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A hidden children's health crisis.
May 1, 2012 11:39 AM   Subscribe

A chronic public health disaster. Complex trauma and toxic stress puts children into a state of reflexive fight, flight, or freeze responses to a perpetually threatening world. The traditional authoritative response only serves to reinforce those behaviours and, perhaps worse, has long-term health consequences:
With an ACE score of 4 or more, things start getting serious. The likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease increases 390 percent; hepatitis, 240 percent; depression 460 percent; suicide, 1,220 percent.
One doctor describes it as “a chronic public health disaster”. Remediating this problem is going to require listening, kindness, and parachutes.
posted by davidpriest.ca (53 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite

 
The ACE Study ranks up there with Framingham in terms of its importance to health policy and medical practice. They used to have a really good website but it looks like it's down for renovation. In the meantime, head over to the CDC website for further reading.
posted by The White Hat at 11:50 AM on May 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


god what a fantastic program and an amazing high school. jesus i could not possibly agree more.
posted by facetious at 11:51 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not familiar with ACE. Did they adjust for the socioeconomics of the parents?
posted by docgonzo at 11:53 AM on May 1, 2012


My dad is a school principal. He follows this model of discipline. Occasionally in the past a teacher has complained that the student was not punished severely enough--that they seemed to actually enjoy the trip to the principal's office! My dad asks: "But did that student improve their behavior? Yes? Then why are you complaining again?"
posted by TreeRooster at 11:56 AM on May 1, 2012 [26 favorites]


This is depressing only because of all the accidental, serendipitous events that had to occur and people who had to meet to make this one (admittedly amazing) success story happen. I know, I know, it matters to that one starfish, but man... as a dad approaching the time when the first of my three kids ages into the school system, this just reinforces my desire to keep all of them OUT of the system (private, homeschooling, whatever - just not THE system).
posted by yiftach at 11:57 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aaaaah! Aaaaah! Aaaaah! 3D Excel bar graphs! Aaaaah!
posted by Nomyte at 12:01 PM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Excellent New Yorker article about the ACE study

Yes, they did adjust for parent SES. The study included only people insured by Kaiser -- so it didn't really include many low-income families.
posted by miyabo at 12:03 PM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is no good. There's an entire prison-industrial-political complex that depends on a continuing escalation of indifference, brutality, and wildly disproportionate punishments to keep the profitable cycle of misery alive.
posted by Davenhill at 12:08 PM on May 1, 2012 [22 favorites]


What about teachers? Who asks, "Hey, man, when you told that kid to fuck off, you must have been really upset. What's up?"
posted by No Robots at 12:10 PM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Um. Merits of the program notwithstanding, I can't help but notice that the central tenet of the program is "don't suspend students for behavioral violations," and that they've measured the success of their approach by providing before-and-after comparisons of the number of suspensions. The number went way down! It's working great!
posted by Mayor West at 12:12 PM on May 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah, the numbers they chose to illustrate success can be misleading. I can grasp the actual intent of the program, to basically figure out why a kid is misbehaving and react appropriately. But personally I would prefer seeing a decrease in repeat violations, or something along those lines to show that students who did act out progressed through it in a productive manner.
posted by CancerMan at 12:17 PM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mayor West, I'm not sure how you got that out of this. They specifically said they do in school suspensions, but they make it useful rather than punitive, and prefer it to out of school suspensions.
posted by strixus at 12:21 PM on May 1, 2012


In addition to which, these traumatized kids are often overlooked because they don't meet criteria for the DSM diagnosis of PTSD. Bessel van der Kolk has argued that we should have a diagnostic category for Developmental Trauma Disorder (pdf), but there's no chance in hell we'll get one, since it really can't be medicated away.
posted by OmieWise at 12:25 PM on May 1, 2012 [12 favorites]


I don't think that's true, Mayor West- it sounds like their approach is to not suspend the kids, but try to de-escalate and provide a calm response, listen to the kid, give them a chance to calm down and be heard, and if things stay "red" they go to the ISS (in-school suspension). So yes, writing less suspensions is a good way to measure the success; your complaint would seem to be "But what if they are seeing the same number of problems and just 'punishing' them less?" But the anecdata seems to refute that, if you read the article.

It seems like what you want is some form of "punishment" like the teacher TreeRooster's dad engaged with, to show that "things are being done". And it's this very mentality that is being solved for, so yes "We are engaged less in punitive, reactive responses and more in trying to solve the real problem the kids are having" does seem to be the very essence of what to measure. They realized writing suspensions doesn't work, so they wrote less. They solved the only real problem they could address- which was a problem of how schools react, not how kids behave.

That's really the key point that you're glossing over. The point here isn't that the kids from bad environments stop having any toxic stress; it's that the school has realized no one benefits if you just pile on with more abuse/punishment. Even if the number of "blow-ups" that kids have was the same, it's a huge success to not simply respond to them in kind, to be safe, kind and gentle, because you might be the only people in their lives like that.

But it's hard to explain that, because the mentality itself is being changed, not the kids- and if you stay in the paradigm of "But... what if the bad kids still aren't being punished" you've accomplished absolutely nothing.
posted by hincandenza at 12:25 PM on May 1, 2012 [16 favorites]


I agree with the statistical fallacy there, Mayor West. I'm actually reading it the other way around though; when the number was higher, that meant that the school's zero-tolerance style system was failing.

What makes you think the numbers are artificially lower, instead of the pre-2010 numbers being artificially higher?

Also, I think the "central tenet" is closer to this:

Kids need adults they can count on, who they know will not hurt them, and who are there to help them learn these new skills, Turner tells the Lincoln High staff. If it’s not happening at home, it had better happen at school. Otherwise that teen doesn’t have much of a chance at life.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:28 PM on May 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


> as a dad approaching the time when the first of my three kids ages into the school system, this just reinforces my desire to keep all of them OUT of the system (private, homeschooling, whatever - just not THE system).

I think this disciplinary method and the ACE study are showing that the system is not really a factor -- the home life you provide for your children is. This school's discipline system is really a different way of treating the symptoms of adverse home conditions. If you are able to provide the right type of home conditions for your kids they will be able to work within "the system", meaning the school and all adult life beyond.
posted by danl at 12:34 PM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


> as a dad approaching the time when the first of my three kids ages into the school system, this just reinforces my desire to keep all of them OUT of the system (private, homeschooling, whatever - just not THE system).

subvert the "system" from within. if you have the therbligs to raise kids in a non abusive environment and homeschool them, you have the therbligs to put them in public school and volunteer extensively and make a positive contribution to other kids, teachers, parents, and volunteers, no?

JME.
posted by tilde at 12:36 PM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Another example of government interfering in private lives (just kidding but don't expect this being done in certain places w/out resistance)
posted by stbalbach at 12:37 PM on May 1, 2012


I did some reading on this in grad school but had trouble finding administrators or teachers willing to think about health in such a way. Zero Tolerence Creep also creeps into our mythologized past where we had to behave or get a bruising, or something. In reality, I got suspended for a unflattering drawing of a teacher but my mother threw fireworks at her brother indoors without consequences.

And if I could add a nit-pick, why did the child-molesting dad have to be fat? Man, I would love to be raped by a trim dad, but flabby dad? Gross!
posted by munchingzombie at 12:39 PM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Some people here are commenting about the ACE study itself, which is a huge federal-government-funded research project with armies of experts. This study is extremely rigorous, and influential at the very highest level of government policy-making.

Other people here are commenting on the one principal's mini experiment in reforming his school. Which is just a mini experiment by that one principal. It happens that the ACE blog wrote an entry about it. That's the only connection between the two though.
posted by miyabo at 12:40 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well then the framing is weird because it's all about ACE and nothing about the actual blog entry.
posted by Big_B at 12:53 PM on May 1, 2012


But as someone who lives who is married to an educator I'm surprised I've never heard of ACE, even though these are clearly the tactics she uses.
posted by Big_B at 12:54 PM on May 1, 2012


Devil's advocate: The research is well done, and the star principle is a hero, BUT, what about the reality of dealing with this in the classroom? What is the COST to students who are not troubled? What about the disruptions to their learning? I can see benefit for untroubled students, in that they would get to see - and hopefully model - a beneficial system of nurturing care, but again, how much "parenting" should school systems be expected to do.

Elephant in the room: family and social breakdown, brought about by an ever-increasing and ubiquitous drive towards material status, at any cost. Schools simply mirror the larger culture.

In any case, this is a good development, and one that will hopefully lead to more prevention of the causative conditions that screw kids up in the first place. It's not just about the schools, or the family - it's a systemic problem in American society, and culture.
posted by Vibrissae at 12:55 PM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


But as someone who lives who is married to an educator I'm surprised I've never heard of ACE, even though these are clearly the tactics she uses.

It's not because of my grammar....

So I took the test and have a kind of high score. Maybe that's why she's never brought it up...
posted by Big_B at 1:01 PM on May 1, 2012


Vibrissae, could you explain how using an approach that validates traumatic experience would be more disruptive or unfair to the minority of students that are fortunate enough to have no ACE indicators?

The ACE study outcomes indicate that nearly 65% of the participants (primarily white, primarily "some college" or higher levels of post-secondary education) had at least one ACE indicator, and 35% had 2 or more. Given those outcomes, why wouldn't we encourage an approach that acknowledges the traumatic events in the lives of more students than we'd like to think?
posted by catlet at 1:05 PM on May 1, 2012


Devil's advocate: The research is well done, and the star principle is a hero, BUT, what about the reality of dealing with this in the classroom? What is the COST to students who are not troubled? What about the disruptions to their learning? I can see benefit for untroubled students, in that they would get to see - and hopefully model - a beneficial system of nurturing care, but again, how much "parenting" should school systems be expected to do.

The school I have experience with doesn't mention using the ACE system but the approaches by the teachers and staff mirror it well. For some kids, there is a set pull-out time to work with them on their individual issues, support, talk-group therapy like discussions, individual counselling or simply one-on-one time to an adult who will listen. This year the counselor is going to the classes and just doing group talk and working through issues that affect different groups within the classes; all are given exposure to good adult role models, modeling good crisis or problem handling, modelling healthy attitudes and creating trust and friendships.

I don't see how watching someone be helped is a bad thing, both from an adult perspective and from what I observed in similar situations growing up.
posted by tilde at 1:08 PM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm glad to see that there are folks who want to raise awareness about how problematic stressful home life is for kids. I'll be 39 and I still don't do well with stress and certain environments (i.e., ambiguity). And I'm a successful story (not an addict, chronic depression is under control, etc).

There's so many things to say about this, but I don't have the words. Kids who have traumatic childhoods live with so much more than people realize (we grow up young, don't know how to ask for help even as adults, low self esteem, etc). So I'm just glad to see some stats on the issue, and folks trying to help. Thank you.
posted by evening at 1:22 PM on May 1, 2012 [12 favorites]


25% of the students are homeless.
84% have lost a loved one.
66% feel abandoned by their parents.
65% have an immediate family member in jail.
80% have suffered serious depression
50% live with someone who abuses alcohol or other drugs.

This is upsetting me. What the hell are we doing to our children?
posted by francesca too at 1:35 PM on May 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


tilde said: if you have the therbligs to raise kids in a non abusive environment and homeschool them, you have the therbligs to put them in public school and volunteer extensively and make a positive contribution to other kids, teachers, parents, and volunteers, no?

Best comment in this thread! We are the system. It does whatever we set it up to do. If we want something different, we have to make it happen.

I wish I could volunteer more at our local school, but I have seen with my own eyes that even a few hours here and there make a huge difference. My kids enjoy seeing me in the classroom, the teacher gets help and can focus on fewer kids, and kids whose parents work 2-3 jobs (just to stay afloat financially) get encouragement and attention their parents may be too exhausted to provide. Everybody wins.
posted by Triplanetary at 1:41 PM on May 1, 2012 [5 favorites]



25% of the students are homeless.
84% have lost a loved one.
66% feel abandoned by their parents.
65% have an immediate family member in jail.
80% have suffered serious depression
50% live with someone who abuses alcohol or other drugs.

This is upsetting me. What the hell are we doing to our children?


At one point or another during my childhood, I hit 3 or 4 of those and I don't feel unusual. When my alcoholic father died, I moved in with my mother and abusive step-father. However, humans are imperfect and I don't blame the people who raised me for the directions their lives took. I survived and thrived afterwards, mostly due to other supportive adults who passed in and out my life.

But I was white, cute and intelligent. I was welcomed as the desperate teacher's pet to garner my much-needed attention. Most kids don't have the opportunity to "act out" in such a way. With a system of support, like tilde describes, any kid with a bad home life can overcome their disadvantages and have a level playing ground with those who are lucky enough to have fairy-tale home lives.

I whole-heartedly support a change in direction in education to support and help improve the mental health of students. It sounds absolutely amazing.
posted by Vysharra at 1:56 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


25% of the students are homeless.
84% have lost a loved one.
66% feel abandoned by their parents.
65% have an immediate family member in jail.
80% have suffered serious depression
50% live with someone who abuses alcohol or other drugs.

This is upsetting me. What the hell are we doing to our children?


Raising them ourselves. Can't say I'd recommend it as a general approach...
posted by danl at 1:59 PM on May 1, 2012


25% of the students are homeless.
84% have lost a loved one.
66% feel abandoned by their parents.
65% have an immediate family member in jail.
80% have suffered serious depression
50% live with someone who abuses alcohol or other drugs.

This is upsetting me. What the hell are we doing to our children?


I'd say it's more what aren't we doing to them? Like talking for one. That'd be a good start. Most memorable thing my dad told me: "You can do whatever you want, just don't get caught." Great advice. Thanks.
posted by Big_B at 2:03 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


What are therbligs? How do I know if I have them?

I found this article interesting and will do more reading on it. I like the idea of promoting resiliency, and also of being honest with kids about their challenges. I think it might help a lot of kids, in moderately bad situations at least, just to have it affirmed that things really are screwed up.
posted by not that girl at 2:14 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have googled "therbligs," which is an actual word. But even though I know what that comment meant, I can't connect therbligs to the homeschool/school thing. Was that an interesting auto-correct error or is it just too deep for me?
posted by not that girl at 2:15 PM on May 1, 2012


"I have googled "therbligs," which is an actual word. But even though I know what that comment meant, I can't connect therbligs to the homeschool/school thing. Was that an interesting auto-correct error or is it just too deep for me?"

Me, too! My mind just connected with how absolutely labor intense child-rearing is and added on the sheer volume of work that goes into teaching kids and figured anybody who can do both of those things well with their own kids has some serious work-power! (I still don't know what therbligs are but my hat's off to homeschoolers and to school volunteers, as well.)
posted by Anitanola at 2:29 PM on May 1, 2012


Remediating this problem is going to require listening, kindness, and parachutes. ... and David Lynch.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:35 PM on May 1, 2012


Note that the scary stats quoted a few up are for that one high school specifically, which has been a "dumping ground" school.

yiftach, feel free to get the linked story into the hands of your local school board. Imagine if these facts (the biological impacts were new to me!) were known by all teachers — that the kid is melting down because of acute stress, is incapable of learning in such a state, and needs help with that stress.

A generation from now, we'd have a lot more adults who understand how to help kids grow better. I anticipate it would be a kinder society.
posted by davidpriest.ca at 3:03 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


A note on school choice, from a well-educated, passionate, liberal, public-school-supporting parent who cares about her community, likes children and has volunteer time on her hands:

Sometimes you can throw all sorts of your own personal resources at your local public school system in an attempt to "subvert the system" and help children and improve your community's access to education and get absolutely nowhere. Because despite oft-repeated public assertions that the schools want parental involvement, some schools are actively opposed to allowing parents to change anything. It is not any easier for one parent to change a school system than it would be for one consumer to change a corporation. Sure, it happens sometimes. Sometimes good people get lucky. But a lot of people I personally know have tried very hard to make their kids' schools better, and failed.

Some school districts are controlled by boards that are absentee or lazy. Some schools are controlled by administrators that are more interested in lining the pockets of their contractor buddies with construction project deals than listening to parents or making things better for students at the school. Some school administrators are absolutely fine with having their schools exist as safe havens for tenure-protected burn out teachers who have come to loathe their jobs and don't actually even like being around children anymore. Some schools are controlled by arrogant people who think parents don't have any idea what is best for their own children. Some schools are run by people who just flat out do not like to change.

Sometimes even if you manage to organize groups of parents to argue your cause, your pleas are ignored. Sometimes even if you have the time and financial means to run for school board, you know you still couldn't make a real change if elected, because the rest of the board is stacked with people who are opposed to your views.

After a certain point, in a system like that, you have to ask yourself: do I continue to torture my child by sending him or her to a school that makes him or miserable in the name of supporting the ideal of public education? Or do I pull my kid the hell out before the school damages my kid's brain with repeated trauma?

I wholeheartedly support the idea of public schools -- in fact I think public education is absolutely vital to a well-functioning democracy. But please, stop telling parents that it is primarily their responsibility to participate in and fix their own local school districts, and pressuring them to put their kids in their own local schools whether those schools are broken or not, and whether those schools are the right environment for their particular kid or not.

It's not individual parents' responsibility to fix the problems in America's public schools. It's all our responsibility. Failing schools anywhere affect everyone. We all need to give a damn. About all of the schools. Not just ones we happen to have our own kids in.

You don't have to have a kid in a school to donate to it, vote for funding for it, voice your opinion on it, or volunteer there.
posted by BlueJae at 3:04 PM on May 1, 2012 [12 favorites]


It's fucking sick that treating children with a modicum of empathy counts as a dangerously radical approach in our society. People need to learn that you can't give violence for violence and expect to get anything but more violence out of the transaction. This is fucking kindergarten shit here, people.

I read things like this and I think, "How did we get to this place? Why do we treat each other so badly? Where did things go so wrong?"

In Vonnegut's words: "God damn it, you've got to be kind."
posted by Scientist at 3:04 PM on May 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


God dammit god dammit god dammit why are people so fucking mean. I just... fuck. Fuck. Incoherent. Why?

I need to take a walk.
posted by Scientist at 3:08 PM on May 1, 2012


Sorry about the therbligs, man, sometimes I forget I'm speaking outside of my head. I've read the fictionalized books and am reading a bio of Lillian right now.

Substitue for therblig:

time, energy, ability and emotional space to

Inside my head it's kind of like the way "spoonies" count spoons - if you can cut out some somethings that don't mean as much at the moment to make time for things that can matter more.

Like a "grok" for ability-to and a "tuit". I know that by it's classic definition I'm using "Therblig" wrong.
posted by tilde at 3:20 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good point, BlueJae. Not everything is savable in the short amount of time our kids are in school. One highly regarded highly tracked school always had lots of money and almost no one at PTA meetings and very few volunteers. The school wasn't flexible enough to deal with my particular kids' needs, and we switched. The new school has a lot of poor and underserved students, a huge PTA, never enough money and food drives are run for the kids at the school, but is flexible and open to massive volunteering and gets it.
posted by tilde at 3:27 PM on May 1, 2012


Vibrissae:
Devil's advocate: The research is well done, and the star principle is a hero, BUT, what about the reality of dealing with this in the classroom? What is the COST to students who are not troubled? What about the disruptions to their learning? I can see benefit for untroubled students, in that they would get to see - and hopefully model - a beneficial system of nurturing care, but again, how much "parenting" should school systems be expected to do.
My guess is that most public schools these days experience a lot of disruptive student behavior, and it sounds to me like this approach ultimately reduces the number of disruptions. That's a statistic that I would like to see for this approach: how many classroom disruptions did they have before, and how many do they have now?

If my guess is correct, then the students who are less troubled are also going to benefit from the decrease in disruptions and the lower level of tension in the school.
Elephant in the room: family and social breakdown, brought about by an ever-increasing and ubiquitous drive towards material status, at any cost. Schools simply mirror the larger culture.
I think the chain of causation is pretty hard to untangle. Personally, I see it as family and social breakdown caused by decades of child abuse continuing (perhaps growing) when the abused children have children of their own; trauma caused by untreated addictions (kids and parents); and the increasing incarceration of the population - which is usually traumatic to the kids of the incarcerated, and likely to be traumatic for the incarcerated individual as well, which may further affect the kids when that individual is released.

The overwhelming desire to punish others is toxic to our society.
posted by kristi at 3:59 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The existing problem is systemic. When teachers, schools and whole districts are underfunded, ignored, treated generally like 2nd rate dirtbags and they are also under the gun with standardized testing and NCLB which is designed to cause failure...the kids end up being at the bottom of that big shitty dog-pile. The kids face the brunt of that huge failure.

That said, I've seen personally how this approach and understanding can change entire communities. It took almost a decade, but in a place where gangs were recruiting kids in the 4th and 5th grades, the gangs are now almost nonexistent. Out of business because the would be recruits have tools and support systems.

This is a big deal, thanks for the post!
posted by snsranch at 4:30 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


snsranch: "That said, I've seen personally how this approach and understanding can change entire communities. It took almost a decade, but in a place where gangs were recruiting kids in the 4th and 5th grades, the gangs are now almost nonexistent"

Would you like to share?
posted by wierdo at 5:27 PM on May 1, 2012


wierdo, forgive me for being vague about the who and where, but the political climate in much of Southern California is very much anti-public education. While this story sounds like a great success to us, it's also a great bane to the republican majority around here. I'd hate to be the jerk-off that leads to any kind of retaliation.

Anyway, here's the story. There is one neighborhood here in San Diego that has for decades been the go-to place for drugs and prostitution. It was run and ruled by gangs. Yes, there was some LE presence, but for a very long time, since the '70s, it was virtually lawless.

A little over a decade ago two teachers who didn't know each other applied to be the administrators of the elementary school in that neighborhood. They didn't know each other but they both chose that particular school for a reason...that school was the toughest assignment in San Diego and because of that it would be the perfect showcase for their ideas. Literacy. Fairness. Understanding. Community involvement. Coping tools for kids. Accepting and supporting kids with humanity, decency and respect.

It took about 10 years, but those two people changed that neighborhood forever. Gangs drugs and prostitution exist for a reason and in this case that reason has been eliminated.
posted by snsranch at 7:26 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's a wonderful story! Maybe the folks in SD aren't terribly interested, but I know a lot of people around here in Jesusland who are only against public schools because of the many stories of failure. A few more success stories like that one might actually change their minds. Of course, Oklahoma is a completely different environment. We still occasionally vote in favor of tax increases for schools. Not much else other than prisons, but schools and prisons we'll pay for.

T'would be nice to remove the need for the latter through improving the former.
posted by wierdo at 7:31 PM on May 1, 2012


Considering Jesus and religion in general, I should note that it was a total miracle. Pretty much every entity, local, state and federal put everything imaginable in place to thwart those efforts. I'll go on record as saying that most stories of public education failure are a result of bureaucratic involvement. Teachers know how to teach. It's when government gets involved that things fail.
posted by snsranch at 7:45 PM on May 1, 2012


What is the COST to students who are not troubled? What about the disruptions to their learning?

Interesting, I had a discussion with some friends on Facebook recently regarding "selective schools" here in Australia (public schools that restrict intake to the top scorers on tests) where that point was a vehement and critical one for some of them.

I had a lot of responses and they don't line up with your questions 100% but the critical point was that untroubled kids (or in our case "smart" kids) are more resilient to the small dings having troubled (our in our case, "dumb" kids) in class will give them. Life outcomes for those on Bs are not so different for those on As. Those dings exact a much heavier toll on the troubled kids, however, dealing as they are with so much difficulty outside school.

I personally want to live in a society that looks after the most in need, and would rather resources were dedicated to bring the below average up to mean, then turning the above average into exceptional.
posted by smoke at 9:13 PM on May 1, 2012


My dad is a school principal. He follows this model of discipline. Occasionally in the past a teacher has complained that the student was not punished severely enough--that they seemed to actually enjoy the trip to the principal's office! My dad asks: "But did that student improve their behavior? Yes? Then why are you complaining again?"

This was how my schooling was done as well. In grade school, the principal was a very stuffy and stern man, but when something went sideways, you sat in his office like a grown up and discussed it. It was terrifying, but not because you were worried about being "caught" or of the consequences, but because it is terrifying to have to own up to your mistakes.

It was zero tolerance done the right way. Misbehavior was NOT tolerated, but it was dealt with in a different way. It wasn't transactional- you do that thing, you this time. It is way harder, and a much greater deterrent, to have to explain yourself after some infraction than it is to just "pay the fine".

(Incidentally, there was no such thing as detention. The occasional kid might have an in-school suspension. After that principal retired and my younger siblings were going through, detentions were instituted and behavior and performance went down.)

In high school, it was the same thing. In fact, many of the administrators went out of their way to befriend the troublemakers, and sort of herd them into behaving responsibly. (In fact, some of the most fun I've had was serving detention. Some administrator would come in and pick out a few students and we would be marched off to do some kind of work for the school. Addressing envelopes, or cleaning out an office, etc. The difference was that they weren't ordering us around like drill sergeants, they would work and talk with us. Like actual humans!)

In both of these schools, it wasn't like they were "rich" schools with low student to teacher ratios, either. Just that they put an emphasis on interaction. The teachers who were on lunchroom duty would wander around and chat with the students, or sit and eat with us.

The only thing they didn't do especially well was identifying the kids who were silently troubled, or who were "weirdos".
posted by gjc at 5:57 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because despite oft-repeated public assertions that the schools want parental involvement, some schools are actively opposed to allowing parents to change anything.

Unfortunately, when these people say they want parental involvement, they mean that they want the parents to solve their problems for them.
posted by gjc at 6:04 AM on May 2, 2012


As the ISS (In School Suspension) supervisor at a local high school several years ago, I used the same model as the principal in the article for dealing with "problem" students, with similar results.

Of course, the school administration fired me for it.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 7:50 AM on May 2, 2012


> As the ISS (In School Suspension) supervisor at a local high school several years ago, I used the same model as the principal in the article for dealing with "problem" students, with similar results.

> Of course, the school administration fired me for it.


Care to elaborate? Sounds like a good story.
posted by danl at 11:38 AM on May 2, 2012


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