RCSD Education: thoughts on suspension

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I agree that children that violate a well-articulated code of conduct shouldn’t be removed from the school setting first because some students may desire to not be in school.

Second, there may not be adequate supervision at home or a safe place for students to go. We should support in-school suspensions, but not in a mass setting like a study hall. Instead, students should receive one-on-one counseling and then be sent to a classroom where remedial learning can take place but under strict supervision and small class size.

Now the elephant in the room that school administrators and parents don’t wish to confront head-on is that something is missing in the child’s upbringing or home environment, which must be addressed proactively. Children act out for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they haven’t been adequately acculturated to be part of a social group. Maybe there are clinical or psychological issues that haven’t been diagnosed. Or the student needs or craves attention.

As students get older, the consequences of acting out may be dangerous to other students, staff, or the child acting out. There must be limits to the level of bad behavior that can be tolerated. The most severe limitation is one where someone might be physically hurt. In those cases, the student and parents must be mandated to receive professional counseling. The student could be temporarily placed in an alternate school where staff is equipped and trained to deal with dangerous students. If they fail there, an appointment with a family court judge may be appropriate.

Although examples such as when a 6-year-old boy brought a handgun to school and shot his teacher are extremely rare, one must question what sort of home life this child has. Poverty and “trauma” should not be acceptable responses. Millions, if not billions, of children live in poverty and have experienced trauma far worse than that experienced here. Those children behave and crave learning because it is the way out of poverty.

Another “outrageous” concept might be a mandatory home visit by an education specialist and social worker to design a plan for the parent or guardian to receive remedial courses in parenting and how to manage unruly children. The parent or guardian may have never been taught how to help their children become good citizens and behave appropriately. The social worker could help connect adult members of the household with the appropriate support services they need.

I am not victim-blaming, and I’m simply stating that there is a cause and effect; more often than not, a child’s home life is a large part of the behavior equation than what happens at school.

Suppose there is an expectation that legislators pass laws that limit out-of-school suspension. In that case, they should also be asked to fund more specialized teachers who know how to deal with unruly children, social workers, and school support services. As the commercial says, “you can pay now, or you can pay more later.”

Frank Orienter

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