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Think of the children
January 10, 2012 7:50 AM   Subscribe

Arresting children for trivial offences in schools.

The criminal justice system in the US is being deployed as a first resort in dealing with youthful excess: spraying perfume or failing to clean up crumbs are now offences worthy of a police issued ticket. Texas is one state increasingly relying on a police presence in schools to issue tickets to children as young as 6 years old for low level disruptive behaviour that has traditionally been handled internally within the school.
posted by SueDenim (131 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
More information on the "Schools To Prisons Pipeline."
posted by entropone at 7:53 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


For the record, I've lived in Texas for essentially my entire life and have never heard of this. I don't have kids myself, but a sizable portion of my friends, coworkers, and acquaintances have children in the public school system.

Not saying this doesn't happen, as it obviously does...but this article makes it sound disturbingly commonplace here. It isn't.
posted by kaseijin at 7:54 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Texas employs its prisoners, and they're not subject to the normal minimum wage laws. So we're basically back to putting kids in factories.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:54 AM on January 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


....'course even in one town, it's disturbing enough.
posted by kaseijin at 7:54 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obligatory: "Though school-homing has proven to be an ideal solution for millions of uninvolved parents, increasingly overburdened public schools have recently led to a steady upswing in the number of students being prison-homed."
posted by resurrexit at 7:58 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The study found that where a child attends school -- not the severity of the allegation -- was the best indicator of whether the child would be ticketed instead of sent to the principal's office. Black students and special education students were overrepresented among those ticketed.

That's all you need to know, right there.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:59 AM on January 10, 2012 [92 favorites]


This experience will serve them well when they grow up to live in a police state. It's very educational.
posted by rocket88 at 7:59 AM on January 10, 2012 [23 favorites]


I mean, if "disrupting class" had been treated as a criminal offense at my (middle class, mostly white) school, there were kids who would have been dragged behind the portables and executed on the spot.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:02 AM on January 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


Sort of related previous post. It never ceases to amaze me how there are a significant number of people in the US who are not just anti-education, but see teachers and students as the enemy.
posted by TedW at 8:03 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


So stupid. Our tax dollars at work?

So dumb. Their world view is going to crumble.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:03 AM on January 10, 2012


You know, I am totally down with this model being applied to things like assault. Schools that are not equipped to handle thugs who repeatedly hurt other children should absolutely be able to rely on a police presence to keep the peace. But of course this is Texas and there are crumb leavers to prosecute.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:03 AM on January 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


I mean, if "disrupting class" had been treated as a criminal offense at my (middle class, mostly white) school, there were kids who would have been dragged behind the portables and executed on the spot.

At my school one of them might well have been me.
posted by TedW at 8:04 AM on January 10, 2012


Zero tolerance!
posted by tittergrrl at 8:04 AM on January 10, 2012


This is an issue in other Southern states as well: Mississippi; Alabama (notably Birmingham); the SPLC is also pursuing cases on this issue in Louisiana and Florida.
posted by brina at 8:06 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Arresting children for trivial offences in schools.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Texas is one state increasingly relying on a police presence in schools to issue tickets to children as young as 6 years old for low level disruptive behaviour that has traditionally been handled internally within the school.

Oh. Heh. I got a dollar that says Arizona will be next.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:06 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


"There's this illusion that it's just a few kids acting up; kids being kids. This is not the 50s. Too many parents today don't control their children. Their fathers aren't around. They're in gangs. They come in to the classroom and they have no respect, no self-discipline. They're doing badly, they don't want to learn, they just want to disrupt. They can be very threatening," he says. "The police get called because that way the teacher can go on with teaching instead of wasting half the class dealing with one child, and it sends a message to the other kids."

...and then what, asshole? Crippling the family by harshly ticketing their single mothers? Have them miss work so they can go bail their kids out? Hell, some of these kids are parents themselves making you responsible for fathers not being around.

Maybe if you're wasting "half the class" with dealing with one problematic child you're a shitty teacher, Einstein.
posted by griphus at 8:08 AM on January 10, 2012 [30 favorites]


And I bet the bullies that actually deserve to get arrested get nothing but encouragement from staff, while the victims end up with the record like they always have.
posted by empath at 8:10 AM on January 10, 2012 [18 favorites]



One teenage student was arrested and sent to court in Houston after he and his girlfriend poured milk on each other after they broke up.

...

A class-C misdemeanour is a criminal offence.

"Once you pay it, that's a guilty plea and that's on your record," said Simpkins. "In the US we have these astronomical college and university expenses and you go to fill out the application to get your federal aid for that and it says have you ever been arrested. And there you are, no aid."


Kids are being denied the (realistic) possibility of ever going to college because they poured milk on each other?

That is pretty crazy, even for Texas.
posted by jsturgill at 8:11 AM on January 10, 2012 [43 favorites]


This is not the 50s. Too many parents today don't control their children. Their fathers aren't around.

Some issues are being revealed here and it isn't related to 6 year olds failing to sweep up crumbs. Or maybe it is.
posted by DU at 8:15 AM on January 10, 2012 [19 favorites]


"They ushered in tough, punitive policies. It was all part of the tough-on-crime movement."

Well, I'm guessing it's also part of the "we're getting overcrowded and understaffed so we panic" movement, as well. We pulled out daughter out of a public school in the middle of the year this year partly because of overbearing policies that are designed to instill fear (in kids and parents) rather than cultivate an environment of trust and good-will. This is on top of the issue of her class size being so large that she was not given the attention she needed to do well. When schools are getting overcrowded, I'm sure part of the concern is with keeping order. But it also makes it progressively a more crappy place to learn if your main objective is to control rather than inspire.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:18 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


When all you have is a police state, every problem...
posted by Legomancer at 8:18 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


You have to start arresting kids early so they can't get financial aid so they can't go to college so they drive shitty beater cars so they get pulled over and searched for having a light out so an officer can provoke them with pain compliance so they flinch so it becomes resisting arrest so it becomes a felony so they enter the prison-industrial complex so they can work for pennies so private prisons can make more money so they can donate to politicians so the politicians can win elections so they can change laws to be tough on crime so you can start arresting kids early
posted by a_girl_irl at 8:19 AM on January 10, 2012 [151 favorites]


SpacemanStix: Can you elaborate on these overbearing policies?
posted by tippiedog at 8:22 AM on January 10, 2012


Black students and special education students were overrepresented among those ticketed.

The targeting of special education students worries me because we have laws in place specifically designed to protect special education students from harsh discipline based on their disability. Basically, if you want to suspend a child with a disability for more than ten days you have to make a determination that the conduct for which you're suspending (or expelling) them isn't caused by their disability (a procedure called a "manifestation determination") You remove them for the school for up to 45 days if the offense was of a certain severity (weapons, drugs, serious bodily injury).

The thing is, the law explicitly doesn't prohibit the school from making a referral to the local police (which makes sense), but it seems like a heavy reliance on this would be an easy way to circumvent the laws protecting disabled students.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:22 AM on January 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


Borked my own link above . . . Should have gone to The Onion.
posted by resurrexit at 8:23 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's next... mugshots of babies ?
posted by Pendragon at 8:23 AM on January 10, 2012


I am totally down with this model being applied to things like assault.

The problem is that it's not going to be exclusively applied to fifteen year old thugs making people's lives living hell with real agony, but also to the truly beastly things small children do to each other. For example as a (young) kid I got the following, just from what I remember: one day's detention for wrestling on a desk, pocket knife confiscation (thanks mum, best seventh birthday gift ever!) after I wanted to play border guard at the school yard gate, a stern but calm talking to for deliberately and cold bloodedly bashing another kid's head off a brick wall (in my defence I was seven and he'd been bothering me all year, plus I didn't fully understand concussions), a strongly worded lecture for getting into a scuffle in art class (he started it!) and a really, really strongly worded talking to about too much PDA (aspergers syndrome means figuring out social norms is a steep learning curve.

The culture in my school was one where small amounts of male on male scrapping was expected up to middle school, and I got picked on pretty heavily, something that when it escalated to stupidity in middle school, police were involved, but nobody needed to be formally charged, and I'd be horrified if the dummy who decided to slug me when I was 12/13-ish was sent to jail at 17 for being a clueless adolescent. Asides from being white as the driving snow, I fit the profile of a low income kid in a low income rough (for Canada) neighbourhood, exactly the sort of person who gets nailed.
posted by Phalene at 8:25 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thank god we don't live under sharia law, though, amirite???
posted by Thorzdad at 8:29 AM on January 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


Lest we shit on Texas more than it deserves, NYC schools are not infrequently criticized for their handling of student misconduct matters as criminal matters. I think SpacemanStix is right that this is a panicked reaction when schools are sorely lacking adequate resources. It also seems to me like a certain amount of post-9/11 zero-tolerance iron-fistedness is bleeding into every facet of our lives, particularly in places where nobody is around to oppose it (and overcrowded and underfunded schools in poor urban and rural areas are often just such places).
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:30 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a former Texas teacher (I left the classroom 6 years ago), I believe that this is the way we are moving. In my class room, misbehavior short of assault was dealt with in the classroom by the careful application of reasonable behavioral expectations, constant attention, bluegrass, rational discussions, sentence writing and Connect-Four. I didn't have discipline problems.

The rest of my school did. We had 98%+ children of color and the vast majority of the teachers wrote the students up for the slightest infraction (such as talking in class, OH NOE!). Most of the teachers (though they never said it aloud) seemed to view the kids as out-of-control savages. Many sent close to 10 discipline referrals to the administrators per day. I wouldn't hit that number during my worst year. The end result of teachers being unable to discipline their own classrooms was that the administrators were overwhelmed. On more than one occasion, I heard of students whose minor mis-behaviors, due to a failure of the discipline system, were escalated into police action. Students with misdemeanors for tardiness and talking.

A horrible side effect of this is that true crimes, such as assault, are often ignored. I had a hard time having a student removed from my class after he punched a hole in my wall, spat on me and threatened me with violence both in and outside of the classroom. I'm a large man. He was larger. If I hadn't stood up for my own and my other students' right to be safe in our learning environment, he would have been returned to the classroom the next day. Why? because I was one of the few effective disciplinarians.

Anyway, this is a long term trend and the Conservative plan to destroy public education in America (NCLB) is one cause.
posted by Seamus at 8:31 AM on January 10, 2012 [44 favorites]


I doubt that a British news source and Yahoo are the best sources for objective reporting on Texas schools.
posted by Ardiril at 8:32 AM on January 10, 2012


Anyway, this is a long term trend and the Conservative plan to destroy public education in America (NCLB) is one cause.

They're doing a alright job. I wouldn't send my (hypothetical future) kids to public school in Texas after reading this article.
posted by edguardo at 8:34 AM on January 10, 2012


I doubt that a British news source and Yahoo are the best sources for objective reporting on Texas schools.

It's not like Texas is going to report on its own dirty laundry, The Texas Observer notwithstanding.
posted by lysdexic at 8:38 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I doubt that a British news source and Yahoo are the best sources for objective reporting on Texas schools.

Perhaps you would prefer a report from the ACLU (pdf)? It's got cites and everything. It's from March 2011.
posted by rtha at 8:39 AM on January 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


Anyone remember JD cards? I suspect it was just an urban legend to scare kids that there was some sort of record of minor infractions that all added up. Like a junior criminal point system. A cop would give you a talking to and perhaps call your parents.

I went to some shitty schools, we had 1 cop in the school and 5-10 present when we were let out. I got held by cops a couple times for doing stupid stuff and they made a big show of giving me "JD points". After a few times I just got more circumspect.

I can't imagine what has changed that the cops started to feel that a semi informal talking to was not enough. How did we get to the point where we arrest kids for any minor incident? Sad.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:41 AM on January 10, 2012


I doubt that a British news source and Yahoo are the best sources for objective reporting on Texas schools.

With the exception of This American Life, which US journalism outfit can you think of that would even care to report on this?
posted by odinsdream at 8:42 AM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Texas is full of Republicans, and Republicans stand for smaller, less-intrusive government.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:45 AM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


This article is more sensationalism than journalism. What crap.
posted by HuronBob at 8:48 AM on January 10, 2012


I doubt that a British news source and Yahoo are the best sources for objective reporting on Texas schools.

Setting aside Yahoo for a minute, why would a British news service not be objective regarding Texas schools?

I'm not snarking, I honestly want to know the poster's opinion here.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 8:51 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Texas employs its prisoners, and they're not subject to the normal minimum wage laws. So we're basically back to putting kids in factories the days before that pesky civil war inconvenience.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:53 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


> This article is more sensationalism than journalism. What crap.

Can you point to parts in the article that illustrate what you mean? Also, if the facts as presented in the article are basically correct, isn't this a pretty serious thing that even an unbiased source might get worked up about?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:56 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey boy, don't believe them
Their old lies never could come true
Hey boy, don't believe them
Everything that they told you to
Hey boy, don't believe them
We're the nation that eats our youth
Hey boy, don't believe them
None of us are bulletproof.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:57 AM on January 10, 2012


why would a British news service not be objective regarding Texas schools

Well, the Brits do rather love "OMG, look at those crazy Americans!" stories. The ACLU report linked above is certainly less sensationalist--but the basic facts of the story are profoundly disturbing.
posted by yoink at 9:03 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


//As a former Texas teacher (I left the classroom 6 years ago), I believe that this is the way we are moving. In my class room, misbehavior short of assault was dealt with in the classroom by the careful application of reasonable behavioral expectations, constant attention, bluegrass, rational discussions, sentence writing and Connect-Four. I didn't have discipline problems.//

Sadly, it's people like you we need to stay in the school system. Not that I'm blaming you for leaving...
posted by COD at 9:04 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thought process goes: all these kids are going to end up in jail anyway. So there's no harm in starting them on their way.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:04 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whereas giving 'em a clip round the ear would be "abusive", of course.

Bah. Bloody soft-headed liberal do-gooders. The ruination of several generations. Etc.
posted by Decani at 9:06 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my class room, misbehavior short of assault was dealt with in the classroom by the careful application of...bluegrass

don't just leave me hanging now
posted by echo target at 9:10 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I had an algebra teacher who used bluegrass as a disciplinary measure. As in, it was the carrot. If we were good, he'd bring his banjo in and play for us.
posted by LN at 9:17 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Each day, hundreds of schoolchildren appear before courts in Texas charged with offences such as swearing, misbehaving on the school bus or getting in to a punch-up in the playground. (Emphasis mine)

Bullshit.

That's a ludicrous claim. If it were true, the court system would have collapsed a long time ago.

No, instead it's this:

In 2010, the police gave close to 300,000 "Class C misdemeanour"

A Class C misdemeanor is the lowest level of the Texas penal code. This is the class of crimes like jaywalking and criminal mischief, which is a fancy way of saying "fucking around." With no prior record, it is punishable by fine only, not to exceed $500.

They're giving these out because they can't go any lower and still have a paper trail.

Moreover, a Class C misdemeanor doesn't require a court appearance. Like a traffic ticket, you can just pay it. So, this notion that there are hundreds of kids lining up in front of judges is horseshit.

OK, so "close to" 300,000 in a year. Let's say it's really 300,000. Texas schools boast a total statewide student population of 4.5 million. Assuming that we're ticketing 300,000 unique kids (and we're sure as hell NOT, as any teacher will tell you it's the repeat offenders making up a huge portion of these tickets), we're talking about 6 percent of the student population getting the equivalent of a jaywalking ticket each year.

Hell, I got a jaywalking ticket in high school. So did dozens of us, because it was an open campus, there was a Del Taco right across the street and it was a pain in the ass to walk all the way to the corner.

The article is bullshit.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:20 AM on January 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Texas can do what Texas wants to do, but what i'm worried about is that these sort of practises will cross the Atlantic. We take over so much authoritarian shit from the US already.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:21 AM on January 10, 2012


The idea that creating a criminal paper trail for grade-school discipline problems is a reasonable thing to do would be the bullshit here.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:22 AM on January 10, 2012 [21 favorites]


My kid's in kindergarten in Texas right now...so far, we haven't seen this happening, but then, we're white, and in a "good" school district. And maybe he's too young for it to be full force.

I'll tell you what DOES disturb me is that every.freaking.morning they have "assembly" at 7:15 in the cafeteria for the kids who arrive early/eat breakfast, which is basically a full-on "Pep Rally for Our School And Texas and the USA Yay" thing, and it's just weird.

We had the Pledge when I was in school, but outside of class, we weren't being drilled in patriotic catchphrases or being urged to be gungho at 7:15 in the freaking morning. Thankfully it's optional, so we just bring our kid in right before class starts. And of course he's lucky that he isn't poor enough to need the free breakfast with a mandatory side order of propaganda.

Something is crazy weird about public education these days.
posted by emjaybee at 9:23 AM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Texas is full of Republicans, and Republicans stand for smaller, less-intrusive government.

I know this was snark, but there's a point to be made here. A lot of this is going on in the Austin school district. We're a solid Democratic stronghold, and have been for ages, but the public schools here still suck ass if you're in a black or hispanic neighborhood.

You can't just chalk the problem up to "too many stupid Republicans" and leave it at that. As much as I loathe the Republican party and would love to turn this into a talking point against them, it's actually just not that simple. Democrats (and the people they vote for) do dumb shit too, institutions like school districts develop their own independent quirks and dysfunctions, and apathy and NIMBYism ("Well, I've never heard of anything like this at my kids' school") are powerful forces for evil even among basically well-meaning people.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:23 AM on January 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


During detention we listened to Chicken Train by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils while writing a few sentences regarding their infraction and how it had affected the other students. Later we would move on to other music, sometimes bluegrass, sometimes political punk, sometimes classical . . . but we always started with Chicken Train. It's like kryptonite for 7th and 8th graders. It takes the fight out of them. They loved to roll their eyes at it and me, make broad declarations about how odd I am and then secretly tap their feet to it when thy thought no one was looking.

In my class, we had plenty of time for students to get out the wiggles and make noise while doing an actual intellectual exercise. Bluegrass makes for some good background noise.
posted by Seamus at 9:24 AM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Glad Cool Papa Bell has dediced it's alright that you have police routinely in schools handing out tickets for normal kid behaviour and of course it's no biggie to have to pay up to 500 dollars for a ticket because you were disruptive in class.

And hey, it's probably all troublemakers anyway who get those tickets, so who cares.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:25 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The bully who stole my woodshop project and claimed it as his own, thereby causing me to flunk that unit, well, I would have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, had I had the power.
posted by Danf at 9:33 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was reading the Guardian article this morning and had to close the tab when I got to the bit about two police officers shooting a 15-year-old boy three times (including once in the back of the head) after he pointed an air pellet gun at them. That's not to mention the girl who got her arm broken for dropping cake on the floor.

I'm sorry, I know there are problems in the US school system and many of them are complicated and difficult and resistant to change, but it's not hard for anyone to see that this is not a solution.
posted by fight or flight at 9:36 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hell, I got a jaywalking ticket in high school. So did dozens of us, because it was an open campus, there was a Del Taco right across the street and it was a pain in the ass to walk all the way to the corner.

Thank god you came into the thread to give us some insightful wisdom about why this is all crap, lest our brains fall out.
posted by odinsdream at 9:37 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hell, in Tennessee I've seen kids regularly threatened with arrest for trespassing for having the gall to show up on campus during a suspension to get make up work. This is not just a Texas problem, and it's not even really just an education problem. It's a "civil society has been poisoned" problem, and I don't know the antidote.

I would say more, but I've only got about five more minutes of lunch and I'm exhausted fighting people whose level of self-certainty is matched only by the depths of their profound ignorance.

Volunteer at a public school, then get back to me about conditions in one. I think most people opining about what kids are like haven't set foot in a public school in decades.
posted by absalom at 9:37 AM on January 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


So I've taught in an alternative school in Long Beach, CA where most of my students had arrest records. I teach in Seattle now, and as a sub I see a pretty wide variety of schools and school circumstances. And I've even had the chance to teach in "juvenile detention."

This sounds like a horrible overreaction to me. If you jump straight to severe consequences like this, you have nowhere to escalate to when the kid escalates. Additionally, you numb the kid to the whole arrest/courtroom experience; he learns that it's just what you do when you get in trouble, and so being there for a serious crime isn't really that much bigger a deal than being there for throwing paper airplanes.

As a teacher, I have to note how context-free a lot of these examples are. I should also note: that cop may have no idea that the kid he's "arresting" has learning disabilities. It's one of the factors you deal with in school discipline; you have kids acting like total morons and/or criminals, and you react to it as if they understand what they're doing, and then you find out that no, they totally don't.

That said, I love having School Resource Officers (cops assigned to the schools), but in my experience it's nothing like this crap in Texas. SROs are rarely the "enforcer" type. They usually act like additional security, but they handle stuff the same thing a good security guard (yes, they exist) or a good teacher would: they talk to the kid, maybe nicely or maybe with a calm ass-chewing, or maybe there's a call home or detention or a suspension for severe/repeated stuff.

The handcuffs don't come out unless it's legitimately criminal: assault, drugs...uh, yeah, that's pretty much it. And frankly, that's not gonna happen in every assault case, either.

This stuff in the article sounds way out of hand.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:38 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


You can't just chalk the problem up to "too many stupid Republicans" and leave it at that. As much as I loathe the Republican party and would love to turn this into a talking point against them, it's actually just not that simple. Democrats (and the people they vote for) do dumb shit too

Indeed. There's some of the "But it's okay when it happens to a bully" here, but I don't think we can have our cake and eat it too, on this one. Bullying takes a wide array of forms; I'm sure a non-insignificant amount of this is directed at bullies. And if it's okay to start "getting tough on bullies," are we confident those bullies aren't going to disproportionately minority students picking on "poor innocent (white) kids?" Because I'm not.

Glad Cool Papa Bell has dediced it's alright that you have police routinely in schools handing out tickets for normal kid behaviour and of course it's no biggie to have to pay up to 500 dollars for a ticket because you were disruptive in class.

I think his main point is that the article is bullshit because it's internally inconsistent. Are all these kids showing up before a judge, or are they getting Class C misdemeanor charges? Because it's not both, and the article doesn't seem inclined to be clear on that point, and that's a valid reason to be a bit suspicious of the framing.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:41 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thank you seamus for providing reinforcement for my memory distinguishing Ozark Mountain Daredevils and Black Oak Arkansas. They sound nothing like each other and it never ceases to amaze me that I have a hard time keeping that straight.
posted by bukvich at 9:42 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would also like to second anyone noting that this article isn't very well-written. I have a hard time following it, and I'm left with more questions than reactions.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:45 AM on January 10, 2012


But seriously,

> Additionally, you numb the kid to the whole arrest/courtroom experience; he learns that it's just what you do when you get in trouble,

There are few experiences more chilling than sitting on a municipal bus and listening to a handful of students in their early teens joking and laughing about a classmate getting "juvenile life" (that is a penalty usually reserved for murderers in Louisiana.)
posted by bukvich at 9:48 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Happens in liberal, just-south-of-San-Francisco, too.
A San Mateo police officer's use of pepper spray on a 7-year-old boy likely will cost the city $55,000 and revealed the absence of a policy within the department for how the substance should be used.

The city agreed to a $55,000 settlement last week with the family of the boy, a special education student who was enrolled at George Hall School. The family also sued two county agencies and the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District over the June 2010 incident, which occurred when the boy's teachers called the police to bring him under control.
article
posted by rtha at 9:56 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


joking and laughing about a classmate getting "juvenile life"

This is the problem. It's not any particular symptom, like the OP or the people who think it's entertaining to watch COPS or the people who cheer when they're informed that governor Perry has signed more execution warrants than any other governor, almost certainly including one or more innocent people. The fundamental problem is that there is a mile-wide streak of cruelty running through American society.

Michael Moore touched on this in Sicko as he contrasted America with other countries that have universal healthcare, by saying that they seem to have a "we" society versus America's "me" society. An admiration for rugged individualism and competition suppresses our empathy for the losers who must be created for someone to be declared the winner. And so we actually find it not nauseating but entertaining to watch stupid people get arrested and untalented people humiliated on national TV.

I think we were drifting away from this cruel streak during the anti-war and civil rights actions of the 1960's and early 1970's, but when we elected Reagan it re-emerged with a vengeance; suddenly instead of ending poverty and saving people the vogue became shitting on the losers as hard as possible, because if they didn't want to be shat upon they'd work harder not to be losers.

I remember when the idea of a "permanent record" that would haunt you in adulthood for something you did when you were 10 was the kind of fairy tale like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny which adults would use to assert their dominance over kids. But that was also an America that didn't torture people and observed habeas corpus. When you put arresting kids up against invading countries for no reason, it's both in character and kind of picayune.
posted by localroger at 10:00 AM on January 10, 2012 [13 favorites]


Additionally, you numb the kid to the whole arrest/courtroom experience; he learns that it's just what you do when you get in trouble, and so being there for a serious crime isn't really that much bigger a deal than being there for throwing paper airplanes.

The variation on that theme I heard was this:

Kid is told 'this is serious' and figures out its not.
Then s/he turns 18.
Gets in trouble with the learned response of "no big deal". Then as an adult with a rap sheet has the book tossed at 'em. Then the adult is standing there dumbfounded as to why this time was not at all like the past X times when they were under 18.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:10 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wow, Texas, what a shock.
For the record, I've lived in Texas for essentially my entire life and have never heard of this. I don't have kids myself, but a sizable portion of my friends, coworkers, and acquaintances have children in the public school system.

Not saying this doesn't happen, as it obviously does...but this article makes it sound disturbingly commonplace here. It isn't.
From the article:
In 2010, the police gave close to 300,000 "Class C misdemeanour" tickets to children as young as six in Texas for offences in and out of school, which result in fines, community service and even prison time. What was once handled with a telling-off by the teacher or a call to parents can now result in arrest and a record that may cost a young person a place in college or a job years later.
300k. That's 300 thousand citations for 856,061 students. Or about 1 citation for every 2.85 students. Sounds pretty common to me.
posted by delmoi at 10:23 AM on January 10, 2012


Seamus: During detention we listened to Chicken Train by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. . .

You want a lawsuit? I listened to Chicken Train during detention, and now I have laser beams in my dreams and I can't get 'em off.

odinsdream: With the exception of This American Life, which US journalism outfit . . .

Nothing personal, OD, but I think Metafilterstan's regard for that show is all out of proportion.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:24 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just was in juvenile court today. My client is 14 and looks like he is 10.

He and two of his friends were in the hallway between periods and approached Susan. They started teasing her and saying things. One of them grabbed her purse and then the three of them ran. One took the money out of her purse, kept it, and threw the purse in the trash. Susan said that one of them pulled her hair during this incident.

My client and the two other kids were charged with Felony Robbery because they allegedly used force to take her purse. Also, because she her ability to move freely was hindered during this incident, they were also charged with the considerably more serious felony of Kidnapping.

Yes, they were charged with kidnapping a girl in the hallway between classes. Welcome to juvenile court.
posted by flarbuse at 10:25 AM on January 10, 2012 [16 favorites]


The bully who stole my woodshop project and claimed it as his own, thereby causing me to flunk that unit, well, I would have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, had I had the power.

A sense of proportion is why it's good to keep 14 year olds out of power.

See also: Ron Paul.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:30 AM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Maybe if you're wasting "half the class" with dealing with one problematic child you're a shitty teacher, Einstein.
My father taught high school mathematics in a poor (in all senses of the word) school district. Consider mean (again, in multiple senses) student non-attendance rates measurable in weeks per semester for the worst classes, combined with parental involvement often consisting of "why are you phoning me at home to talk about my kid's schooling; isn't that your job?". He still somehow maintained discipline well enough that, one time when he did have to call the office to have a child removed, it was such an unprecedented event that they sent security there ready for a fight.

And yet, the important phrase in that story isn't "maintained discipline" or "one time", it's "did have to call the office to have a child removed". If you don't realize how easy it is for a single disruptive kid to ruin the education of an entire room full of students, your childhood and your adult experiences with children must have been absolutely bathed in the privileged glow of lucky ignorance.

I might actually agree with your statement if you replaced "teacher" with... what, "social worker"? "psychiatrist"? "cop"? Who precisely did we put in charge of developing children's moral sense after we decided that the children and parents weren't responsible for it? But I hope we didn't really just let it fall on the backs of the teachers; algebra lessons are tricky enough without having to constantly interrupt them with behavioral lessons too. A good classroom is not also a good daycare.
posted by roystgnr at 10:30 AM on January 10, 2012 [15 favorites]


I was a troubled teenager and went to a shitty inner-city school with its own police force. When I was 15, I confessed to a friend that I sometimes hid out in the school bathrooms and cut my arms with an x-acto knife I'd pocketed from art class. This was obviously a really stupid thing to be doing, but in my defense I was a kid, I had emotional problems, and I didn't know how to get help.

She told a teacher, who approached me and asked me to surrender my knife to him. I did. He also alerted the administration, who alerted the police. By the time they arrived at our classroom, I was calm, totally cooperative, and deeply embarrassed about the whole thing. The police asked me a few question and decided that I qualified as a danger to myself and/or others, and should be detained as a psychiatric emergency. They put me on the floor and handcuffed me in front of the class, then took me to their office to wait for an ambulance to arrive. I was taken, with a police escort, to the nearest emergency room, where I was strapped down to a gurney and left in a hallway. The triage nurse didn't seem to know why I was even there, but said that I couldn't be unstrapped or released until a guardian came. My (single) mother couldn't leave work, so I stayed there tied up for seven hours. I was untied so I could pee once, but had to have a police escort into the bathroom.

After all this, a meeting was called between my mom and me, the school administration, and the school police. The assistant superintendent of schools for my school district had a personal grudge against me, because I had some medical problems and he thought I should not be allowed to attend school, but had been informed by the district's lawyers that I was entitled to. He was there, and looked almost gleeful as he showed me the sentence in the school handbook where it stated that "intentionally causing physical harm to a person" on school property was grounds for expulsion. "You are a person, and you intentionally harmed yourself. I should have you expelled." He would not, however, have me expelled. He just wanted me to know that he could, and that if I caused any trouble at all to anyone at the school, I would be. I remember looking around at all the faces in the room, the cops, the social worker, the vice principal, waiting for someone to tell me this was a joke or to speak up on my behalf. I was a smart kid, I had good grades, I wanted to go to college. No one cared, because, as the assistant superintendent said to me, "Normal girls don't cut themselves up with knives. You are not normal." My mom was horrified, but too afraid of what the school could do to me to say anything.

So I didn't end up getting expelled, but I never felt welcome in school again. The threat of expulsion was always hanging over my head, and I was resentful and afraid of misstepping. I ended up dropping out at sixteen, and although I eventually went to college, that was a tremendous waste. I can't say that the police were responsible for everything that happened, but they were part of a whole system and atmosphere of administration and policing that viewed students as threats and liabilities, all the more so when the student in question was somehow "different." And they acted largely with impunity because the community they served was poor and lacked the resources or the know-how to resist.
posted by bookish at 10:33 AM on January 10, 2012 [47 favorites]


300k. That's 300 thousand citations for 856,061 students. Or about 1 citation for every 2.85 students. Sounds pretty common to me.
--
OK, so "close to" 300,000 in a year. Let's say it's really 300,000. Texas schools boast a total statewide student population of 4.5 million. Assuming that we're ticketing 300,000 unique kids (and we're sure as hell NOT, as any teacher will tell you it's the repeat offenders making up a huge portion of these tickets), we're talking about 6 percent of the student population getting the equivalent of a jaywalking ticket each year. -- Cool Papa Bell
Okay, I read the Wikipedia article wrong, 850k is the increase from 2000 to 2010. Anyway, 300k/4.5m is still one ticket for every 15 students. And that's per year. So either way, it is very common. On what planet would 6% of students in school receiving a criminal citation not count as "common". Or for that matter, not count as obscene?
posted by delmoi at 10:34 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


The difference in the quality of education in rich and poor districts is pretty amazing. Of course, if poor people try to get their kids into rich people's schools they'll charge the parents with felonies
posted by delmoi at 10:40 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Basically, if you want to suspend a child with a disability for more than ten days you have to make a determination that the conduct for which you're suspending (or expelling) them isn't caused by their disability

Huh? That makes no sense. If someone warrants being suspended for more than 10 days, then it likely is due to the fact that they have no impulse control (i.e. hitting another person or worse), which is very much part of their disability.
posted by Melismata at 10:44 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you don't realize how easy it is for a single disruptive kid to ruin the education of an entire room full of students, your childhood and your adult experiences with children must have been absolutely bathed in the privileged glow of lucky ignorance.

Right, he called the office, not the police. The same thing happened in the schools I went to: if the kid became too much for the teacher to deal with, the kid was sent down to administration. And the administration dealt with it without calling the police.

If the administration is calling the cops, there's a problem with the administration. That quote was from a teacher not an administrator. Any teacher complicit with arresting children for minor infractions is a shitty teacher.
posted by griphus at 10:50 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Crap, used the wrong quote, but whatever.)
posted by griphus at 10:50 AM on January 10, 2012


Okay, what about kids with disabilities that don't affect impulse control?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:51 AM on January 10, 2012


On what planet would 6% of students in school receiving a criminal citation not count as "common".

You (willfully?) missed two points.

1) A Class 3 ticket is the minimally viable action that's trackable. You literally can't get any lower in the Texas code without it being nothing more than a stern talking-to. This is not the fault of police. It's the fault of the citizens of Texas.

2) To arrive at 6 percent, we're assuming an equal distribution of tickets. As I said, that certainly isn't the case -- many students will get zero, and a small number of difficult ones will get multiple. I stand by the call of bullshit, alarmist, shitty journalism and a simple lack of critical thinking that's driven this thread so far.

Or for that matter, not count as obscene?

Emphasis mine. Catastrophe language doesn't do anything for anyone.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:54 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


By the way, my high school of 3,000 students had a cop on campus in 1981. This isn't new or even terribly interesting.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:56 AM on January 10, 2012


i had a special needs kid. the school district called the cops on him a couple of times when he was in 5th grade--though i think it was mainly because the principal didn't know how to handle special needs kids. pretty much sucked. a couple of years later in jr high there was an incident that the school handled ... and when the cops found out about it later they went on their own little witch hunt. that proved to be pretty pointless and generally sucked all around.
posted by lester at 11:03 AM on January 10, 2012


As I said, that certainly isn't the case -- many students will get zero, and a small number of difficult ones will get multiple.

Bet you a dollar that a not-insignificant number of "difficult" students are black and/or Latino, and white students in wealthier districts who engage in exactly the same behaviors don't get the cops called on them.
posted by rtha at 11:07 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Another point in favor of CPB's observation that the article is sensationalizing: being issued a summons is not an arrest. "Arresting children" makes it sound like they're cuffing them and locking them up in a holding cell for hours. It's more like, "Here's your ticket, see you later."

I am curious whether the British press understands these distinctions.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:07 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


No one cared, because, as the assistant superintendent said to me, "Normal girls don't cut themselves up with knives. You are not normal." My mom was horrified, but too afraid of what the school could do to me to say anything.

My god bookish. I've thankfully never had to be closely involved in a situation with someone who was cutting him/herself, but I had friends/acquaintances in high school who did so and others who were variously in stages of emotional distress. I simply cannot imagine a worse way to handle the situation if they tried. Handcuffing a student in front of class, dragging her off to the hospital, strapping her to a gurney for hours without any kind of care from a therapist or physician, and then telling her she's abnormal and should be expelled. Frankly, that kind of treatment would make pretty much anyone want to start cutting themselves even if they had never considered doing so before.
posted by zachlipton at 11:10 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


bookish: I imagine you don't need to be told this, but I want to say FWIW (as a teacher) that this whole story was horrifying, and everyone in that chain of events from the first teacher your friend told to the superintendent blew it. I'm so sorry to hear you had to go through that.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:11 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Huh? That makes no sense. If someone warrants being suspended for more than 10 days, then it likely is due to the fact that they have no impulse control (i.e. hitting another person or worse), which is very much part of their disability.

It makes perfect sense because the point of the law is to make sure that students with disabilities are given an appropriate education. Suspending students for long periods of time on account of their disability doesn't help achieve that goal. When the code of conduct violation is found to be a manifestation of the disability then the school has an obligation to develop or review what's called a behavioral intervention plan to deal with the problematic behavior. That's how you deal with children with disabilities whose disabilities cause them to behave poorly without throwing them out for being disabled.

Okay, what about kids with disabilities that don't affect impulse control?

For a kid like that, it's unlikely that their disability would have caused the code of conduct violation, so you can suspend just as you would any other student.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:12 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right, he called the office, not the police. The same thing happened in the schools I went to: if the kid became too much for the teacher to deal with, the kid was sent down to administration. And the administration dealt with it without calling the police.


I do this all the time. And here's what it comes down to: it's almost ALL petty stuff when it starts. I ask a kid to stop talking while I'm teaching. I ask a kid to watch his/her language. Put away the cellphone (that's CONSTANT these days). And then they put up static about it.

Sometimes, they tell me no, or blow me off. I ask them to step outside (no, not with a friendly/happy voice, but not yelling, either). If they do, we talk outside and 75-90% of the time they cool out. Mostly it's that they don't want to be seen as backing down in front of their peers. Most misbehavior in class is for the sake of the audience. If I can remove them from the audience, even for a moment, there's a de-escalation. (There's also the implicit message that no, I won't back down or be bullied...because some teachers do, and students take that lesson and try to apply it to others.)

But when a kid won't cooperate with this, the wheels come off the wagon. Now it's not about the cellphone or the talking or whatever; now it's a disruption, because now I have to deal with them blowing me off before every other kid realizes that my rules don't actually apply. If they won't step outside to talk with me (or hand over the cellphone immediately, as many schools mandate), then I have to call and have them removed.

Happens all the time. Only once has it ever involved a cop doing a cop thing. Sometimes the SRO has come to remove a kid, but there's no handcuffs or force; it's usually exactly the same as if an administrator or security guard shows up.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:17 AM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think most people opining about what kids are like haven't set foot in a public school in decades.

By the way, my high school of 3,000 students had a cop on campus in 1981. This isn't new or even terribly interesting.

Twenty years. QED.
posted by absalom at 11:21 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had horrific discipline problems as a teacher. The whole subject was never raised in any teacher training or in any workshops. I haven't taught in 20 years. I hope things are better now.
posted by No Robots at 11:22 AM on January 10, 2012


This is not the fault of police. It's the fault of the citizens of Texas. -- Cool Papa Bell
Well duh. When did I (or anyone else) say otherwise?
2) To arrive at 6 percent, we're assuming an equal distribution of tickets.
6% was your figure. What I said there was 1 ticket for every 15 students, which is true.

Anyway, all our education problems stem from massive inequality. Poor districts are going to have the most discipline problems, and the least resources for dealing with them.

The result, inner city schools often resemble prisons as much as schools. Of course, everyone knows that prison is where criminal techniques are taught and regular people learn how to be professional criminals. Yet, we teach every single student in an environment that resembles a prison -- and people act surprised that there are so many problems with crime after the kids graduate.
posted by delmoi at 11:31 AM on January 10, 2012


So my worst day of teaching/subbing ever: middle school, 8th grade, early October in a Seattle suburb. Mixed economics (some affluent, some not so much) and racially mixed (which in my experience is a very, very good thing), and I'd been there before with no significant problems. The teacher's lesson plans say her students are wonderful and I won't have any problems, which turns out to be a pack of FILTHY LIES.

Her first class (2 hours long) is bad, but not awful; I just have to leave a note. Her second (another 2-hour one) is extremely rowdy, to the point that I called up the office to have someone come down to let these kids know this isn't a joke. Turns out the VP isn't much of a help, but I manage to avoid any safety issues. (I get staredowns from 6th graders in the cafeteria, btw. I'm pretty sure some of them actually walked in slow motion. It was amazing.)

In 6th, I have to tell a girl to put her headphones away three times. I turn away, and then she has climbed up the radiator to stick her head and arms out the overhead window so she can wave at the bus. She refuses to get down. I have to call security. She refuses for him, and then for the VP, and then the VP has me take all the other students out so they don't have to watch security "use force." (I should note: security is just rolling his eyes. He's not at all hyped up or angry. He's not at all armed. He's gonna take her by the sleeve and tug her down and probably put up with a lot of screaming and swearing, but there is no violence implied or expected here.)

In the end, this girl is outside on her phone screaming for mom to come get her while two security guards and a counselor try to calm her down. Nobody touches her. I get my students back inside, but several have run off in the chaos. When they trickle back in, the first tells me she's crying, the second tells me she ran out into the street, and the third to return yells out as she arrives, "Ohmygod, they pepper sprayed her!"

I don't know if that actually happened because I didn't see it, but I did have to fill out a witness statement at the end of the day for a sheriff's deputy who more or less said I was crazy for doing this job.

That, and two fights in the lunch room, are the only "uses of force" I've encountered as a teacher in almost 8 years.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:31 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I had horrific discipline problems as a teacher. The whole subject was never raised in any teacher training or in any workshops. I haven't taught in 20 years. I hope things are better now.

Not in my experience. Professional development training is all about differentiation, or setting concrete daily targets for students, or whatever new approach is in vogue...but it's pretty much never about classroom management.

It's a real shame, because if you can make students feel comfortable and keep an orderly classroom, you can generally do whatever the hell creative, crazy, innovative lesson plans you want with them as a teacher and they'll be cool with it and nobody goes home crying. You cannot have any fun with a class where you have to manage disruptions, tantrums, bullying and open contempt.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:34 AM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


This calls for a Twisted Sister "We're Not Going to Take It" moment
posted by stormpooper at 11:42 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


PRINCIPAL WITHERS
What did you do before you decided to teach, Mr. Pryzbylewski?

ROLAND PRYZBYLEWSKI
I was a police... in the city.

PRINCIPAL WITHERS
Welcome to Edward Tilghman Middle.
posted by ceribus peribus at 12:15 PM on January 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm delighted that so many of you went to schools (or teach at schools) where, when you send a student to the administration, it is dealt with. At the school where my wife teaches, the most common reaction is to just send the student right back.


And I agree with No Robots. When I was a math education major, there was no course available on classroom control (or whatever you want to call it.) And that was 23 years ago.
posted by wittgenstein at 12:24 PM on January 10, 2012


When I was in college, we had a whole class on classroom management.
The only thing I learned in that class that was worth a damn was "proximity".
Everything else was useless and a waste of time . . . academics promoting their pet systems that have been field tested under ideal conditions.
posted by Seamus at 12:28 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I said there was 1 ticket for every 15 students, which is true

Actually what you said was "6% of students in school receiving a criminal citation" which is false.
posted by yoink at 12:41 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


During detention we listened to Chicken Train by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils while writing a few sentences regarding their infraction and how it had affected the other students.

I was definitely expecting this to be another half hour practicing Duelling Banjos.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:45 PM on January 10, 2012


When I was in college, we had a whole class on classroom management.
The only thing I learned in that class that was worth a damn was "proximity".
Everything else was useless and a waste of time . . . academics promoting their pet systems that have been field tested under ideal conditions.


Proximity often works. I once explained the whole concept of it to a class while using it to disrupt a boy from obnoxiously flirting with a girl while I was trying to deliver class instruction. Yeah, he didn't like that. Which was awesome. :)

The "broken record" approach works ("Please sit down. Please sit down. Please sit down." Over and over) but requires patience, and sometimes a kid blows up and then you have to move to something else.

Again, getting the kid away from the audience is huge. Sadly, it's not always practical, but it's often the surest approach I've got. He/she usually doesn't actually want the confrontation that's happening in class, but is terrified of looking like a punk in front of his/her friends.

But yeah. The problem with teacher credentialling classes is that they're usually designed and presented by people without real world experience, who want to paint everything as sunshine and roses, and who can't handle the simple question of, "So what do I do if that doesn't work?"

Most of what I learned in college about classroom management was that nobody was gonna teach me about classroom management.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:23 PM on January 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


Wittgenstein. Heh. Talk about discipline problems. Epon-hysterical. It has always made me feel better knowing about poor old Ludwig's problems.
posted by No Robots at 1:29 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, scaryblackdeath, you are correct. No one likes to be shamed in front of their peers. Why do so many teachers treat their classrooms as if they are filled with minions and not human?
In the real world, when someone needs to reprimand another, they take them aside to do. Principles generally don't call out teachers in front of the rest of the faculty. If they do, everyone acknowledges that it is unprofessional and counterproductive.
I haven't thought about that element of my classroom management plan, but I frequently conferenced with students just outside my classroom door, where I could be seen, but not heard and they could be away from the eyes of their peers.
I used that tactic for praise and expressions of concern as well as reprimands.
Middle schoolers are a delicate lot who need and deserve respect and to save face. Shaming never works in the long run.
Well, it never did for me, neither as a student or a teacher.
posted by Seamus at 1:32 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why do so many teachers treat their classrooms as if they are filled with minions and not human?

to prepare them for adult employment?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:56 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Man, my job destroys my soul in a completely different way.
posted by Seamus at 2:01 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of Class of 1999.
posted by fightoplankton at 2:08 PM on January 10, 2012


No Robots - To be fair, I did spend a lot of extra time with those kids making models!
posted by wittgenstein at 2:08 PM on January 10, 2012


^Me too, bro, me too!
posted by No Robots at 2:17 PM on January 10, 2012


I used that tactic for praise and expressions of concern as well as reprimands.

Conventional wisdom now is that it's okay to praise a boy in public, but praise girls privately -- otherwise her peers will make her pay for it later. That's obvious stereotyping, so take that for what it's worth, but it's something I hear a lot.

Middle schoolers are a delicate lot who need and deserve respect and to save face. Shaming never works in the long run.

High schoolers are delicate, too.

That said, it's not like I don't call people out in class in front of everyone sometimes. I am often very blunt. Kids generally know that if I ask them to step outside, it's not 'cause I'm gonna give them a hug. I ask them, as if I'm talking to an adult, "Dude, what the hell are you doing?" in a calm, tired an annoyed voice.

You have to keep in perspective that they're kids, and it's entirely likely that no one has ever held them accountable for anything until they've met you (or me), or that they really do need the lesson repeated.

Blah. Listen to me. I'm talking as if I know what I'm doing. I haven't met the teacher yet who really has all the answers, or would ever claim to have them, and I'm certainly no different. I really wish I wasn't so constantly challenged by students in the first place.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:19 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


My chemistry teacher in high school had eyes in the back of his head. If he was at the chalkboard, with his back to the class, he could tell who was pantomiming some message to a friend who was standing at the window in the door to the class. Mr. Cohen would then very accurately pitch a piece of chalk over his shoulder at whichever of us in the class was not paying attention.

He was an excellent teacher with endless amounts of humor and patience.
posted by rtha at 2:28 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


>> why would a British news service not be objective regarding Texas schools

> Well, the Brits do rather love "OMG, look at those crazy Americans!" stories.


Having lived with a Guardian-subscriber for about 10 years, I can verify that this certainly true as far as the Guardian goes.
posted by K.P. at 2:47 PM on January 10, 2012


When I applied for a camp counselor job, one of the questions in the interview involved an unruly camper; the question was what would I do about it. I gave some reasonable answer. Then they asked three layers of 'What if that doesn't work?' I presume this was to make sure that the answer was never violent. But it seems like these school districts are failing to come up with reasonable answers to the question...
posted by kaibutsu at 3:15 PM on January 10, 2012


Reddit has a couple threads on this here and here this comment in particular gives an example of what's going on:
Yes, it is a confusing mess. Some of these laws that students supposedly violate are not real laws. They do not exist. It is up to the parent to research the law before that court date, otherwise the student is screwed by the legal system.

A few years ago, the school district tried to put one of my children into the court system because they had one too many absences at the dentist. The school district was totally blind to the fact my child was, (and still is), an honor student that was, (and still is), nationally ranked in the top 5% for academics.

I researched that supposed truancy law. I found out it did not exist in county or state law books. When I confronted the superintendent in front of hundreds of parents at an assembly about this, all she said was, "We're trying to make it a law, so..."

So I told her until then, kiss my ass....
Who knows how accurate it is. another
I was in court for a traffic ticket about six months ago (I live in Dallas) and there were TONS of kids there, mostly for offenses like "being disruptive in the classroom". I could hardly believe it. So many teenagers being put in the system before they can even drive, because they were "disruptive". WTF?
posted by delmoi at 4:18 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had horrific discipline problems as a teacher. The whole subject was never raised in any teacher training or in any workshops. I haven't taught in 20 years. I hope things are better now.

I don't think it's better now. But there are more programs that deal with classroom management, and in California, where I've taught for 8 years, there is a new teacher support program where you have a peer mentor assigned to you to give you any help you need. I have two mentees right now, one in her first year and one in his second year, and we spend a lot of time talking classroom management. I also have students teachers, and we spend about 75% of our time together working on management.

Here's what works for me:
--Relationship being the fundamental building block of everything we do. They buy into "me" as a concept and will work hard for me as a result. For 95% of students, they don't want to disappoint me so they don't act out, and they apologise if their impulses get the best of them

--Rewards being more significant than punishment. I give out meaningless reward tickets for kids who are doing the right thing. They love it and will actually nominate others to get one for doing something good

--Being honest and transparent with them. If I'm having a bad day, I tell them and ask for their help. If they're having a bad day and tell me about it, I give them some room. It's all about communication and honesty

--Giving clear warnings and redirecting them to get back on task. Stating a consequence for a continued choice to misbehave.

--Being consistent about consequences after warnings. Often, it's just being removed from class - scaryblackdeath covered that well. It de-esculates and works amazingly well.

--Having humour. I make a lot of "that's what she said" jokes. I am sarcastic. I infuse my personality into what I'm presenting, but keeping it developmentally appropriate.

That's it. There's no magic or secret key to doing this right. It's mostly persistence and willingness to listen and change when needed. I'm not married to any routine - I do what works. What works this year is different than what worked last year.

But the focus is always on what's best for my students. I think that's the only thing that all good teachers have in common.


I've worked at schools were teachers write a ridiculous number of referrals, and eventually are ignored by administrators. I've also worked at schools where students have brought knives to school and are given a "warning" not to do it again.

This is not a problem that can be solved by more police, less police, tougher laws, more lenient laws, changing teacher training programs, or anything else that politicians like to throw at the problem. Even money won't solve this problem. What solves this problem is a culture where kids are raised to value their education. What solves this problem is parents expecting their kids to live up to a minimum standard of behaviour and being consistent when they fall short. What solves this problem is having a teacher in every classroom who cares more about the students and their needs than about having summers off, or "making a difference" or whatever other reasons for which failed teachers enter the system. What solves this problem is a society where schools are treated as important, and good teachers are given the freedom to do what they think is best for their students. What solves this problem is changing nearly everything about the current education system.

And for those reasons, I honestly don't hold out that much hope. But I'll keep showing up and doing my job until I'm literally, physically unable to do so. And I'll train other teachers to do the same to the best of my ability. Because to me, it's always going to be about the kids. And I can't save them all, but I can make life a lot better for at least a few of them by giving them a (mostly) responsible adult who genuinely cares for them and advocates for them. And I can teach them how to read more critically, and write more effectively. That has to be enough. And most days, it is.

As to the issue about court appearances seeming out of proportion to number of students:
I don't know how sensational this article is. When I read the statistics about court appearances, I wondered how many were due to attendance. Here, you can be brought before a judge if you miss even 6 class periods in high school (i.e. 6 hours of school). Even excused absences can count towards that. The third step in the long process is to send the parents and kids before a judge. So I wonder if those figures are partially for that. They do often talk about disciplinary issues there as well, as that's part of the school report generated by excessive absences. Each teacher fills out a form, and they're compiled by the school/SRO. I could be assuming too much, but that sprang to mind immediately.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:26 PM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


another anecdote:
I am fresh out of the Texas public educations system and about to finish my fourth year at college. Things were bad when i was a kid in school. I almost didn't get into college because of a truancy charge against me on my senior year. I was fortunate that I had a well off family and a good lawyer but I saw a lot of kids get a week of juvie for something incredibly tiny (like kissing in the hallways) and comeback acting like real criminals. They ended up in jail.
posted by delmoi at 4:26 PM on January 10, 2012


Hell, I got a jaywalking ticket in high school. So did dozens of us, because it was an open campus, there was a Del Taco right across the street and it was a pain in the ass to walk all the way to the corner.

It never ceases to amaze me that in America it's illegal to cross the road.
posted by dng at 4:33 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Then there's the flipside where the appropriate services should have been called, but weren't.
posted by bionic.junkie at 4:41 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It never ceases to amaze me that in America it's illegal to cross the road.

Only in ways in which you might hurt yourself. We need some serious handholding over here.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:43 PM on January 10, 2012


guster4lovers seems to have a fantastic handle on this. The more I read about public schools in America, the happier I am that I chose to stay in Japan. EFL in Japanese middle school is an entirely different set of circumstances, but I've learned over several years that there are certain things that work, and a lot of things that don't.

Always give students choices. If you give an ultimatum, and the student refuses, there's nowhere you can go from there. Any time you end up in a stand off with a student, you've done damage to the classroom dynamic that will take weeks or months to recover from. Given a choice, the students will choose the one which is least unpleasant to them. Make sure when giving them the choice that the least unpleasant option is the one that is most beneficial to the student and the class.

Maintain eye contact with your class. One of the fastest ways to get kids back on task is to let them know that you are speaking to them directly. When I see other teachers turned so that they're facing the board and lecturing, those are the classes where the students aren't paying attention, or being disruptive. I make it a point to make eye contact with every student in my class, as often as I can. If they are goofing off, and they see I'm watching them, they tend to stop. Students who return eye contact know that I'm not just speaking to the open air, they know I'm talking directly to them, and they engage the class more. It also lets me know who is doing what in the class, and gives me a chance to figure out who, when we break into pair or group work, would benefit from having the teacher come over to give some encouragement.

Be consistent. If you set rules, you need to follow them. If you set a rule and you don't follow it, all of your rules are weakened. In practice, this means that you need to set as few rules as possible, since if you have to constantly enforce rules, you lose time that you should be using to teach.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:08 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


This goes without saying, but its easier to maintain discipline and focus in a classroom with fewer students. Indeed, smaller classroom size improves student learning.

In general, he more we cut funding to education, the larger classrooms; the poorer prepared the teachers are; and the greater the odds are that various non-essential services and programs (that none-the-less serve to keep students motivated to stay in school and stay focused) get axed.

To expand slightly, programs like (but not limited to) athletics and visual and performing arts are a really great motivator for many students. If they know a suspension or an "F" is going to keep them from playing/participating, and their teammates/cast mates/classmates back them up ("Dude, chill out, we have a game Friday), their behavior tends to be better in school. This isn't a magic bullet, of course, buts its another tool and one that is far too often decimated during budget cuts.

There's only so many times even the best teacher can say "I will work harder" in the face of larger classes, poorer resources and less support before they get proverbially sent to the glue factory.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:15 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hell, I got a jaywalking ticket in high school. So did dozens of us, because it was an open campus, there was a Del Taco right across the street and it was a pain in the ass to walk all the way to the corner.

And there will be jaywalking tickets year after year, because it's just too f@%kin' hard for the city to paint white lines and allow crossing in front of the school.

Dammit, don't you know my car trumps any kid?
posted by BlueHorse at 7:15 PM on January 10, 2012


I wish I had seen this thread earlier.

As most of you probably know by now, I'm on the school board at a large urban district, around 75% poor.

Last year we had an building administrator attempt to expel a student for chewing gum. We overturned it. The student opted to drop out in stead of returning to school.

I sort-of don't blame the student.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:33 PM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


This goes without saying, but its easier to maintain discipline and focus in a classroom with fewer students. Indeed, smaller classroom size improves student learning.

Absolutely true.

The sad downfall of the last three significant teacher strikes in the greater Seattle metro area has been the failure to get this point across. "Smaller class sizes" often sounds to a strike-weary public like the teachers just want an easier job (as if that'd be a sin). That, and they seem to always allow the media to comment that the strikes are about pay.

They aren't. They're about keeping classes down to a reasonable size, because every additional student over about 20 in a room measurably impacts the learning of the rest. This is true even in a well-run, comfortable classroom. It's extremely important in a less-than-ideal classroom. And it's a failure on the part of the unions that they can't make this the driving force of their messages.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:55 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm really struck by the comments of the teachers in this thread. I read the article and a couple of the follow ups, and frankly, as a high school student, I'm sort of horrified. I don't live in Texas, I live in Illinois, but even at my school we have a team of around 4 SROs that patrol the building, and an incredible amount of security guards. I don't live in a bad area at all, but a lot of the time, I feel as though the school reacts to us with the mindset of, "Well, they'll be delinquents soon enough, might as well treat them with the proper distrust and caution now."

We have a "Drug Smart" program at my school, which while noble in its efforts (and I completely support the idea of it) is completely ineffective for two main reasons: It's dreadfully inaccurate, and everyone in the school knows it; and no one takes it seriously. The entire program has a "The lady doth protest too much" feel to it when the teachers and administration start making increasingly more desparate attempts to defend it, regardless of how innacurate the "facts" on their propaganda (bookmarks, magnets, scrolling sings, veiled threats over the loudspeaker during announcements, etcetera) actually are. We get locked into our classrooms for multiple class periods at a time while Administration calls in drug dogs to do random searches of the hallways, lockers, and parking lots, and no one takes it seriously. It does no good, because no one belives it or puts any stock by it and its innacurate facts.

Beyond that, there's not too much crazy stuff that goes on—there's at least one big fight a month, but they're broken up pretty quickly by the security guards or SROs. A kid was tasered in front of me in the cafeteria one day during lunch, that was...scary. It really isn't that bad, so I can see both sides. I appreciate teachers not wanting to disrupt class to control unruly students because in my math class, the main goal of the kids in my class (excepting me) seems to be "Let's see how much we can piss the teacher off today" and having a teacher that likes to yell...well, let's just say we don't get much done most of the time because he's too busy yelling at us about how much we suck as people. Which is no fun.

On the other hand, these measures are incredibly extreme (I mean, cake crumbs? Really?) but in some cases, necessary. (Abusive behaviour, endangerment of students, etcetera.) I've been in the classrooms with a guy who I know has a gun in his car and a knife in his backpack, paired with a temper problem. I've had a girl threaten to kill me.

The problem is, schools in my experience WITHIN them, are becoming less and less often institutions of learning, and instead turning into massive systems for completely destroying students' sense of individuality, thirst for knowledge, and willingness to work hard to get to a goal they want. Their one purpose is to groom human individuals into good employees (listen to rules/your boss, don't argue, don't think outside these very narrow guidelines) at the cost of hundreds of thousands of minds. In these systems, there's no room for nuance, no room for a plan that isn't entirely black and white. They cater to controlling to Lowest Common Denominator, and frankly, that screws people like me over. I go to school to learn. To gain knowledge. I'm not there to cause problems, I'm not there to be a disruption. I'm there to better myself. And while the school might present itself to society in a way where it protects me and people like me...that isn't what happens. They do what they have to do to control the students at the highest risk levels, and we're stuck in the middle of the firefight.

There's no real solution to a problem like this because it requires an individual, person-to-person basis handling, and that just isn't going to happen in our (in my) public school system. It takes too much time, too much work, and therefore too much money. Which means it isn't possible, no matter how much it matters.
posted by linzenoonoo at 11:14 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Forgot to include: I've gotten lucky with 5 teachers over my public school career (I was homeschooled for the early part of my life) that actively did their best to teach us how we really should have been taught, curriculum and system guidelines be damned. I learned more from them and had more productive classes with them than anyone else. I'm 17 now, and still remember more from those teachers than anyone else, because they cared.
posted by linzenoonoo at 11:19 PM on January 10, 2012


Beyond that, there's not too much crazy stuff that goes on—there's at least one big fight a month, but they're broken up pretty quickly by the security guards or SROs. A kid was tasered in front of me in the cafeteria one day during lunch, that was...scary. It really isn't that bad, so I can see both sides.

IMHO, "one big fight a month" should be intolerable for a school's staff, and that should be the focus rather than the drugs. It's tough to say where the anti-drug efforts come from with your school, because that does sound extreme. It may be a reaction to things happening in nearby schools.

As far as fights go, I've seen one policy that genuinely stops fights in schools: You automatically suspend any kid who's fighting for 45 days, and you suspend anyone who watches for 3 days. Again, fights are like other misbehavior; they're for the audience. (Hell, fights moreso than other stuff!) This is especially true for guys, who usually get in fights where they know it'll be broken up quickly. They just need to show everyone they're willing to go at it. You get those two guys and stuff 'em in a closet together with nobody watching, chances are they'll work their bullshit out or agree to disagree and walk away. You get all their so-called "friends" watching and goading, and then they have to fight.

If you give the audience an overriding incentive to walk away, they'll walk away. I've seen it work.

Also: I know tasing and/or pepper spraying kids who are fighting sounds draconian. Thing is, it's generally safer than trying to physically restrain violent kids. Going in there with control holds and such is how bones get broken (for any party involved), and then you've got a longer-term problem. Sucks, but to be blunt, people shouldn't be fighting in the first place. We're not talking about a protest demonstration here. :)

On the other hand, these measures are incredibly extreme (I mean, cake crumbs? Really?) but in some cases, necessary. (Abusive behaviour, endangerment of students, etcetera.) I've been in the classrooms with a guy who I know has a gun in his car and a knife in his backpack, paired with a temper problem. I've had a girl threaten to kill me.

See, this is not okay. The responsible adult/teacher in me says you should let someone know about the gun, but admittedly I don't know the circumstances in your school. I don't know who would react reasonably and who would freak the hell out and actually cause an incident about it. You should really consider your options carefully (because you don't want this to blow up on you, one way or the other). There's simply nobody who wins with people carrying guns to school.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 6:06 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I've seen one policy that genuinely stops fights in schools: You automatically suspend any kid who's fighting for 45 days, and you suspend anyone who watches for 3 days."

Wow, what state are you in? After 10 days suspension we have to expel. And do those kids on 45-day suspension go in a step-down program or alternative program, or are they out on the streets? Also curious as to whether suspension for watching fights has been tested in the courts or not, but don't know if you'd know. If you do know, has a 45-day suspension been challenged in the courts? One reason it goes to expulsion after 10 days is that expelled students are entitled to different services to continue their education; 45-day suspension students MUST be entitled to something, and I rather suspect that something is expensive.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:01 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's with this police state, military law idiocy that's springing up everywhere? Frightening children with police for being children? I had the misfortune of encountering a TSA VIPR team on the freeway this past summer. We were literally asked for our papers, in modern terms, and interrogated like criminals. I felt like I'd taken a time machine back to Nazi occupied Germany or something. For Pete's sake what the hell is going on.
posted by CXXVII at 7:54 AM on January 11, 2012


I had the misfortune of encountering a TSA VIPR team on the freeway this past summer. We were literally asked for our papers, in modern terms, and interrogated like criminals.

I feel like it's okay to derail a day old thread a bit, so I'll ask if you wouldn't mind elaborating on this. I've heard of the VIPR teams, but I have no idea what being stopped by one entails. What did they ask you for? How long did it take, etc.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:02 AM on January 11, 2012


I agree with linzenoonoo that the problem is essentially cultural. I am now an opponent of government-funded education precisely because its purpose is to train people to fit in to the existing social structure. As Spinoza put it:
Academies, that are founded at the public expense, are instituted not so much to cultivate men's natural abilities as to restrain them. But in a free commonwealth arts and sciences will be best cultivated to the full, if everyone that asks leave is allowed to teach publicly, and that at his own cost and risk.
I am grateful for all the great teachers and students out there who persist against the general framework. I just don't think that the persistence of these few justifies the maintenance of a system that fails for so many.
posted by No Robots at 8:17 AM on January 11, 2012


I am now an opponent of government-funded education

What would your alternative to that be?
posted by Summer at 1:25 PM on January 11, 2012


Haven't a clue, I'm afraid. Internet discussion boards?
posted by No Robots at 1:32 PM on January 11, 2012


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