Sunday, May 06, 2007


The Hartford Courant reports on the problem facing school districts when students misbehave, in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension. Democrat Andrew Fleischmann from West Hartford, believes that out-of-school suspensions are "...outdated model of discipline."
With all due respect to Representative Fleischmann, I wonder what makes him an expert on student discipline. Of the twenty-four bills introduced by Fleischmann, only one related to education.
But, nevertheless, the discussion about discipline is worth having. At the heart of the debate lies a fundamental problem. Before we begin, you must consider your attitude towards who holds responsibility for student behavior--meaning, when a student behaves irresponsibly, who is culpable, the student, the school, the parents, or society?
I believe that it should be a primary mission of our culture to educate our children; I wouldn't be a teacher if I didn't value that beginning point. Unfortunately, not everyone believes that the primary mission of a public school is to educate, or rather, to develop the intellectual, social, and emotional faculties of our children. No, instead, some view public education as a place to send their children for free daycare, neither supporting the overall mission of the school nor assisting in what should be a partnership between schools, communities, and parents.
So, when a student misbehaves, we are forced to grapple with how to discipline that student while balancing the world view that every child deserves education with the world view that not every child wants such education. Public schools do not have the privelege of sending its students packing. Public schools must accept students of all skill, background, and attitudes.
It does seem contradictory, though, to suspend a student from attending school when the mission of the school is to educate the student. Though I was never suspended from school, I often wondered what it would be like to, in essence, get a free vacation from attending classes. Some behavior, like criminal activity or activities that endanger others, should be grounds for removing student from school. Yet, the article points to out-of-school suspensions for tardiness, and simple teenage angst--or in the case of the elementary school, childish behavior.
But what Rep. Fleishmann doesn't understand is that all types of misbehavior inside of the classroom is irritating and distracting for the teachers and the other students. So, what is best? The success of one, or the success of many? How you answer that question certianly determines how you view the debate between in-school and out-of-school suspensions.
At any rate, the debate is a philosophical one, with even deeper philosophical questions to add as background. And that background is, who ultimately is culpable for the behaviors? Schools must handle all types of students. I believe, as I've stated in other posts, that parents should be held accountable when students misbehave--it is their responsibility to teach their children how to act.
Today, while shopping at the Home Depot, I watched as two early teen boys used the aisle as their playground. One pushed the cart, which the other boy sat in, until they reached an appropriate speed to catapult the other out of the cart. The mother and father, who strolled in just as the one boy leaped out of the cart, laughed and congratulated their son.
I was thankful that the two boys were not in my class.


At 6:49 PM , Blogger Dan Edwards said...

Thoughtful post.....I agree, parents should be the first instructor and modeler of proper behavior for their children. Sadly, this is not usually the way things work out. Therefore, it falls to the schools to make every attempt at education of those students entrusted to us. IMO, the rights of the vast majority of behaving students is more important than the rights of the fewer consistently disruptive students. I have found through my teaching experiences that these students don't care about an education (or much else), because their parent(s) haven't taught them such values. How many in-school suspension classrooms are needed? I'd love for your Representative Fleischmann to come to a school and show teachers and administrators just how to handle these disruptive students.

At 8:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to be very much of the bleeding heart "every child deserves an education" school of thought. I did everything I could to keep them in my class. And then I decided it was more important to keep ME in the class than a couple of jerks who made it hard for me to teach and for others to learn.

So, on the one hand, I'm inclined to give the congratulating catapult parents the benefit of the doubt and say maybe they let the kids get it out in NON-school settings. On the other hand, I have to think: this is what we're sending the kids home to BEFORE we let them back in after suspension--catapult carts practice.


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