This memo came to me from an elementary school teacher fed up with a perceived lack of discipline. Disruptive students and violent students can be removed from class, but they’re quickly returned. The bad behavior continues. This teacher has been assaulted by some of her young students, but there are no consequences, at least not any that change behavior.
Discipline is often cited as the number one complaint among Rochester City School District teachers. This letter from a retiring teacher describes a desperate situation.
The teacher who sent me this memo believes yet another enforcement tool has been taken away. Teachers can no longer deny recess to misbehaving students.
The memo cites a new policy manual on student discipline. You can read it here. The manual does not list denying recess as an appropriate punishment.
The manual is very detailed. It lists punishments that include verbal reprimands, denial of extra-curricular activities, in-school-suspensions, out-of-school suspensions and expulsions. (You have to be 17 or or older to be expelled.)
Schools are given a maximum punishment for each offense. If an out-of-school suspension is allowed for an offense, the principal can “sentence” the student to in-school-suspension.
The maximum punishments don’t appear to be out of whack with the offenses. That’s not what I think could end up being a thorny issue with this policy.
It’s very clear this policy strongly discourages out-of-school suspensions. Kids can’t learn if they’re not in class, so it’s logical to reduce the time away from school. Studies have shown minority and special education students get suspended far more than white students for similar offenses. High rates of suspensions are seen by many as a civil rights issue. The RCSD suspends thousands of children every year.
As a result of growing concern about suspensions, this policy makes it a giant pain in the you-know-what to suspend a child.
Here’s what has to happen for an in-school-suspension. As you can see, this is a very labor-intensive process.
What’s more, many elementary schools don’t have ISS rooms. This requires more work on the part of school staff:
Any elementary student who is suspended must get one hour of instruction a day. High school students get two hours. This applies whether they are suspended in school our out of school. They are supposed to be given “equivalent instruction.”
Suspending students with disabilities requires another layer of paperwork.
It’s very important to protect students’ right to an education, as well as due process. It’s also very important to ensure a culture of discipline and respect in schools. With this in mind, the policy raises a number of questions. Are principals feeling pressure from Central Office to not suspend students and are inappropriate disciplinary decisions being made as a result? Are principals following this manual and doing all of these steps every time a kid is suspended? Are principals not suspending kids because it’s too much work? Are schools without ISS rooms suspending students at a lower rate, and is this affecting the school environment negatively? Are students being given in-school suspensions over out-of-school suspensions for serious offenses? Are students getting equivalent instruction when they’re suspended?
I’m not sure what an effective discipline policy looks like. Judging from the initial complaints, this may not be it.
Links of the Day:
– Take a look back at Greece Towne Mall. It’s expansion contributed to the death of Irondequoit Mall.
– The City of Rochester destroyed a community garden, saying the grass was too high.
– Here’s why the property tax cap could be 0 percent next year.
– Saratoga Springs police chief wants officer fired after he pepper-sprayed man who flipped him off.
– Don’t say “wrong place, wrong time” when talking about killings.
– Why is U.S. women’s soccer still fighting to exist?