Schools Kicking Too many Out of Class
11/8/11 Des Moines Register
In an opinion piece about school suspension rates among minority students :
The Register states that the suspension rate for minority students is disproportionately high and infers that the schools are too blame. Why not? everything else is the fault of the schools just one more nail in the coffin but still I would ask, “high.” as compared to what? I would guess that if the Register were to compare suspension rates by race to percentages of students living in poverty in the district by race you would find that the racial mix is almost the same. Simply put, more minority kids live in poverty and under Mazlo’s Triangle, so more minority kids are suspended. The problem is not some deep dark plot against a minority group it is the effects of poverty as seen in our schools, It is not some overwhelming racial bias. that leads to the apparent disparity in suspensions it is the effects of poverty on the social and educational demeanor of the learners. To deny that the race card plays a part would be wrong but to place it on the top of the deck is a serious but unfortunately too common mistake
Dick Murphy ( school board member) says that we need to do something about the spike in suspensions in 6th grade but that nothing can be done until they ( the district) gets the data. When has data ever stopped the Des Moines Schools from doing anything like the expensive International Baccalaureate Programming in the face of budget cuts, firing counselors in the face of research, bonuses to superintendents for retaining top staff when all the top staff has left during her tenure, mis-directing funds and etc?
The Register asks what alternative consequences remain to suspension? Does the Register believe that suspension is the first line of discipline? That other things have not been tried with these students before suspension. In most cases multiple lines of correction will have been attempted and documented for suspended students with the exception of those students who do something so dangerous or egregious that it demands immediate suspension. Or at times students caught under the worthless and brainless and often times unfair tenants of some “Zero Tolerance” policy that suspends kids for hugging, bringing plastic knives or squirt guns to school or simply defending themselves from attack. The Register then asks that schools to re-think out of school suspension as it’s hard to see how sending kids home for a few days accomplishes anything. I would respond that in the case of the truly violent or disruptive student it accomplishes a lot for the other students who value their education and remain in the classroom, those students who lose teacher time, teacher attention and teacher attitude daily to the one bad apple in a classroom that is destroying the whole barrel.
The Register wonders wouldn’t it be wonderful if all schools had in-school suspensions instead of out of school suspensions. The response to that is simple. Who is going to pay for it? Are you going to hire a teacher to handle it, so that it may be a meaningful experience, or are the students going to sit in a room, more likely the auditorium stage with an aide, spending their time staring at the wall or sleeping. And what is to be done if they still refuse to work or continue to sleep when awakened during in-school -suspension? Give them another in-school suspension? In the current budgetary situation if each school had in-school suspension either a principal, whose job is often already too big or some other staff member is going to have to handle these kids, not an easy job in the best of circumstances as they don’t often get into suspension for being sweet little charmers. The alternative is that you are going to have to hire some more teachers, 50+ of them in Des Moines to handle it …. not to mention finding a room in the building to hold it in which in many schools will be nearly impossible as they are over filled already.
Perhaps you would like the district to gut the arts, music, counseling or PE programs yet again to pay for in-school suspension so that 10 or 20 kids who don’t want to learn can continue to harm the learning experiences of other 500 in the building, even while suspended.
This whole editorial is written from the point of view of positioning unruly students as the helpless victims of an uncaring school system’s suspensions while ignoring the largely well behaved, silently suffering students( suffering from the students who are suspended) who attend school for an education every day. I believe you have confused the victim with the perpetrator as the majority of students come to school prepared to learn not to disrupt or destroy the educational climate of the classroom and the school.
You ask, “How is anyone served by suspensions?” The answer is simple. The average, generally rule-abiding, students are served in the same way that society in general is served when some citizens are removed from the general population because their actions are so disruptive, dis-honest or destructive of property or people that their presence can no longer be tolerated.