Great Discussion,

            Thanks for the Opportunity James,

            Sincerely,

            Felecia

          • James Realini

            Felicia,
            I’ve worked in three different schools. The teachers I’ve worked with for the most part at least “care” about their kids; some do more, some at least try. The ones (5 over 15 years) who do not at least care either leave by their own choice or they are removed.
            You use the word judge and decide and I wholeheartedly agree that if teachers arbitrarily judge and decide based on personally bigotry then that is intolerable; but if teachers (and I believe most of us do) use their judgement and decide over a period of time that the “disruption” has become intolerable then something must be done. The problem as many in this discussion have described is that their is very little to be done except quarantine.
            As for being in the “saving business” I must disagree with you. If we don’t try to “save” the disruptors from walking down the socio-pathic path, then we are guilty of neglect and do not “love” our students.

            Seek to achieve the revelation of Mathew 25:40.

    • ladybug546

      If they were your students why didn’t you participate in the restorative justice session? Was it offered to you? I believe in restorative justice because I am part of the process. You need to see it in session to understand the profound affects in that moment and afterwards….the crime, behavior, issue at hand needs to be talked about however it seems to never be the underlying issue as to why the person does what they do. Remember you don’t know the whole story until you walk a day in that persons shoes.

      • Rich

        Yes, I know the Restorative Justice process very well. We had it forced down our throats for years. We even had the founder of the program trolling our halls several times. Our Principal even used it to get his job and got on National News for all the wonderful “changes” it brought to our school. Did Restorative Justice work in some situations? Yes, but only in those where both students had buy in and a commitment to change. That holds true in any self help program. The problem is many of those who choose to act out or harm others don’t care and/or learn to play the system. I sat in an RJ session where the student said “If I had known I was going to get in trouble for beating the kid up I would have really done it!” No less than 30 minutes after the RJ session he found the kid he was accused of beating up and beat him unconscious. A 50 minute RJ session is not going to cure the lack of morals and empathy that children do not get taught and develop at home. What no one wants to talk about is that in many communities in America the entitlement attitude and a growing sociopathy is the norm. The reality is schools and administrators use RJ as a way to magically alter behavior statistics and throw kids back in classes and schools they should not be in. Our school reported a 47% drop in suspensions due to RJ in a single semester. With those magical numbers there should be no problems in any school in the United States. The truth was they just stopped suspending African-American Students regardless of what they did and then went to the media and reported the miracle of RJ. Two months later our Principal was strutting around on national TV talking about the wonders of RJ.

    • hayde

      I appreciate what you say, because I work in a high poverty area as a middle school teacher where drugs is usually the most serious problem, because we are in a small town near the Mexican border, but nonetheless it’s hard to teach isn’t it? My point is that the school district needs to come up with outreach programs for these kids that need it. I would never teach anywhere else because I love my kids, and the worse ones are usually my best students, because I don’t judge them, I counsel them, I teach them and I believe that they need all the help they can get. Most of them don’t get it anywhere else but at school.

    • Anonymous Cop

      I completely agree. What do you think of my article that was inspired by this article here: http://wp.me/p5uuFm-77

    • Sailor Uranus

      I agree just fifty short years ago when most students where European/Japanese the worst problems where running in the halls and chewing gum in class. Now serious crimes like assault, vandalism, rape, theft, and even throwing desks around the room top the list. That said telling the truth isn’t racism its common sense and i commend you for having the courage to speak the truth.

  • Excel teach 1

    Yes…some schools go overboard…but any disruption causing my class not to learn is tossed out! If that student continues to be disruptive, I have them removed from my class…if my Principal will do that. Why should 20 to 25 students, that want to learn, suffer because of one bone head???

    • Nate Tucker

      True. Which is why the bonehead needs to stop suspending these kids. The bonehead here is the one who doesn’t know how to properly discipline the students.

      • Dannowp

        That is the parents job.

        • Val E. Forge

          Two thumbs WAY UP on that, Dannowp!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • enjb

        It is often not that the teacher does not know how to discipline the child but that the child refuses to change their disruptive behavior despite appropriate behavioral interventions. The rights of the other students are not less important that those of the student who repeatedly and systematically disrupts the classes they attend. Their behavior is a symptom and the classroom teacher frequently does not have the resources to effectively address the problem and so must address the system and protect the rights of the other students to learn.

        • DrLiz

          In order for “discipline” to work, there has to be a meaningful consequence. For some kids, there simply is nothing you can take away or do to them to make it mean anything. I’m talking about kids who have been abused, molested, have nothing, get crapped on all the time…taking away “iPod time” or “points” is both meaningless and a complete joke. And then you do have the occasional kid who is like a sociopath (or IS one) in that no “consequence” reaches them.

      • Mario Ruiz

        Guest, the bonehead is the one who offers inane suggestions, without knowing what he/she is talking about.

      • Bob

        I thought the kid needing discipline was the bonehead. Proper discipline of a student should involve a punishment that deters the student not encourages him. How about a full Saturday of classes taught by parents their own parents.

    • Felecia Prince

      Do you have REAL LOVE? For ALL STUDENTS? We do say in our pledge….”Justice for ALL”. What about Love for ALL?

      • Pamela

        Felecia,

        You are one of the few who should be anywhere near children of color. We cannot teach or protect those we don’t love and respect.

        Thank you,
        Pamela

        • Felecia Prince

          Thank you Pamela. It’s all because of Christ.

          Have a great day!!
          Felecia

          • Matt

            God is made up. Let’s stick to reality here.

            This is a serious issue.

  • Pingback: The school-to-prison pipeline: Time to shut it down « Education Votes()

  • Difference maker

    If you want to have a real impact, you have to get out into the communities of high needs districts and educate the parents and caregivers of these students as well.

    • Mario Ruiz

      Good luck with that. Enablers and apologists already got to them, poisoning their minds against teachers.

  • Kyle Gabovitz

    As an NEA member, I hope the NEA reexamines their position on this matter. You can’t have kids putting on a show for the others & stopping learning for everyone.

    • WEST

      remove them to in-house suspension

      • Gell

        That is a great idea, but many districts and schools lack the funding to pay for extra supervision during the school day.

        • mem

          Just do what our school does. take away our prep time and put u in the inschool room for the period. “You can prep there”. I teach science at the other end of the building on another floor. “No labs today”

        • Socal Teacher

          There would be money for practical steps like these if districts didn’t spend so much money on consultant fees who present solutions that they’ve never seen work outside a highly controlled setting, if in any at all.

  • vam

    The biggest problem as with zero tolerance it seems there is no happy medium. We can no longer suspend any student for disruptive behavior and even other behaviors that before were a part of zero tolerance. We have been told now that as a part of PBIS all students are entitled to due process, so an investigation must be conducted on every referral and other students interviewed prior to any discipline. (A teachers word is not enough). Additionally the teacher must make parent contact with a mandatory parent meeting we must also mail a letter for every referral – and make a computer entry. We mustset up a notebook because we are not permitted to write names on the board because it violated their rights. ….. Our administration has akso said if we have better lesson plans they’ll behave-that aside..I wonder how anyone can even think about becoming a teacher anymore.
    .

    • Sonia Z

      Yup! I always discourage younger adults to avoid teaching. We are overworked, underpaid, and subject to daily abuse from students, administrators, parents, and people who have NO IDEA what a tough job we have.

    • Mario Ruiz

      vam, yes, we can, and we need to remove students for some behaviors, like assault, sexual harassment, battery, and carrying weapons. Zero tolerance policies have been abused, but they are necessary. Do you really want a school where students can engage in destructive behavior without any consequences? Would you like one of these “victims of the system” to beat up your son, or sexually molest your daughter?

    • Guest

      Dang, you must teach in “liberal utopia.” Good luck.

    • DrLiz

      You’re right, vam. We never can just get a happy medium in this society…we go from warehousing kids with disabilities (VERY bad) to “full inclusion”, which simply doesn’t work much of the time. (Some of the time, yes, but not always). We go from paddling kids to coddling them. We go from humiliating kids in gym class to “everyone gets a ribbon even if you can’t do a jumping jack”. It’s ridiculous.

      • James Realini

        We get what we vote for and we can only vote for people who get money from people who want their ideas enabled.

  • Teachers Unite

    Excellent conversation starter for educators on this subject: https://gumroad.com/l/growfair

  • Suzanne

    As a classroom teacher with almost 40 years experience, I can say without a doubt my first priority is a classroom where children can learn without constant disruption from other students. Whatever their story might be whether it’s emotionally disturbed, poor impulse control, unhealthy home environment, etc., inappropriate behavior cannot control the classroom and monopolize the teacher’s time, energy, and focus at the expense of the other students.

  • LagunaLady27

    In order to stop the flow from schools to prison, kids need to stay in school. More would be able to, if community colleges were tuition free. I wrote a petition on the White House website to support tuition free community colleges. The link is: http://wh.gov/geKH. If you support this proposal, please sign the petition and pass the word.

    • anonymous

      sorry lagunalady. It’s not my responsibility to pay taxes for other people to send their kids to community college for free. You want kids to stay out of prison? Then demand that parents take care of their own kids. I take care of mine without expecting others to pay for anything. We need PARENTS, not government to fix this problem. Back in the day when people actually had children in wedlock and stayed married, behavior problems from children was the exception, not the rule. Schools have not changed, people are very good at messing up their own lives and the lives of their children.

      • Guest

        Well said!! ENOUGH with the freebies!

      • LagunaLady27

        This is a pennywise pound foolish attitude. Your taxes will either cover two more years of education or welfare, medical costs, and prison expenses. I would rather people receive enough education to hold down a job and pay taxes than need help lifelong help from the rest of us.

  • AIO

    I agree with this in general. But my spouse is a high school teacher in a large urban school district, and is expected to not send kids to the office even when they are clearly high in class–first thing in the morning! It’s unfair to think that he will be held accountable for their academic success, as well as manage to educate the other 40+ students in the room!

  • Richard Uzzell

    I need to question my professional organization if they do not understand that “Raising Graduation Rates” is a euphemism for reducing rigor and keeping criminals in classrooms, as is the scary “School-to-Prison Pipeline” phrase. “No Zero” policies often make the teacher’s awarding of a passing grade feel unethical. Such an embracing of social and academic retrograde as this is in my opinion ignoble, and it hurts most frequently the non-honors students forced together in class with the dysfunctional few.

    • mem

      Give them all b’s and keep your job

  • dannowp

    Why do we want turn our schools into enablers of poor behavior. Kids are going to prison because of the collapse of the family and family values, not because I won’t use PBIS.

  • Kb

    Getting to the root of a problem is always difficult but the results are priceless for all caught in a situation!

  • mortal888

    This article is making me question my membership in the NEA. Not taking disruptive kids out of the classroom? The students who WANT to learn and do not keep others from doing it should be the priority here.

    • Sonia Z

      AMEN!

    • TB

      Exactly! This article is all that is wrong with how we deal with kids. Someone cusses you out, why should they be out of the classroom? Send a black student to the office, must be a racist teacher. Come on. Suspending the student puts a little responsibility on the parents. That is where the main discipline should come from anyway. Let’s think about the other 28 students, instead of giving in to the one…

    • Socal Teacher

      AMEN!!! It really shows how out-of-touch union leadership has gotten with the classroom teachers. It’s makes me wonder how many other initiatives they’re pushing that the vast majority of teachers abhor.

  • Michelle Schnell

    I wonder if the person who wrote this article has actually been IN an inner-city high school classroom in the last 15 years? Or in any high school classroom for that matter? And not just visited, but been IN one day in and day out trying to teach and manage behaviors. I have and I promise you, keeping these kids in the room assures that there is NO learning by anyone. Period. Do what you want. Call it what you want. Teachers will do as they are told because we all want to keep our jobs and if that means being verbally abused, well, that’s what it means. Or we will just leave the field entirely, and, sadly, many great teachers have chosen that path too.
    Pressuring teachers to keep unruly kids in the room DOES NOT IN ANY WAY MEAN YOU HAVE SOLVED THE PROBLEM. All you have done is create chaos in the classroom and made school a misery for those kids who are there to learn. The problem is at home, obviously. Schools can’t solve the problem without the help of parents and many parents are failing to do their job. These numbers are NOT a reflection of a failing school system, they are a reflection of failing families and parents. Moreover, I especially hate articles like this that make it sound like teacher bias is the problem. I can promise you I have NEVER thrown a student out of the room because of the color of his or her skin or because he or she was disabled and I don’t know of a single teacher who has. I do know of MANY teachers who have been treated so terribly by students that they have left the building in tears and yet they still came back the next day and tried to do their best.

    • Socal Teacher

      It means the kid doesn’t learn there are consequences for all behaviors thereby learning to make decisions and choices based on the consequences they want our are willing to accept. THAT’S how they end up in prison or the grave. They leave school thinking they can do whatever they want and say whatever they want to whomever and whenever. That’s a recipe for unemployment, a cell, or a coffin.

  • Mr. Weiand

    I agree that students need to be in school to learn. They don’t learn when they are suspended out of the building. Teachers should regulate their classrooms and handle discipline positively without sending students to the office for every issue that comes up. However, sometimes students are unwilling to participate in a manner that society deems acceptable to extreme degrees. When that happens, the teacher is responsible for maintaining a quality learning environment. No student has the right to take away from someone else’s right to an education. Whether it is disrupting class in a manner that forces removal from the class, or physical violence, when you make those decisions, you forfeit the privilege that you are blessed with as a citizen of the United States. The rest of the class who is properly behaving should be able to learn in an environment that is productive and safe. The future of the disruptive student is not the only one on the line here. In my opinion, the future of the other 32 take precedence because they are being respectful and responsible and valuing their education.

    That much said, zero tolerance needs a look at in regards to silly issues like the pop-tart gun and the pocketknife. I fish regularly. I often had a pocketknife on me in MS. My son likes pop-tarts. To think he would be expelled for making one in the shape of a gun or that I would because I had my little pocketknife in my coat pocket makes me wonder who wrote these laws/rules.

    • Sonia Z

      So you would be fine with a teenager who may have issues with your son having a pocketknife on him? If your son was stabbed by that pocketknife, would you blame the school for lack of security and sue?

  • Sonia Z

    This article is insane! I’m a teacher at a suspension school. We follow the NYC curriculum, we give tests, and homework. So, the students are still learning. I’d love this writer to spend a couple of days at a suspension school. Most of the kids deserve the suspension. Plus, the author of this article took the testimony of the kids who were suspended! They don’t give the entire truth about the incident resulting in their suspensions. Did the water balloon fight cause an injury or incite a riot or put anyone in danger? Did the student who “talked back” to his teacher disrupt the educational process and does this student repeatedly behave like this? Students do not get suspended or expelled just for talking back. And, to defend a student who brings a pocketknife to school? SERIOUSLY? There is no reason a teenager should carry a pocketknife! This article is ignorant to what is really happening in schools. It doesn’t even mention that students have suspension hearings within a couple of days of being suspended to determine if the student should be suspended and/or the number of days of the suspension. Every student that ended up in my class deserved to be suspended…some learned their lesson, but some don’t care and even brag about being arrested or how they plan on following in their family member’s footsteps by selling drugs or robbing others. Being suspended is NOT the cause of kids ending up in prison…it’s a much deeper issue. It has to do with family life, environment, influences, lifestyle, drug use, socio-economic status, untreated learning disabilities, and/or mental illness. Some of these kids are on their way to prison whether they’re suspended or not. That’s reality. That’s the truth.

    • Molly

      No one is saying these students don’t “deserve” some kind of consequence. The fact is that suspension doesn’t work. Other consequences are more effective. I want to add that we’re both teachers and on the same side here – the side of helping kids. Suspensions may not be the direct cause of kids growing up to be criminals, but they certainly don’t help kids not to be. We all wish all parents did their jobs. But, like it or not, they all don’t. I’d personally rather spend my tax dollars on interventions helping troubled kids, than spending them on tax dollars to keep them in prison as adults.

  • Val E. Forge

    We have PBIS at our school. It stands for Positive Behavioral Intervention Strategy. It is institutionalized co-dependency. It boils down to “How can I [the teacher] change so that you [the student] won’t act the way you do?” There was ANOTHER PBIS that was used in the Catholic school I attended. It was a wood board applied to the seat of the problem. There PBIS stood for Posterior Based Intervention Strategy. When they got done with Johnny, Johnny could read! Public schools should have never gotten rid of it.

    • Molly

      I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. — Mahatma Gandhi

      • Val E. Forge

        “Of all the misdeeds visited upon the Indian people by the British government, the Act that forbade the ownership of arms [weapons] was the blackest.” ALSO by Gandhi – look it up! He wasn’t as nonviolent as people think. He was nonviolent because he did not have the tools to do the job a lot quicker.

        • Ed

          Totally off topic here, but… “I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by non-violently facing death may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor.” — Mahatma Gandhi. He taught that non-violence was by far more powerful.

          • Val E. Forge

            Thanks Ed. Violence is like a tourniquet. Used only as a last resort, but definitely resorted to if need be. As you have pointed out, Gandhi himself believed that.

  • Mike Raffone

    When, if ever, are consequences going to follow negative behavior. Token economies are easily manipulated. Administrators throw teachers under the bus , and suck up to parents. I retired in part because of this. Very frustrating.

    • Val E. Forge

      Good points Mike. Insightful comment about token economies.

  • TC Buck

    As a retired teacher of 36 years, I am ashamed to be affiliated with any organization such as the NEA that has– over the years– begun to speak like politicians — Better schools — Better teachers — More accountability for your child’s education–etc– without any serious thought as to whom the responsibility should be placed — The teacher. How much more time must a teacher be expected to give to a system that really doesn’t have the foggiest notion of what or how to solve this problem of students who don’t care and parents who won’t accept responsibility for their kids behavior in school or en route to or from school or home? You can fill a room with the greatest minds in child psychology–teachers — bus drivers — teacher assistants — playground assistants –Principals — school board members — police officers–and any others who must deal daily/hourly with disrespectful–aggressive–attention seeking–disruptive jerks for the purpose of helping the child understand and accept the rules of the school society– and– you want to bet?– The kid will more than likely escape unscathed because he/she has no respect for the system and there is no motivation to ” give in ” to authority. If there are no hard fast rules in place to remove him/her to a place more suitable and appropriate for resolving the problem—not the classroom after school—not the councilor’s office– not the principals office, but to a facility that is out of the students comfort zone-maybe the district office ( if not in the school proper ) or to an alternative school-if the district is fortunate enough to have such a facility- and the parents do not buy into the process and recognize and accept that they themselves are for the most part responsible for their child’s behavior, —We’re screwed!!!

    Why wait til a young boy or girl reaches adulthood and then must face the rules as an adult? That is what is not fair or right!!! Teach the hard facts of life early and do not mandy-pandy the kids at the expense of the majority of students who do cooperate and make the effort to respect the system. Give the teachers a chance to teach — the students a chance to learn and express themselves– encourage the parents to take a serious look at their kids behavior.If parents remain or choose not to accept responsibility but toss the blame onto the school’s court, the battle may be unwinnable.

    I want to thank all of you who have chosen teaching as a career and for your concern for children but I can only express my deepest regrets that you were never really informed as to how your hands will be tied in areas of classroom management. I hope that you will not have to face a “misunderstood” shooter in the hallway or witness the aftereffects of a student who was bullied to the point of suicide because the system let him/her down. Good luck in the future— and keep those NEA dues rollin’ in.

    • James Realini

      Thank you for what you did and for what you said.
      Unfortunately you are absolutely right, which means that the powers that be will nod their heads and do what they want (or are paid by their campaign funders) anyway.

  • amj53

    Why is my union publishing articles advocating policies that harm teachers and imply that teachers are to blame when students misbehave? If a student swears at me or disrupts my class, I want him suspended. When he gets back from his suspension, I can apply any strategies for positive discipline. Chances are I was doing that even before he cussed me out or disrupted my other students’ learning.

  • anonymous

    so the absence of parents especially in minority groups (sorry it’s a FACT), or huge divorce rates because parents are too selfish to work out their differences for the sake of their kids, once again is not the reason kids are failing in this country. It’s those evil teachers again that are destroying our society. What a bunch of garbage this is.

    • James Realini

      Again,
      Thank you for what you did and for what you said.
      Unfortunately you are absolutely right, which means that the powers that be will nod their heads and do what they want (or are paid by their campaign funders) anyway.

  • md

    You have a right under the Ed Code of California to suspend a student from class for up to 2 days! Until that law changes, I stick to that for various infractions, including those mentioned in the article. If I can’t get support from Admin, then I stick to the rights the law gives me. If that law changes, then my job would be much more difficult. Crazy to think of what it will be like if the laws change here in California. You should have a right to remove a kid from class if he has cursed you out during class.

  • Mr R

    I love how stories like these spring up. Firstly, Mr. Duran does not work in the classroom, so once he went to a meeting where someone presented some data about suspension rates, he was willing to change. There is no discipline allowed in society anymore and that is what continues to supply the prison system. For all the people against zero-tolerance, at what point did we stop educating children? A hot oven isused to cook food, but you probably believe that the child should touch it, and the manufacturer should be blamed if the child gets burned instead of teaching them that it is not okay to touch the hot oven, and that they do not have a valid reason to touch it just to because they can (zero-tolerance ). Educational Leadership needs to stop kidding it’s self. Zero-tolerance teaches children a healthy respect for boundaries.

  • Ron

    Come to my school. Tell me that any adult is unfair or any child sent to the office is undeserving. When you show up, have solutions for the root problems, don’t bring band aids for the superficial issues. We are at 89% free/reduced lunch. I am tired of hearing how poor of a job teachers are doing and we need to cater to students and their families who aren’t fulfilling their parental duties. There are so many facets and fragmented parts of te stories told in this article. What are the parts left out that would disprove the sensationalist method in which this article was written? What about the other 26 kids in the class who worry about the student who throws things unprovoked or threatens children or adults? What about their rights? Or even the teachers rights to teach and work in a safe environment?

    No student has ever accused me of being racist. With discipline or otherwise. Pick yourself up, do better and try harder.

  • Lindamae1

    Many years ago I babysat for my friend’s four children. The two boys, kindergarten and first grade, came to ask me if they had to wear their boots to school. I didn’t know! It had snowed a little but I hadn’t a clue what the house rule on boots could be! So, I told them, yes, wear your boots! Why? Was their response. No y.one else had to wear their boots to school! Quickly I responded their mom expected them to wear their boots because she loved them and wanted to keep them safe. I also loved them and wanted them safe. I wasn’t responsible for parents who didn’t love their kids enough to make them wear their boots! OK, they replied happily, put on their boots and left! What a lesson that was! They could have left barefoot and I wouldn’t have thought about it! It taught me a lesson I shared with some parents during my 37 years with 8th graders. Kids need to know you care enough to make them behave..do what they know they should do but not want to do. To gain the reassurance you care, they will do what they shouldn’t giving you a chance to correct them reminding them you are there and care enough correct them. Of course, once you do that, they will do what kids do and ask and whine WHY? Because I love you is the answer.

    Sadly, schools who don’t make their students “wear their boots” convey the attitude that they don’t love theur kids, that the kids are unlovable, such a sad lesson to be taught.

    We do our kids a big disservice when we don’t prepare them for their future, a society which expects its citizens to follow rules, to wear their boots! Time to be the adults in the room

  • Val E. Forge

    If they would allow us camcorders in our classrooms, we could show administration unequivocally what institutionalized co-dependency these so called “strategies are. I had one for 12 years before they made me take it down. They were the happiest 12 years of my career.

  • tj

    I am retired now and would live to be back teaching at risk students. It was my LOVE. I have a sped and elements ed degree. I taught.our Alternative Learning Center program. What I found was that if you could ascertain the under lying factor as WHY the behavior was occurring then the student could be taught. I could NOT teach a child IF there was already too much garbage in the way. Sometimes this took a week to break thru. Sometimes I had to gain the trust before I could break thru. Yes I had A FEW I could not reach but by and large I had good experiences as long as there was not a mental diagnosis of something. Even then most had an iep and a behavior plan to follow. These were 7 to 12 graders.I LOVE MY JOB AND MISSOURI MY STUDENTS.

  • Ali

    What. A. Crock. My job is to teach. When these type of students disrupt my class, I can’t teach. It’s as simple as that. Everything comes to a screeching halt and the entire class is held hostage by students like this. Yes, they’re troubled, but, what about the 80% that aren’t problem children? They’re education is adversely affected by a small minority of kids with issues. Their parents don’t want them sent out of class to the exclusion room, but rather feel it’s their right to stay and disrupt class and interfere with my teaching and my students learning. We’ve allowed this to happen as a society, we’ve become so PC that we no longer have any common sense. We are ignoring the majority and focusing on the minority. We hemorrhage time, resources and money on the not-so-bright at the expense of the brighter students. Our society reflects this as there is always a safety net to catch screw ups. They are never held accountable for misdeeds and bad behavior and then we “graduate” them and they instantly become mediocre citizens. They contribute nothing but take everything…and we alllow and even herald this. What was that story about the fall of Rome….

    • James Realini

      Once again,

      Thank you for what you did and for what you said.
      Unfortunately you are absolutely right, which means that the powers that be will nod their heads and do what they want (or are paid by their campaign funders) anyway.

      Speaking of the Fall of Rome doesn’t the corollary of Bush Clinton Bush Obama and now maybe another Bush Clinton scare you?

  • Mario Ruiz

    It’s easy to criticize school policies when you’re safely away from the classroom. Enablers and apologists, in their drive to excuse and justify all forms of abhorrent behavior, pretend that most, if not all, discipline actions have a racist component. I work in a high achieving school, and most of our students are great, However, I have seen students assault teachers, bully and beat their classmates, sexually harass others, and they are never suspended, let alone expelled, due to the fear of being called racist. True, most of the suspended students are Black, but they also responsible for a great majority of the behavior problems. I’m not talking about talking in class, missing your homework, or talking back to your teacher. I’m referring to violent and dangerous acts, like the ones I describe above.
    Some zero tolerance policies are needed. Student who assault teachers, who beat up other students, who behave like sexual predators, who steal from teachers, their classmates, and others, and who take drugs or weapons to school; those students need to be immediately removed from the school. We are a teaching institution, not a reform program for deviant behavior. I’d love to see these bleeding heart enablers deal with these students on a regular, continuous basis.

  • Sandy Hook

    I was deeply offended my this article. Any teacher who cares for his/her students knows that boundaries, discipline, rigor, and structure are what children need. The idea that by sending a student who is unruly and disruptive to the office I am sending them on a pipeline to prison is so ludicrous it is unconscionable. The brief mention of “zero tolerance” being unreasonable was not sufficient to balance out the dismissive mentioning of too many teachers who are assaulted. The worst was the universal declaration that most discipline is based on some deeply rooted racism or bias; did my National Union just put in writing that teachers don’t know how to help children who “might not be like them”? Imagine the accusations in this article getting out to the general public? Yes, there is a conversation to have about discipline in schools, but not a conversation like this.

  • Guest

    Love the race baiting in this article. Soooo typical of this day and age.

  • Bob

    Sorry Mary students do require school suspensions and an absolute policy. The make us feel good days should be over. Yes, they should be permitted to change and do better, and many DO. How ever many don’t. Not all students need suspended, some need to be put in the corner with a orange dunce hat on. How about doing 20 push ups for ever cuss word out of their mouths How about 10 sit up for being late to class. Maybe will will get more physically able kids. How about NO cell phones in school and drop the stupid excuse they might need to get a hold of their parents. Land lines work for 100 years. There are many solutions most NEA will not support. The best solution is teaching respect and having student apply it. Why do you think the MILITARY is successful? YES SIR.

  • Bob

    The law requires free appropriate public education. How it is done should be up to the school district NOT NEA

  • Bob

    Suspensions and expulsions are doing more harm than good. Schools are getting better results by rejecting zero tolerance. Where is this data? I would like to see about 30 years worth. I would like to see the questions that developed this stat

  • Molly

    For years, I was a middle school teacher in an urban, economically challenged school who sent problem students to the office knowing my principal would suspend them. And he did – a lot of them. He also suspended many, many kids sent from other teachers. We all just did what we knew how to do. We needed to teach and these kids were disrupting other students’ learning. Quite frankly, no one had ever trained us in any other way of dealing with these students.

    At this time, our school community was really suffering. I dreaded going to work and I know many students dreaded going to school. I was thinking about quitting the job I had once loved so much. We had fights in the hallways several times a week and disruptions were common. Kids didn’t care about getting suspended.

    Eventually, due to a greatly declining enrollment (parents were sending their kids elsewhere), my principal was fired and a new administrator came on board. Right away, he enacted PBIS. He sent all of us (many grumbling and complaining) through a lot of professional development about PBIS techniques and restorative discipline practices. I can tell you all, it transformed my own teaching, and it transformed our entire school community.

    We are still close to 90% free and reduced lunch. We still have some disruptive students, and we even have the occasional fight. It’s still not perfect, but these negative behaviors have drastically decreased. Our teachers and administrators now understand that the importance of taking care of the problems underlying the disciplinary acts. Disruptive kids are still sent out of the classroom. Now, there is just a better way of dealing with them. When students are continually disruptive, they now meet with a counselor, administrator, and parent and work out the underlying causes. They may get detentions or in-office suspensions. They may miss out on fun school activities.

    These consequences are much more effective than suspension. I can personally attest to this.

    I do wish that the money that is commonly allocated to dealing with problem students in the punitive justice system could be allocated to schools to hire counselors and more support staff. We all know teachers cannot possibly play these roles in their classrooms with the heavy loads we are already burdened with in just teaching the curriculum. Furthermore, PBIS cannot possibly work without a lot of professional development of all staff using it. This also takes money. I hope this is where the NEA is focusing their efforts.

  • Larry w

    So reading this…once again I don’t see any solutions offered. Why is it always “training teachers”??? When are the students going to be trained??? Oh…lets start it in elementary school….except with common cores and testing and everything when do teachers have time to train how students on acceptable behaviors?? …I see so called experts identifying a problem but offer no real solution. Until I read where there a real, legit solutions ….i don’t want to hear anymore.

  • Socal Teacher

    Where are the people in the classroom? Where is the evidence that these “interventions” work? When are these interventions supposed to be implemented when you’re supposed to be providing bell-to-bell instruction to the other 35 students in your class? How do you teach 35 students and simultaneously provide alternative interventions like counseling? Where is the conversation about student motivation? What is the source of the statistic on “1 in 3 Black men” and prison? What effect does a student cursing out a teacher and being “counseled” about the behavior then returned to class have on the teacher and the behavior of the other students?
    I expect politicians, voucher supporters, and non-parenting parents to push this mess not the union that purports to support my teaching and my students learning.
    Zero – tolerance was not the answer; however, I want to know what world you are preparing these kids to enter? When they leave school what career or college will counsel them on why they can’t curse out their employer or professor instead? These are reactive responses masquerading as proactive solutions. Schools provide opportunities not guarantees. It would be nice if the next big-time that’s going to save public education kept that in mind. Schools provide an opportunity to GET an education, not receive, but get. The myriad of issues these students come to schools with require all combination of professionals and programs. Most or none of which are available on most campuses. I’d be arrested if I attempted to provide counseling services with no license, but a few hours of professional development makes the otherwise unqualified equipped and required to do so on a school campus.
    I wish the educational researchers, executives, professional consultants, and union leadership actually knew the kids they make policy for beyond a soundbite, a blog-post, or video clip at a conference. Perhaps then education policy would move from looking like it’s doing something to help students to actually doing something that would help students.

    • Molly

      Socal, I think the author should have been clearer that PBIS and most restorative discipline programs DO indeed have consequences for problem students. However, the consequences are not getting suspended from school, which for most kids means hanging out at home unattended getting into whatever trouble they want. Usually, the kids would rather get suspended than (for example) lose out on fun activities that are planned for the rest of the students who are following school rules or have in-office suspension. I am totally with you that schools need more counselors and support personnel to help kids with these issues. Teachers simply don’t have the skills or time to deal with such complex issues while they have 35 kids to teach! This is where I hope NEA will be putting their lobbying efforts.

      • Socal Teacher

        Our current problem are the kids who come to school solely to kick it with their friends. They have no intention on going to class, and usually cause most of their disturbances when someone has the audacity to suggest they should be in class while school. Should someone go so far as to direct these students to class the odds are high that an angry, aggressive child is getting in their face.

        With that said, the elephant in the room is that the majority of these students don’t have the academic skill to participate let alone be successful in their classes. Little, Susy does much better when someone works with her one-on-one, but public education is factory produced mass quantity H&M dresses not bespoke suits and couture pieces from exclusive lines. But it’s the lie they peddle to the public–you not only can have what the ubër rich have, you’re entitled to it.

        That lie makes the end game of parents and students not learning, but the access and things an education buys. That’s all an education is presented as to the middle-class & poor, a way to move up an economic level or more accurately not be poor. Which makes anyone who insists an education must include some pesky, unrelated ideas about learning an impediment. Teachers have effectively become the obstacle to an education instead of an integral and respected necessity.

        And my union dues are going to not only support this, but send me articles about how wonderful it is. There’s some irony for you.

        • Molly

          Oh I do feel you, Socal. I’ve had that angry, aggressive child in my face, and I’ve observed that sense of entitlement from both parents and students. I just think suspension isn’t going to fix that. In my experience, it only makes it worse.

          This was the usual scenario… my 13-year old student gets suspended. He goes home and hangs out completely unsupervised for several days: sleeping in, playing video games, meeting up with other suspended friends, whatever he wants – his parent(s) is/are working. So, he gets this great reward for his disruptive, disrespectful behavior, then returns right back to my classroom having never even visited the root of the problem.

          In case you’re wondering, yes, I think it should be the parents’ job to deal with this. I wish parents were better equipped to parent, but in too many cases they’re not. So in the reality I see everyday, I’d rather that kid be in in-house suspension completing assignments. I’d rather that kid be meeting with a counselor having to own up to what he did and understand how his behavior affects others. And I’d rather him watch his friends take part in school activities that he is excluded from due to his poor choices. Kids need consequences for negative behaviors – better consequences than suspension.

  • me

    Perhaps the most effective “weapon” a teacher can “wield” “against”
    the nastiest of students is simply an act of love. I’ve knelt beside the angriest
    of students and, as privately as possibly, simply talked them into
    understanding how their actions are affecting their peers. Some of these kids
    just CRAVE the right kind of instruction in how to treat those around them. There
    have been times when I’ve done this five times in a single period. One can
    extrapolate from there and facilitate an empathetic discussion among a small
    group of students. It’s difficult but rewarding work (sound familiar?). Model
    and teach respect and empathy; it may require a whole-class, “circle-up”, heart-to-heart
    discussion. I could write a chapter of a book on this topic. One of my most
    vivid childhood memories is of one such discussion in 5th grade, in
    the 1970s, which sometimes causes me to tear up when I think about it. One
    could extrapolate further and implement a school-wide program of formalized
    peer discussion groups to minimize out-of-school suspensions.

    All that said, we need to zoom out our camera lens. Watch
    how I do this gradually:

    1. School administrators indeed (a) care primarily about
    complaints from parents and their job performance review from their superintendent
    and (b) would rather stare into their computer screen and attend meetings than do
    the heavy lifting of supporting teachers and developing a peaceful school
    climate. They will rarely make a case to their boss, the superintendent, for connecting
    the dots between a peaceful school and high academic achievement because …

    2. The district superintendent serves at the behest of the
    school board. None but the bravest candidate for school board runs on a
    platform of “You parents are to blame: we’ll remove the few disruptive kids so the
    majority of students can learn, just like the cops pull unsafe drivers off the roads
    so you parents won’t be delayed by crashes and traffic jams and can get to work
    on time”. Instead, a winning candidate for school board will spout the mantra “Teacher
    excellence”, implying that teachers are the subject of our collective scrutiny,
    or the platitude that “All students can learn”.

    3. I’ve observed ALCs (alternative learning centers), where
    those students at a school site who show they can’t function properly in a
    social learning climate, i.e., a classroom, are assigned to work solo in an
    office-style cubicle, approximately eight to a room. This sensible form of
    in-school suspension tends to disappear after a few years for reasons that any
    teacher can surely guess.

    4. Malia and Sasha attend an exclusive private school in the
    Washington D.C. area. It’s doubtful their father has much knowledge of conditions
    in the schools just a few miles from their residence. If he did, he would support
    a backstop of removing disruptive students from classrooms so that their
    (racial minority) classmates can access the quality education that they so desperately need. Their father and his Secretary of
    Education, Arne Duncan, are unaware of the unintended consequences of their feel-good
    policies promulgated in January 2014 (the basis for this article), whereby a
    vast number, indeed a generation (or two or three), of racial-minority students
    may be robbed of an education by the continued presence of their disruptive
    peers in classrooms throughout the U.S..

    5. The powers that be in other countries don’t tolerate the
    nonsense that we do in U.S. public schools. In Mexico, where resources are
    limited, schools don’t tolerate the presence of nonstudents. In certain European
    nations, where education is highly prized and teachers are highly respected, …

    Tomorrow, I’ll greet and treat my students with love, while
    trying to forget that I’m functioning in a dysfunctional maelstrom of school
    politics and dysfunctional local and national politics.

    • Val E. Forge

      While # 2 is SPOT ON, when it comes to teaching junior high it is better to be feared than loved. A criminal is simply an adult that never outgrew adolescent morality.

  • Felecia Prince

    What level of LOVE do you have for ALL kids? Our pledge says’ in the end….”Justice for ALL”. My question, “Do you have REAL LOVE for ALL? When you have REAL LOVE, you do more giving; Have you Beefed Up your giving lately? Positive Giving for Students will Reap Positive Gains: Doing good and Doing the right things ALWAYS WIN. Read John 3:16.

  • Daniel N. Turner

    Thank you. One of the most serious issues in Florida public education.

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  • DRUN

    Firstly, I have been teaching for 24 years and yes I love all students. With love comes discipline. We discipline out of love and consequences for actions are a very important lesson to learn. I believe in the love and logic approach where consequences should be logical and natural. Zero tolerance is a stupid idea and has no place in discipline with children. Each case should be handled on a child by child scenario.
    Secondly, this article would make you think schools are racist, homophobic, and non tolerant of diversity in populations. From my observations, the schools do their best to treat every child equally. They discipline based upon a code of conduct that each student and parent has had the opportunity to read. Black, white, Indian, hispanic, asian, whatever diversity displayed should not matter when using a consistent code of conduct which most schools apply. The better question would be why are more black children or others mentioned being suspended? Is it really the school or is it something within the community or family life? Having taught in both an urban, predominately black school and in a suburban multiracial district, the actions of my minority students where vastly different based upon the community and family structure they lived in. I would appreciate a study that includes social economic status of all students and family dynamics of those who are being disciplined. The NEA and most schools are filled with liberal thinking educators who definately would not be suspending students based on race, orinetation, or a learning disability and many times, allow students with diversity to get away with more due to an increased sensitivity and public reaction of their practices.

  • Lambo

    I think the issue here should be focused on the no tolerance aspect of things. I am a retired teacher and administrator. I saw one of my grand children expelled for an infraction that was removed from the list of things to expel kids for six months later which of course was too late for them. This is a good kid who was being bullied and was trying to protect themself. This child ended up attending a school that was filled with more severely disturbed kids which was not where they belonged. A straight A student who was being bullied should have been protected instead of being punished for finally trying to protect themselves when the school failed to help them. The school chose the “No tolerance” path when faced with this issue and ended up punishing the victim and rewarding the bully. This started the spiral to more severe behavior problems and more risky behavior. After getting arrested last year for stealing they ended up in Restorative Justice which saved their life I think. Thank goodness my grandchild got counseling after becoming extremely isolated and further being bullied with no support. Now they are on the path to success with a more positive self image. The expulsion turned them into a different person and started them on the road to the criminal justice system. It is disturbing to think of the kids who don’t have the family support and cannot get the help they need when things like this go wrong. For many it is a one way ticket to the criminal justice system. As a former teacher and administrator as well as a college level teacher and now a trauma specialist I am happy to see this issue being addressed. Keep talking about it and find a way to better handle these situations.

    No tolerance created something that should never have gotten to the point it did. There was a moment that the school could have chosen a different path, but I know they felt pressured by the no tolerance movement to do what they did; felt that their hands were tied. It didn’t leave room for them to look at the situation and come up with a more viable solution. I sat in on the meetings and I know what was going on. I’ve been there.

  • Go9ers

    I started to read this article looking for new or research supported tools. What I found was the same drivel that it’s all the teacher’s fault. Most teachers do not have students removed from their class because they do not want them to learn or care about their academic progress. They have them removed because learning has STOPPED due to ONE individual’s behavior. There are more students in that classroom who are there to learn and the teacher is looking out for them. Comparing the current school climate to the climate from the 1970s is ridiculous. Apples and oranges! In the ’70s, there were fewer students – not students of color, students period. Children with severely disruptive behaviors were not in mainstream education. They had special classes that addressed their disabilities, or parents taught them at home. Children of the ’70s played considerably more than students today and their games were child-oriented, not “Call of Duty”. This is a societal issue, not a school issue. My union needs to offer research-based approaches, not “tools and tips” related to student behavior.

  • ERS

    What schools need is funding for effective, well-run alternative educational facilities for children who cannot seem to fit in with the social structure of the classroom, and I am not talking about baby-sitting farms. I’m talking about a real educational climate with expectations, counseling, and funding. Students who are truly struggling with the school climate could still have access to their educational curriculum with appropriate emotional and psychological support. Children would not have a lifetime assignment to this educational setting. There should be a goal of working out of alternative education into the mainstream classroom. For some children this process would take weeks, others months or years. Some school systems nationwide have done this quite successfully, but not all of us have the funding. Some systems are struggling to keep the lights on. We hope to educate everyone, but to quote Spock, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.” Children who are educationally motivated should not have their educational experiences polluted by disruptive students in the classroom, and they should not have to experience the daily fear associated with sharing their facilities with potentially violent students.

    This is not an “either/or” situation. We should not have to choose between keeping these students in the mainstream to the detriment of all or suspending them. There needs to be a buffer or middle ground for these children. We are not doing children any favors with a policy of extreme tolerance. I advocate that this policy of making excuses for the aberrant behavior is part of the reason troubled youth end up incarcerated. We tolerate behaviors in school that are not tolerated in the real world. In society, if a teenager is seen smoking a cigarette on the sidewalk, he/she can be ticketed and prosecuted. In the schools, we just suspend them for a few days. In reality, a person who is assaulted may defend him/herself. In schools, students are suspended for self-defense, often receiving the same punishment as the person who initiated the violence. We send the wrong messages with our inconsistent and unrealistic disciplinary policies.

    We are not psychologists, social workers or counselors. We are trained to TEACH. When we try to assume other mantles, we are, in fact, committing malpractice, and more often than not we make things worse. Children who need counseling should be provided counseling by a professional. True counseling is not about making excuses for poor choices. Good counseling can be tough and challenging. There is a real, identifiable process with goals, management techniques, and self-awareness. We have no concept of how true counseling should work, and many times we just become enablers. Case in point: at one school we had a student with a pretty rough home life. She came into the front door every morning and started a fistfight with the first person she saw. The principal met this student at the bus every morning and allowed her to sit in her office first period of each day. This went on for months. You can imagine how her first period teacher felt about this practice (class had a high-stakes test attached). The young lady, due to the principal’s misguided actions, was denied access to anger management. Fast forward: a couple years later, the young lady was expelled permanently from another school due to violence. While we all wondered what was going on, the principal refused to tell us. Turns out, she was afraid one of us would call social services if we knew the facts, and she was right. This child did not need babysitting or expulsion. She needed help! See what I mean about malpractice?

    I’m also tired of the race card. Free your mind and the rest will follow. Children should be seen as children, not as a color. While it’s true that in some schools there is a disparity in the number of suspensions for children of color, the reality is that there is a disparity in the socioeconomics of children of color. Research shows that poor children across the board have more problems in school of all kinds, and the unfortunate reality is that many of our children of color are living in poverty. Higher poverty=more educational problems. That is not racism. It is reality. Alternative schools can bridge this gap as well. Schools can set goals to reduce the number of children of color who end up expelled or incarcerated by implementing alternatives. Remember: alt. school has a goal: get out of alt. school back to the mainstream.

    Where is my love? Loving children does not mean we make excuses for them, provide them with a built-in platform for failure, and choose not to teach them right from wrong. It’s easier to be the “good guy”…the one all misunderstood children come to. Some teachers enjoy working this popularity contest, but that’s not about loving the kids.

  • disqus_DTEO53JI3L

    If we spent the time and resources on the 90% that want to be there and learn …that we spend/waste on the 10% that have no desire but to do harm , our scores and schools would flourish. I am the ISS(In school suspension teacher) and the problems are at home not at school. i just did research for my masters….85% of students in ISS come from broken homes with only one biological parent…..5% dont live with either parent (on their own or with boyfriend/girlfriend…..10% with other family members (GP, aunts and uncles). I have had 1 student this year that came from a home that has both original biological parents. I then surveyed regular and honors classes. 65% came from homes with both parents. It is truly sad .
    But nonteachers that make all the bucks , policies, and decisions…only have the blame and train program. Blame the teachers and train them to do better. There are more bad parents votes than teachers.

  • CommonSense

    I find comparing a black emotionally disabled student to a white non-disabled student to be faulty logic right out of the gate. We don’t hold the parents accountable for parenting, if we don’t hold the student accountable, then guess what? The same thing that has happened academically across the nation will no happen behaviorally. Only the educators will be held accountable and will further drag educators down the rabbit hole we’re racing down.

  • Dom D

    No discipline no respect. Kids today have no fear, no punishment for being disruptive. Mommy will complain to board, school caves and teacher is always wrong.

  • chugalugalug

    NO!!!! Prison……….From kindergarten upward…………Just blister their BUTS!!!!…………As was done in the old days. A paddle swung hard enough is to be FEARED!!!!

  • Friend of an LA teacher

    A friend of ours is a teacher, for 21+ years, in an LA school, which has this year switched to restorative justice program. It has been a nightmare! Students can, and do, verbally assault one another inside the classroom. Breakfast is served – yes literally- by the teacher in the classroom. When the students don’t like what they have been given, it is thrown on the floor , instead of just being put into the trash. Want to guess who has to clean it up? Any discipline issues that do arise where the student is sent to the office results in the student being back in the classroom within the class period. With all this, he is expected to “educate” them. There have been incidences where a staff member was assaulted. This article has a point with keeping kids in class to learn, but not at the expense of anyone else involved. Talking about respect goes nowhere, especially when theses high-schoolers don’t respect themselves. I think someone said laws are for keeping the honest honest and the punishments are for those who chose not to be honest, or in this case behave. Yes, I am a career educator as is my husband.

  • TR

    What research are they referring to when they say “Black students do not “act out” in class more frequently than their White peers?” It’s been
    my experience that they do act out more, at least at a disproportionate rate. Therefore, it is entirely reasonable when they are disciplined at a
    higher rate. Duh. Moreover, Black females account for a much higher percentage of fights over other demographics. It’s the sad truth. As far
    as out of school suspensions go, schools absolutely should not cut back on them, particularly for more serious offenses including fighting,
    disrespect to staff, repeated violations of minor offenses, etc. Other students need to see that there are consequences for your actions…and I
    don’t mean simple lates to class, horseplaying, talking in class, etc. Kids notice when someone does something bad and the kid is not punished effectively. Don’t the “good” kids deserve better? They have rights too. Unfortunately, many of the kids that are frequently committing offenses are destined to be in trouble later in life no matter what the school does. The family culture and home environment have much more impact on a student than the school ever will. Also, this article using worst case scenarios (pop tart gun) is poor journalism only used to sensationalize the matter.

    • JimHarbaughsguys

      I agree. When I have a student acting up, they are almost always black. To ignore that fact is to ignore the facts. And good luck solving a problem when you ignore the facts.

  • JP

    The author of the article is either grossly uneducated or just stupid.

  • Cyndi

    I know that suspension isn’t in the best interest, but I will tell you a majority of our students who have been pulled by their parents and placed in charter schools, home schooling or private if they can afford it have been due to their children being in classrooms with students who are taking away their learning time. The student doesn’t feel safe or the teacher is having to spend so much time and energy on the other students they feel their children are getting left behind what they could be.

  • JAB_NJ

    Rights have limits. No child, has the right to prevent another child from learning. Don’t delude yourselves, that is exactly what we are talking about here. By not removing difficult, disruptive children from the classroom, we are giving them tacit approval. We are giving them permission to continue to prevent the other 20 or 30 well behaved students from learning. No child has a perfect back story. Life is not fair. That doesn’t make bad behavior acceptable.
    This reminds me of a story of a prison in Norway where inmates were referred to as patients. Prison guards were medical personnel. On making several visits to the prison, it was learned by the visitor that one of the patients killed a doctor who had charge of him. This is what happens when denial and ego, not reality, are the biggest factors in decision making.

  • Susan Steele

    I agree with everything written BUT you do not provide alternate remedies. Also, please acknowledge that schools often do not have budgets that provide needed social workers, restorative justice workers, therapists, etc. Too much is placed on teacher’s shoulders today. Please provide the answers you cite as readily available.

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  • Eric Tarkington

    The bright spot is that some form of male person – the black male student – is recognized as an oppressed victim of the system. The continuing darkness is in failure to realize that the heart of the problem lies with children having disastrously lost access to fathers. Boys and girls both suffer, but boys’ problems are more visible in the classroom. A realization like that would force the NEA into politically incorrect positions, like practical respect for boys, men, and fathers. Within the schools, we don’t have to correct all the dim views to realize that we need more male teachers, particularly from visible minorities.

  • JimHarbaughsguys

    As a white substitute teacher, I’ve been called racist quite often by people of color for simply asking them to sit down. Or lower your voice/be quiet so others can work, do their work, not eat in class, to not sit on the desks, etc. You name it, it’s happened.

    How come that isn’t being brought up at all in articles? The race card is only being dealt one way. Before becoming a substitute teacher, nobody ever called me a racist. Now it is common place in urban schools. Any talk about “race” in education needs to address how so many non-white students are allowed to throw out the race card on teachers asking them to do what, quite frankly they learned in K. Depending on the school (AKA Principal), that student who calls me racist may come back to my class before the period is over/later in the day. Or may come back to my class the next day should I still be the sub.

    The consequence of them calling me a racist….nothing at all. That is ok for them. The school does next to nothing to discipline them, so why shouldn’t they stop doing it? They can say and do as they please, and nothing of real consequence happens. The schools now are trying to improve their silly stupid rating, so they don’t suspend or expel children for saying these things (FYI For a frame of reference, when I cussed out the bus driver as a 6 year old on day as a child, I was suspended for a week). It makes the school look better than it really is. And the student isn’t punished. So, how does this help anybody at all? Not the teacher who gets called racist for asking the student to sit down or do their work. Not the student who goes on living another day thinking you can randomly call somebody racist like you can use the word “friend”. Not the school which doesn’t make a point of saying “Not here. Not now. Not ever.” And later on, as the student grows up, not society. Because now this student is an adult walking around and doing/acting just the same way.

    I’m sorry to say it, but a lot of these kids aren’t going to end up in a good place after their primary school is over. And pretending to not suspend or expel students as a good thing is not the way to go.

    The only I way I see it really getting better is to REALLY reform public education. I’m not talking about some stupid little “accountability BS” I always hear form politicians. Reform, wherein students who are not respectful, are not in school. Thus, school really does become a place to learn. Everybody there wants it. Those students who are not following the rules, the parents need to figure out what to do with them. More than a few parents see school as free babysitting. With the threat of losing such a great service, maybe they will take a much greater interest in their children’s education and behavior. Some of the parents in the urban environment truly do care. But far more don’t care when compared to suburb schools. That won’t change unless you make it harder on the parent for not doing being involved than for being involved.

    Another way is to make a lot of urban schools follow the blueprint of a military school. Face it, teachers/schools can’t make a student do much of anything. In military school, if a teacher says to drop and give me 20, that student sure as heck better do it. If not, then they are in serious trouble. I’ve sent plenty of students out of my class who are happy because they know they don’t have to really do anything or nothing happens to them. Follow the military school like rules and they’ll find out really quick that actions do have consequences. If they are leaving my class in such a school, they aren’t smiling and laughing and the class ain’t joining them in the “good times”.

    Articles like this one only help the students who aren’t behaving. There are LOTS of students like this. And the longer the NEA/government/etc pretend that it isn’t really happening, the worse it will get. What about the ones who are and have to deal with so many class mates who aren’t? Nobody cares a rats bleep about them. I know this because one time I was in a horrible school and the few good students in my class volunteered to help me clean up the mess the bad ones made. And one of the students brought up a point I never hear anybody in power discuss “You (me the sub teacher) had to deal with them for a day. We (classmates) have to deal with them everyday. All this concern for getting the bad students to behave well has resulted in abandoning the support of the few good students in such schools. Want to make schools better? Support the good, and punish the bad. A simple concept that works in every other field. Maybe education should try it out now.

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  • Ms. S

    As an educator in an urban school district with high poverty, high crime, and low graduation rates I have become increasingly frustrated by
    these conversations. Without detailing the fights I have broken up, the basic needs I’ve tried to help meet and the basic lack of vision for
    the future I try to establish in my students not a single person who makes the BIG decisions has mentioned PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY.

    The author mentions offenses that at one time would have been handled with “a stern talking-to”. In fact that is true. But that “talking-to” most often came from the parents. Kids make mistakes and test boundaries but that is not what we are talking about. When students understand that they have more “rights” than the teachers/administrators who are trying to provide them with structure, there will be not control. Nor will there be learning.

    Until the conversation includes REQUIRING the parents to be responsible, there is not a single program/intervention/budget increase that will fix this problem. Schools are not meant to raise the children, parents are.

    And that old adage that you spend 90% of your time on 10% of the problem is true. Even in the “worst” schools, there are more good kids who want to learn. They want a future. They want to achieve their dreams. And those kids are on the losing end of this deal.

    This is a sad conversation indeed.

  • Laura Williamson

    This is the most ridiculous article about American education that I have ever read.

    This principal “chuckles” and sends an abusive student back into the classroom. What does that say to the other students? What does that say to the teacher? It says, “You are not worth protecting. Your education is not valuable. This abusive person is more important than you. You should be understanding and allow this abusive student to behave in any way he/she chooses. You who work hard and prepare yourself for the future must learn that abusive people have “problems” and will be allowed to abuse you. We, the administration, will not intervene.”

    This is the NEA standing up for my rights as an educator? This is the NEA serving the needs of American children? If this is what the NEA is promoting, I want my money back.

    • Val E. Forge

      You speak the truth Laura Williamson

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  • Matt
  • Anonymous Cop

    Here’s my take on it. A Cop’s Opinion On the School to Prison Pipeline: http://wp.me/p5uuFm-77

  • Angelica Lowe

    I have two problems with this article. First, I certainly agree that suspending students is counter-productive but where are the alternatives discussed in the article? Second, I also agree (unfortunately) that racism can play a part with teachers and students discipline, but where is the exception mentioned? I happen to be a white teacher who has completely devoted my teaching career (12 years and still going) to working with minority students, and I feel completely tossed under the “racist white teacher” blanket. That’s so hurtful as I have always sought a diverse population in all of my education endeavors in an attempt to help tighten that gap that exists between majority and minority students. I also have little discipline issues with such students because I make it a priority to demonstrate a love and respect for all people in my classroom, and my students know I root for their success fairly and equally. As for those teachers who are legitimately under the blanket, the “studies” mentioned in this article should have been more thoroughly examined and referenced for the reader…easy to simply say it.

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  • quadwind

    Did I read the same article as many of the people who commented on this? Clearly many people didn’t read the article or clearly choose to forget a main point of the article,

    “According to the U.S. Department of Justice, which last year ordered school districts to respond to student misbehavior in “fair, non-discriminatory, and effective” ways, Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than White students, while Black and Latino students account for 70 percent of police referrals……The bias starts early. Black children represent 18 percent of pre-school students, but account for 48 percent of pre-school suspensions. Yes, we’re talking about 4-year-olds.

    “It’s crystal clear that Black students, especially boys, get it worse,” said Jacqui Greadington, chair of the NEA Black Caucus. “Studies have shown that a Black child, especially a male, is seen to be a bigger threat just because they are. They are. They exist.”

    In fact, according to research, Black students do not “act out” in class more frequently than their White peers. But Black students are more likely to be sent to the principal’s office for subjective offenses, like “disrupting class,” and they’re more likely to be sent there by White teachers, according to Kirwan Institute research on implicit bias. (White students, on the other hand, are more likely to be suspended for objective offenses, like drug possession.)”

    As a black male high school teacher and former student, I have often observed what the research has shown. Black students are punished more often for things (Shaquan is so disrespectful) that white students are given passes for (John is just going through a stage). This discrimination cloaked under false rhetoric that discipline must be maintained is a main cause of greater problems in school. Students of color aren’t stupid, they can see when they aren’t being treated fairly. What is your incentive to behave in a system that punishes you more than white children when you are just being a child like they are just being a child. If students of color are treated fairly it would mean there would be less problems or more white students being punished and put in the same pipeline. As a person of color reading these comments is depressing. I don’t even know why I’m responding to these comments. Clearly very little is going to change in my lifetime with attitudes like this seemingly to be in the majority in society today.

  • Adam

    I am also a veteran teacher in a low income area. After reading everyone’s comments, there are many opinions and experiences that I can sympathize with. It would seem the only logical conclusions are that either our education system is broken beyond repair or broken people prevent our system from having any success. This article uses manipulative statistics to promote opinion. One of the most basic concepts is statistics is that correlation does not imply causation. I don’t have any data for proof, but I would imagine that most all people that serve jail time have been suspended from school. I doubt the suspension caused it, but maybe having access to Grand Theft Auto at age five played a role. Who knows? Also, why are comparisons being made between a black child with an emotional disability and a white child( with or with out is not specified)? When comparisons are made between children of different races we will continue to see drastic differences. That is not going to change. If we as a society truly want there to be no differences in how people are treated in regards to race, then we might want to stop comparing people with regards to race. How about somebody writes an article comparing emotionally disabled PEOPLE to PEOPLE without emotional problems so that maybe we can do something to identify why PEOPLE are emotionally disabled and help them. They are not emotionally disable because they are getting suspended. It would also be nice to have conversations about how to teach our curriculum one of these days as opposed to how to get a fly by degree in psychiatry. Why am I teaching third grade material to 50% of my students at the high school level that are not even considered to have a learning disability? We need help in our education systems!!! Continuing to hunt for reasons to call people racist is not helping. I am a white man, working in a low income majority black school system. I love my job. I do not love all my students but I try very hard on a daily basis to tolerate any poor attitudes. I will continue to help every child that seeks my help until I am no longer on this planet. The psychological issues in the youth of america are on the rise. Getting scores up will not happen without students ready and willing to learn. Every child born on this planet is ready and willing by nature. What they are exposed to is what changes that.

  • Tomas Castillo

    schools cant ever fix what the system of profits destroys day in and out, there is no easy fix, you destroy the cause first, not treat the efects, so if you want to stop chasing your tail, start thinking where the pain comes from in society, real solutions are structural not super estructural.

  • L. Joanne Brey

    The main point we need to keep in mind
    with this text, “The School to Prison Pipeline”, is that while suspensions may
    be correlated to prison, it is important to understand it is not a causal
    relationship. Unfortunately, the entire premise of this text is based on “stopping
    suspensions equals stopping future prisoners.” If only it were that easy.
    Regrettably, there are more problematic factors that have been shown to have a
    high correlation and as well are statistically significant to that of both male
    and female prison inmates: abuse, substance abuse, and childhood foster care. Actually, it would be nice if
    stopping suspensions would end or even lower the number of inmates. However, my
    educated guess is that dropping out of school is caused by the choices that the
    student makes, not the suspensions that the student receives. I believe that we
    do need to communicate with students on the choices that they make. It is a
    time eater, but one that I find to be critical to have a classroom built on
    trust and respect. Probably due to this strategy, I rarely use administration
    to deal with student problems in my classroom, but when that rare moment comes,
    when I do need administration support, I need to know that it is there. The
    determining factor of suspension or not, should not be based on if the student
    has met some arbitrary number of allowed suspensions, but rather if it is a
    behavior that deems suspension. I believe that by placing a number on how many
    suspensions a students can incur in a school year, will contribute to the
    weakening, not the strengthening of our society, and I for one do not want to
    be a contributor to that plan. Maybe we should look at a harder but more worthy
    plan. There is no doubt that multiple suspensions of the same student indicate
    a deeper problem. It seems to me that programs need to be put in place for the
    students who repeatedly earn suspensions. There would need to be programs
    developed and used that redirect the behavior that is causing the suspensions.
    Unfortunately, there are a variety of behaviors that lead to student
    suspension. One size will not fit all. This then would mean many different
    programs. At this time schools do not have the ready-made programs, necessary
    extra staff support, or the funds for such a plan. If we are going to jump into
    a dramatic change, let’s make sure the plan is a commendable one, not one that
    is based on an emotional response, not one that is likely to exacerbate the
    problem. Let’s truly help those students who are most likely dealing with home
    circumstances that contribute to their school behaviors. Let’s give them tools
    to master what life has bestowed upon them. L. J. Brey; Escondido, California

  • L. Joanne Brey

    The main point we need to keep in mind
    with this text, “The School to Prison Pipeline”, is that while suspensions may
    be correlated to prison, it is important to understand it is not a causal
    relationship. Unfortunately, the entire premise of this text is based on
    “stopping suspensions equals stopping future prisoners.” If only it were that
    easy. Regrettably, there are more problematic factors that have been shown to
    have a high correlation and as well are statistically significant to that of
    both male and female prison inmates: abuse, substance abuse, and childhood
    foster care. Actually,
    it would be nice if stopping suspensions would end or even lower the number of
    inmates. However, my educated guess is that dropping out of school is caused by
    the choices that the student makes, not the suspensions that the student
    receives. I believe that we do need to communicate with students on the choices
    that they make. It is a time eater, but one that I find to be critical to have
    a classroom built on trust and respect. Probably due to this strategy, I rarely
    use administration to deal with student problems in my classroom, but when that
    rare moment comes, when I do need administration support, I need to know that
    it is there. The determining factor of suspension or not, should not be based
    on if the student has met some arbitrary number of allowed suspensions, but
    rather if it is a behavior that deems suspension. I believe that by placing a
    number on how many suspensions a students can incur in a school year, will contribute
    to the weakening, not the strengthening of our society, and I for one do not
    want to be a contributor to that plan. Maybe we should look at a harder but
    more worthy plan. There is no doubt that multiple suspensions of the same
    student indicate a deeper problem. It seems to me that programs need to be put
    in place for the students who repeatedly earn suspensions. There would need to
    be programs developed and used that redirect the behavior that is causing the
    suspensions. Unfortunately, there are a variety of behaviors that lead to
    student suspension. One size will not fit all. This then would mean many
    different programs. At this time schools do not have the ready-made programs,
    necessary extra staff support, or the funds for such a plan. If we are going to
    jump into a dramatic change, let’s make sure the plan is a commendable one, not
    one that is based on an emotional response, not one that is likely to
    exacerbate the problem. Let’s truly help those students who are most likely
    dealing with home circumstances that contribute to their school behaviors.
    Let’s give them tools to master what life has bestowed upon them.

  • ForTheMusic

    lol @ the let’s talk about racism part..you guys keep thinking you are victims. Have you guys ever thought the reason why all kids act up is because of bullying from other students and sometimes teachers? But no one ever thinks that a *jock* or a *cheerleader* would ever bully a student because they have *good* grades (and most of them cheat or bully other students to do their homework because they have no time in doing it themselves) This is not a racial thing..it’s a human thing..no one wants to watch the popular kids..they only want to watch the ones who get bullied and hop in with the bullying so they can be liked by these popular students. The bullying distracts the student and the student gets sad and thinks they are no good so they don’t bother doing things in class..become late for classes or even skips school to avoid being bullied. No one realizes this still happens and it needs to be kicked in the behind so all students can be successful. A lot of these kids want to be accepted so they find a group that will accept them. Even if it’s a bad crowd. Then these students start getting violent towards people who bully them so they will stop! Most of these kids have too much pride or even think the bullying will get worse if they tell someone..or they will think these people would really think they are weak and the bullying would get worse. Then you have the ones who have a sad home life. They start bullying because they get bullied themselves. All this is a huge cycle and if the cycle gets broken, the kids will be a lot better but they sweep all this under the rug. Good ol school doesn’t want to *look bad*

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  • Sailor Uranus

    I’m sick of the racism card being thrown around to excuse the behaviors of people who have no desire to live at peace with their fellow man. Truth be told i am surprised that blacks are only three times more likely to be expelled when you realize they are ten times more likely to physically assault other students for no reason at all. If any student regardless of color is going to be disruptive or worse still get in physical altercations with other pupils they should be put in a homeschooling program so the other children can learn in a safe peaceful environment.