fights are nothing new, they’ve been around as long as there
have been kids. This writer was suspended once for fighting. I’ve
always resented the fact that there was no attempt to look at
mitigating circumstances – that I was an honor student, that I
had no previous incidents, that I acted in self-defense. Two students
fighting? Automatic suspensions for both students. End of story.
the pre-school level, even little ones are bound to tangle. They are
territorial and impulsive. These are not criminal acts; they are part
of child development. They are teachable moments that allow adults to
show how conflicts can be resolved fairly and non-violently.
four local school districts decided to ban the suspension of
preschoolers and primary grades. It’s mind-blowing that school
officials had to be forced to change this policy. St. Louis Public
Schools, Maplewood-Richmond Heights, Normandy and Ladue all reached a
point of enlightenment, thanks to community pressure by groups
working to end the school-to-prison pipeline.
2015 study by the UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies put Missouri
at the top of the heap for its disproportionate rate of suspensions
between black and white students. This is happening at all levels –
elementary, middle and high school. In true Show Me No Shame
Missouri, instead of addressing this critical disparity, the state
goes a step farther and criminalizes student fights.
live in a violent society. Discipline in schools, especially in high
schools, has been mirroring the broader society for the last several
years. Many offenses that should be dealt with as juvenile code
violations are now viewed as adult crimes. Add actual police officers
to the equation to enforce school codes and arrest students, you have
another effective tool to keep the prisons full.
is the time for parents, teachers, civic leaders and concerned
citizens to put pressure on local school boards and principals as to
how state law on criminal assaults should be interpreted. It can’t
must come up with creative and humane ways to deal with classroom
discipline. Currently, teachers are bearing the burden for dealing
with students, and many have psychological issues. Teacher
performance reviews are being impacted by their inability to
simultaneously be teachers, counselors, therapists and law enforcers.
It’s not surprising (but unacceptable) that we hear teachers
calling for stricter discipline measures and supporting suspensions
to quickly rid themselves of problem students.
American Academy of Pediatrics has long condemned suspensions and
expulsions that are key part of most districts so-called zero
tolerance policy. It affirms that students who are put out of school
are 10 times more likely to drop out of school. It also points out
that not getting to the root of the problem may be putting the child
back into an environment that may be resulting in misbehavior.
academy recommends a more pro-active approach, and that is screenings
at the early childhood stage for high-risk behaviors. Suspensions may
be quick fixes but they are temporary, ineffective and can cause
long-term problems for a child, the family and our community.
– sexual, physical and psychological – is a real factor
in the lives of impoverished families. We need welcoming and prepared
schools to deal with the contemporary issues that impact the learning
of our children. A social worker at each school is a legitimate
children are worthy of getting all that they need to reach their full
potential as human beings. It’s up to empowered and committed
adults to be the champions of children and the institutions that
commentary originally appeared in the St. Louis American