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What does keeping kids out of school do, and why, and how?
March 19, 2010 8:20 PM   Subscribe

Suspension: It Grows on You Is "Suspension" ever corrective?
posted by emhutchinson (47 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Zero tolerance = zero thinking.

That's why morons like it so much!
posted by delmoi at 8:27 PM on March 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


"The school district says it must retain discretion over punishments."

Wait - I thought schools liked "zero tolerance" precisely because it meant we couldn't blame them for their response in any particular situation?

Now they want discretion and zero tolerance? Sorry guys, you'll have to give at least 110% if you want it that good.
posted by pla at 8:31 PM on March 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Zero tolerance isn't zero thinking, it's zero accountability. Administrators who claim to have a "zero tolerance" approach can use this as an unassailable defense when they overreact to unfavored students' indiscretions, while simultaneously being unaccountable for the times when they look the other way when the star basketball player does the same thing (under the guise of "discretion").
posted by 0xFCAF at 8:34 PM on March 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


It destroys them. A lot, the first time. Then more, each time after that.
posted by polymodus at 8:42 PM on March 19, 2010


Meh. I got suspended once. It was a nice week's break. I'd have done the thing again, but it was pretty much a one-off.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:47 PM on March 19, 2010


“Are you going to take money from teaching in order to pay for home schooling and conflict resolution because of a child’s misbehavior?” he said. “That’s a philosophical debate.”

It's sad that people at the administrative level hear "money money money" all day, and when they come up against a case like this, where love and guidance and personal intervention are required to such a degree that their sensors are overwhelmed and all they can do is complain about money. Like little robots.

Of course, most of us spectators wouldn't have the courage to vary from that script, either...
posted by circular at 8:57 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


"These students were treated like criminals and abandoned by the school system for doing something that students have done forever — fighting in the schoolyard."

Where the fuck is this guy from, the 1950s? Should we start singing songs from West Side Story? ♫ When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way. From your first cigarette, to your last dyin' day. ♫

Know what else has been done forever? Getting shot in crossfires on the way home from school because of fights that started in the schoolyard between people you don't know.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:01 PM on March 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Know what else has been done forever? Getting shot in crossfires on the way home from school because of fights that started in the schoolyard between people you don't know.

Kicking kids out of school for a fist-fight is a great way to ensure that they get into gangs and guns and harder stuff.

Zero-tolerance policies like these are how kids end up stuck in the prison system.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:08 PM on March 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that fights in the schoolyard antedate that significantly.
posted by kenko at 9:08 PM on March 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell : Where the fuck is this guy from, the 1950s?

Well, I can't speak for conditions "on the inside" today, but at least in the 1990s, even in a peaceful middle-class suburban school, we had fights almost daily. Glad to hear you lived in Utopia, though.

Know what else has been done forever? Getting shot in crossfires on the way home from school because of fights that started in the schoolyard between people you don't know.

Yeah, we haven't had innocents dying in other people's wars since... Oh, say, the dawn of time...


And y'know, as bad as I thought I had it back then, I look at stories like this all too often and think to myself that I'd have ended up in before graduating kindergarten compared to the pansy-ass "offenses" they haul these kids away for.
posted by pla at 9:15 PM on March 19, 2010


And this is where it becomes very clear which mefites got beat-up at school, and which didn't.

They had a right to get educated? I had a right not to get my fucking nose broken whilst between classes for no other reason than not being in the right group.

If someone did that to me today, they would be arrested, charged with assault, and certainly fined + community service, possibly jail time. They got treated like criminals because they are fucking criminals.

Whether the treatment of criminals is correct or not is completely another ball game - that's a public policy issue - but god damn it, I really would have appreciated the right for my education to be physically and psychologically safe, and know that if I raised a concern, something would happen - instead of the blithe reassurances and blind eyes I got that eventually resulted in me poisoning my fellow school mates with ipecac syrup. That would have been fucking nice, and maybe I would be able to breathe through my right nostril today, too.
posted by smoke at 9:42 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Glad to hear you lived in Utopia, though.

You missed my point. The speaker seemingly has a rather nostalgic view of fistfights as being such a common occurrence, we shouldn't be unduly alarmed or agitated.

Fuck that. My high school's lunch area could turn into a goddamn gladiator arena. Nothing cute about it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:49 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


You missed my point. The speaker seemingly has a rather nostalgic view of fistfights as being such a common occurrence, we shouldn't be unduly alarmed or agitated.

While I don't disagree that suspending kids for starting fights is reasonable, it sounds like the punishment in this case was excessive. Suspending a kid for an entire semester for getting into a fight is a big punishment. That means the student is going to have to take at least an extra semester worth of classes to graduate, and maybe an entire year, considering that, in high school, some classes are year long and you can't just make up one semester. What seems really excessive to me is that they not only suspended the students, but denied them access to the alternative school. This punishment is just setting these kids up to fail.
posted by lexicakes at 10:05 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, no one has pointed out yet that black students are about three times as likely to be suspended than white students. This is sadly not surprising, but it's certainly disturbing.
posted by lexicakes at 10:07 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I got suspended once for cutting off 2 inches of a boy's rat-tail haircut.

The class was almost over, we had all splintered off into various conversations. I was holding scissors; I went up behind him and cut some of his hair off. He didn't actually notice this had happened until two girls told him after class.

A year or so before, some bullies had actually physically attacked the boy, holding him down and threatening to cut his hair, but not actually doing it. They got suspended for a day.

Me? Straight A student, never had a detention before. Totally non-violent action. I got suspended for a month.

My parents quickly realized that the school district was insane, and I switched to a a private school the next year.
posted by hopeless romantique at 10:13 PM on March 19, 2010


See, I just don't get the logic of "Here's this kid who is a problem in school, I'm going to punish him or her by kicking them out of school.

I realize there's supposed to be some sort of punitive 'and their parents ground them forever' or something, but every single kid I knew who was a problem ENJOYED suspension because they -got out of school-, which they hated.

I see maybe four scenarios that come out of this:

1) "Good" kid does something stupid and gets suspended, kid then is scared out of ever doing that thing again.

Really,. how often does this kind of thing REALLY happen? Ever?

2) "Good" kid does something stupid and gets suspended, kid is totally disenchanted by the entire system and then spends the rest of his or her time in school being angry and hating the system.

Likely, more so if the suspension is for something stupid (being 'involved' in a fight where involved is 'the person who is being beaten up', getting 'caught' with drugs ie: the scenario recently with the young lady who actually reported her classmates for drugs, and so on. Insert your own zero-tolerance horror story here)

3) "Bad" kid does something stupid and gets suspended, gets a break from school and spends it playing video games or doing whatever kids do these days. With or without 'parents beat the everloving shit out of said kid'. Nothing changes.

4) "Bad" kid does something stupid, gets suspended, and gets even more disenchanted with school than he or she already was.


In maybe one of these scenarios, a kid is 'put back on the straight and narrow' and in three of them, you have someone failed by the system.

Why on earth do people keep using this system? Why?
posted by FritoKAL at 10:15 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


lexicakes has it, and of course that (the fact that black students are suspended at 3x the rate of white students) was the point of the article. I'm so glad you posted this, emhutchinson.
also note that the students were denied entry into the alternative school, and basically received no education or supervision except what their parents could provide them, for the entire semester.
now, if you're concerned that parents aren't bringing children up properly socialized to deal with their peers in school, why would you want to sentence them to an entire semester of guaranteed regression? I thought the purpose of rehabilitation was to teach a lesson and replace the improper behavior with proper behavior. in other words, that's what alternative schools are for.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:17 PM on March 19, 2010


Where the fuck is this guy from, the 1950s? Should we start singing songs from West Side Story?

As you know, in Canada we sing and dance our way out of problems.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:43 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


hopeless romantique...

"Me? Straight A student, never had a detention before. Totally non-violent action. I got suspended for a month."

Nonviolent? You violated someone's person.

Why do you continue to justify that in your mind? Are you still violating people and justifying it? You think you were better than that low-class rattail wearing scum. You think you were justified in forcing you idea of normalcy upon him. What you did was terribly wrong.

How would you feel if someone drew a penis on your face in Sharpie while you were sleeping and you had to go into work like that? No big deal right? Non-violent. What's the problem?

You violated someone's space. You altered, against his will, his actual physical representation in the world. When school districts suspend people for sporting pink mohawks, they are labeled as oppressive. You went further-- you forcibly altered his hair without giving him the possibility of civil disobedience. You are quite simply, a tyrant. More accurately,since you have no actual power other than your surreptitious treachery, you are a sociopath.

What you did was evil, a slippery slope toward female circumcision.

Repent. Go. Sin no more.
posted by squinky at 10:49 PM on March 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


What you did was evil, a slippery slope toward female circumcision.

Woah now, I think someone's quaffed a bit too much hyperbole mead.

I don't believe Hopeless Romantique was trying to defend her actions (I fucking hope to god not, anyway), so much as highlighting the discrepancy in response.

I'm not sure what her point is beyond the dysfunction of her school, but perhaps that was her point.
posted by smoke at 11:09 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Me? Straight A student, never had a detention before. Totally non-violent action. I got suspended for a month.

I actually went and checked to see whether this was, in fact, the person who assaulted a high-school friend of mine in exactly this way, circa tenth grade.

Totally non-violent? You assaulted a fellow student with a blade. Suspension is a pretty stupid way of punishing anyone, but your attempt to derail this conversation into whining about being punished for doing something blatantly wrong. I see, on preview, that squinky did a pretty good job of describing why what you did was blatantly wrong, so I won't repeat it. Go read it again. And then stop trying to pretend that something wrong that you did when you were a fucking teenager was anything remotely defensible and not deserving of punishment. You don't have to be proud of it - most of us did things, years ago, that we wish we hadn't. But don't try to pretend you were treated so badly by The System when you know damn well what you did was anything remotely defensible.

You took a bladed object and forcibly used it on another human being. "Non-violent" my ass.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:10 PM on March 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Geeze, squinky, don't use up all the rhetoric in one go. You need to save yourself somewhere to go for people who steal cars.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:00 AM on March 20, 2010


I was suspended 13 times before I dropped out of school. I'm whiter than you are.

Most of those suspensions were for the most ridiculous shit -- mostly smoking cigarettes, being late to class, and refusing to do what teachers told me (like take notes in class, etc.)

Was I a dumb young punk? Of course I was. You wouldn't have wanted to see me date your sister or daughter.

Did suspension do a damn thing for me? Fuuuuuuck no. It just exacerbated my sense of alienation from the school. I mean literally, they separated me out from the rest of the school, and made me sit in a single room all day with the rest of the rejects, not learning, not doing much of anything really.

Ultimately I got busted smoking weed and just said fuck it and dropped out for good.

Was I a bad kid? No. Misguided and apathetic? Yes. Could I have been "saved?" Fuck. They didn't even try.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:25 AM on March 20, 2010


Oh, and hopeless romantique? Go to hell. You were wrong. And the worst part is that you can't even fall back on "I was young and stupid," because somehow you still think that you were the one who was wronged.

I mean really. Do you actually expect our sympathy here?
posted by Afroblanco at 1:31 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I read squinky's reply, I thought he was joking. Then I saw this:

Totally non-violent? You assaulted a fellow student with a blade. Suspension is a pretty stupid way of punishing anyone, but your attempt to derail this conversation into whining about being punished for doing something blatantly wrong. (Tomorrowful)

Um...Tomorrowful, do you mean this literally? Because it sounds to me like you don't see any distinction between cutting off a two-inch tuft of hair, in a way that he doesn't even notice until someone else points it out to him, and actually injuring him or causing him to fear injury. In fact, as I understand it, in the US assault requires the victim to fear violent injury to his person (and a lot of places would actually require the violent injury to happen), so I don't think it's possible to assault someone without his knowledge, as you apparently claim happened here.

But even if it does qualify as assault, we have to consider the severity. Cutting off someone's hair is less offensive than punching him. It's less offensive than shoving his head in a toilet or putting him in a locker. Depending on the situation, it can be less offensive than calling him a name. Maybe even less offensive than ripping his shirt off, since the hair grows back. (I won't stand by that last one with any real conviction; I don't care how my hair looks, but I understand that some people do.)

But the point is, a month's suspension is a massive over-reaction. Maybe that's a dated response from someone who's only ever seen suspension used for kids who had proven themselves irredeemable disruptions in the classroom or threats to fellow students. But maybe we should be getting back to that time.

I know this sounds like a derail, but Tomorrowful and squinky have shown me a perspective which I have never seen before, and which I think is highly relevant to a discussion of when it's appropriate to suspend students. Can you explains yourselves? Because if you think a month's suspension is a reasonable punishment for cutting off two inches of hair, maybe that's why some other people think it's reasonable to suspend a third-grader for bringing nail clippers into school or (your favorite zero-tolerance horror story here).
posted by d. z. wang at 3:32 AM on March 20, 2010


To analogize, it's something similar to if a bunch of kids got together and put a cattle brand on the face of another kid they didn't like. (Make it a temporary tattoo to analogize with the hair growing back.) Everywhere the victim goes there's a manifest sign of his or her own helplessness, asserting the dominance of the branding kids over the victim. Even the family gets to see at home - it's not something that just stays at school.

The purpose is to humiliate the kid by first violating his self-control and then leaving him with a constant reminder of weakness and vulnerability, which also advertises the social control and social status of the group of branders, and then in hopeless romantique's case also to punish the victim for violating norms maintained by her and the guys who had previously bullied and threatened the kid.

This is the kind of stuff that causes suicides and Columbines, not the occasional bloody nose from a fist fight. So it makes sense to me that hopeless romantique would have gotten punished severely. Maybe the two guys who held him down should have gotten more too, but she was the one amongst the group harassing him who stepped up and put the brand on, so it's fitting.
posted by XMLicious at 4:41 AM on March 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


As an educator, I've always found weekend detention to be more effective. That way, kids from all the different cliques in your school have to spend time together and realize that they're not so different after all.


I'm not an educator.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:13 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think one thing this issue reveals, if you read between the lines, is just how fucked-up a job running a school really is today. I'm not talking about the men and women in those jobs, necessarily. Rather, I'm talking about the jobs themselves. It seems that every half-assed social and political trend ends-up on the desk of school superintendents and principals. I'm sure, if asked, superintendents and principals would much rather live without "solutions" like Zero-tolerance. Ultimately, they get in the way of this thing called "education" that they are supposed to be focused on.

Here's the thing...if you look at every fucked-up system that schools engage in...like zero-tolerance...you can bet that either some very vocal parents or politicians (or both) were behind the push to get such systems in-place.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:19 AM on March 20, 2010


FritoKAL: In addition, your first category of "good kids" see punishment as a mark of shame amongst their friends, whereas the last two categories see it as a mark of coolness, toughness, realness, whatever you want to call it. There is no deterrent effect; rather there is an incentive to bad behavior.

I wonder what the rates of suspension are like between public and private schools. I went to public elementary and middle schools, and a private high school. I knew lots of kids who were suspended in middle school; virtually none in high school, and I ran with similar crowds. Private schools can just kick you out, though.
posted by desjardins at 5:31 AM on March 20, 2010


In private school, suspension is sometimes a real consequence--to the parents, not the student--because the parents are paying for the school. In my private school, the parents are paying for a shot at college, membership in a desirable social mileu, and an life-long setup for their kid. That's always been the case, just as (when I was in private school forty years ago) some kids bounce from private school to private school getting kicked out, and some of them turn out just fine. We still take credit for a few of our non-graduates, including an astronaut.

But suspension is not necessarily for the benefit of the student being suspended, and it isn't always intended as a punishment. Sometimes it's just getting a disruptive kid out of your community for a little while so you can focus on the kids who aren't causing a problem.

We are small enough, with a low enough student-teacher ratio, that we rarely suspend a kid, though. Most of our students do something stupid once or twice and get fed up with having their butts talked to death one-on-one. The teacher, the parents, the advisor, the dean of students, the head of school, they all get in on the act. It's embarrassing and boring, and generally a sensible kid realizes that there are better places to get in trouble than school.
posted by Peach at 5:53 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having gone through both being a hassled student AND doing a student teaching stint, I can say that you know what's worse than a guy getting disenchanted with school and missing out on a decent education? Twenty-nine other kids missing out on an education and getting disgusted with school because a teacher has to spend more time dealing with one clown who's determined that NOBODY is going to get anything out of this class.

High school teachers already have about ten hours a day worth of work (no, they don't go home at 3:00 and drink mint juleps all night long. They have to grade, make lesson plans, prepare materials, create tests, and so forth. Magic school pixies don't do that stuff. And I was only teaching four classes.) They already have been told that they have to be coaches, role models, nurses, psychiatrists, stool pigeons, cops, and so forth, and if they gets some time between that to maybe teach a lesson, that's cool too. And now they're also supposed to use their wonderful abilities to reach out to little assholes who have decided they're too cool for school, and it's their own fault if these kids don't grow up and win Nobel Prizes because "nobody cared".

But we're not going to pay them anything, we're going to bitch about their unions, and we're going to vote down any kind of tax increase for schools because "goddamn gubmint taxes" and yet still demand we get all this blue plate service for pennies. We talk a good game about education in this country, but when the rubber hits the road, we really don't give much of a shit, do we?

I dreaded one of the classes I had to teach because I knew I was going to have to psychologically wrestle with four students every goddamn day just to get fifteen minutes of basic stuff taught to the others. I'll be the first to admit that it turned out I wasn't teacher material -- all I was really interested in doing was teaching math, not in raising 120 kids. That's why I'm no math teacher.

All you people crying for these poor lost kids need to come up with a solution beyond, "the teachers and administrators need to caaaaaare more!" Yeah, these kids have issues that largely aren't their own fault, but there comes a point where we have to just plain keep them from fucking it up for everyone else.

I don't know what the solution is, but as much as it isn't "zero tolerance" it also isn't that teachers just need to hug these problems away or whatever.
posted by Legomancer at 5:55 AM on March 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Having gone through both being a hassled student AND doing a student teaching stint, I can say that you know what's worse than a guy getting disenchanted with school and missing out on a decent education? Twenty-nine other kids missing out on an education and getting disgusted with school because a teacher has to spend more time dealing with one clown who's determined that NOBODY is going to get anything out of this class.

I'm glad that that's the choice we have to make - it makes things easy! None of this messy gray-area conflict resolution crap that the article actually explicitly mentions.
posted by TypographicalError at 6:43 AM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The fact that Legomancer can't figure out how to fix the problem is indicative of just how sick the school system is in the US, because the solution is really, really simple.

You got four kids disrupting your class? You kick them out. Not out of the school, and not for the month, but you kick them out of the class. If they disrupt the class every day for a month and you kick them out every day for a month and they fall so far behind they can't make up the work, then it's on them. But it's not like you kicked them out for a month for bringing nail clippers or an inch long plastic replica toy gun to school.

To those cheering that the bullies are getting what came to them I'd remind you that in these modern times they are not limiting this zero-tolerance crap to whoever picked the fight, they are also punishing the victims. Zero tolerance starts with a zero. It's both zero thought AAAAND zero accountability -- the two go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

Now the simple solution requires that the administration not come down on Legomancer when he exercises his prerogative. (In fact, in days of yore when the schoolhouse was one room, there wouldn't be any administration to answer to, and that seemed to work out pretty well.) It requires that the school back him up when the parents complain.

Now the simple solution doesn't come without difficulties. As I just laid it out the kids and parents don't have much recourse if Legomancer should have a problem with black students or native americans or girls or whatever, or should whacking kids with a ruler give him a woody. The system we have today exists partly in order to standardize things so that everyone has a chance and nobody gets singled out for abuse. And this would be a good thing, except ... that as it's developed, the system itself has become an instrument of abuse.

And unlike the abuse that might be Legomancer's prerogative should the that power be given back to the teachers instead of bureaucrats, the abuses being committed today do not even facilitate the education of the rest of the kids; they're just stupid and crazy.
posted by localroger at 7:06 AM on March 20, 2010


As extra punishment, the girls were told they could not attend Beaufort County’s alternative school for troubled students and were denied aid to study at home.

This is the part that really sticks out for me. So they have a special school for troubled students but they didn't send these troubled students there? Why? What makes these girls so special that they were not even allowed alternative schooling? As to denying them aid to study at home, that is just criminal to me. I realize the school district is crying poverty here, but what are we talking about? A couple of schoolbooks? Some lesson plans? Aid doesn't have to mean hours of one-on-one tutoring, it could just be in the form of homework assignments and some textbooks.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:20 AM on March 20, 2010


> See, I just don't get the logic of "Here's this kid who is a problem in school, I'm going to
> punish him or her by kicking them out of school.

The point is not to punish or correct the students who make education impossible, it's to get rid of them--for the sake of others who want to learn.

* Using "zero tolerance" suspension to avoid the responsibility of figuring out what actually happened in an incident ("Those three were beating that one up and she defended herself? They were all fighting, suspend 'em all.) is fucked up.

* Using suspension as a standard method for dealing with minor behavioral problems ("He stuck gum under his desk again? Suspend him!") is fucked up.

* Using suspension to deal with students who turn schools into dangerous madhouses where education can't possibly happen is the best option that's usually allowed by politics (the right outcome for these is to get booted permanently.)

You can't give an education to everybody. In point of fact you can't give an education to anybody. The best you can do is offer it, in an environment in which those who want it can obtain it. There are ways beyond number by which this environment can be destroyed. Which makes a school useless if...if its true purpose really is the same as its proclaimed purpose, namely education.

But this leads to one of those frank, open discussions that nobody really wants, in this case what other purposes do schools serve, either in harsh reality (daycare) or in the fantasies of the various classes of parent; and what makes these other purposes, in the last analysis, more important than mere education.
posted by jfuller at 7:36 AM on March 20, 2010


I agree with Secret Life of Gravy. The school district was specifically denying these students their right to an education. Suspending students for an excessive period of time is one thing, saying that they can't come to school OR access any form of district-provided educational services is just unethical and (IMO) illegal.
posted by shrabster at 7:39 AM on March 20, 2010


desjardins: Private schools can just kick you out, though.

Private schools don't even have to accept you in the first place.

Besides the obvious money barrier, it's quite common for private schools to request transcripts before allowing students to join the school. Some private schools offer the promise of increased discipline to turn zeroes into heroes. Others just won't even take the three-time loser kid with ADHD. Too much hassle. Or they think they have a reputation to maintain.

And, like you say, they can always just toss you back into the public system if they don't like you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:02 AM on March 20, 2010


Um...Tomorrowful, do you mean this literally? Because it sounds to me like you don't see any distinction between cutting off a two-inch tuft of hair, in a way that he doesn't even notice until someone else points it out to him, and actually injuring him or causing him to fear injury

Yes, I mis-spoke with regard to the legal definition of assault; whoopsie! Mea culpa. etc.

(I will note that once people start going at your body with scissors, whether you notice it or not, you're going to start being pretty fucking scared. Certainly my friend was extremely freaked out for quite some time. Whether it's "assault" or not is irrelevant at this point.)

I was seeing was an echo of my past, seeing a high-school bully cut off a "rat-tail" belonging to a frequently-bullied kid, and then insisting that they had done nothing wrong and how dare they be punished for this non-violent act. Seeing that lack of guilt, even pride in wrongdoing, coming from an adult, set me off, and I got a little more spitting-angry than I should have been. My bad. Won't do it again. Etc.

What I was trying to emphasize, and what I may have been too emotional to be appropriately narrow about, was this: In my eyes, this was someone explicitly saying that what they had done was not wrong and did not deserve punishment. You'll notice I didn't say that Hopeless Romatique "deserved what she got" or "should have been expelled" or anything like that. Zero-tolerance bullshit is just that; bullshit. I wasn't there; I'm not going to judge what kind of punishment HR should have gotten, and as a rule I think that suspension is totally useless. Almost certainly there was some vastly better way of dealing with this than kicking Hopeless Romantique out for a month. The issue was not about the specific school actions in the case, but about what I view as Hopeless Romantique's air of righteous indignation about being punished at all.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:22 AM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hopeless Romantique's air of righteous indignation about being punished at all. (Tomorrowful)

it sounds more like she was angry at the disparity between the punishments meted out to her and to these other bullies, but, okay. I can understand that.

Still doesn't give me any idea why people are in favor of zero-tolerance, though. Yes, I read the no-thinking, no-responsiblity rubbish above, but can we try to pretend that people who disagree with us can still act in good faith?
posted by d. z. wang at 9:32 AM on March 20, 2010


Well of course they're not going to supply materials to help suspended students study at home. The whole POINT of suspension is to get them to fail of out of school without having to actually kick them out.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:40 AM on March 20, 2010


I guess maybe they lack the teacher resources for it, but don't other schools have In-School Suspension? you sit in a small classroom and work on homework, day-long detention, kinda. I'm not sure if it would be effective at all in changing behavior, but they wouldn't be denying education, in that case.

As for the big hoopla up-thread-- I'm not sure if you were more venting pent-up feelings or actually trying to teach about not violating others' private spaces, but it sure as hell doesn't seem effective for the latter.
posted by rubah at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2010


I don't recall people getting suspended for much in my high school -- you had to do something pretty severe* to get that right off the bat. There was a whole system set up where, if you got detention so many times in a semester, you'd get an in-school suspension, and, after a certain number of those in a semester, you'd get a regular-type suspension. Most people never got that far, however, just because of how much the in-school suspension sucked: you spent the entire school day in silence in one room (in which you also had to have lunch) and were allowed to work on homework and classwork and nothing else.

* Okay, so, I did get a real suspension, once, but it was because I was late for school on a daily basis from 10th grade to 12th grade and skipped all the detentions I was given. I suppose the fact that I was a straight-A student led the assistant principal to apologize to me for having to do something about this lateness.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:15 PM on March 20, 2010


I always thought "algebra or jail" would be a more effective deterrent than suspension. Except for the "good" kids, who'd get "dodgeball or jail".
posted by erniepan at 3:10 PM on March 20, 2010


You got four kids disrupting your class? You kick them out. Not out of the school, and not for the month, but you kick them out of the class. If they disrupt the class every day for a month and you kick them out every day for a month and they fall so far behind they can't make up the work, then it's on them. But it's not like you kicked them out for a month for bringing nail clippers or an inch long plastic replica toy gun to school.

ok, but the problem with that is - one of the reasons kids act up in school isn't that they necessarily don't want to learn, or want to disrupt somebody else's learning, but that their own learning has been so badly derailed that they no longer know how to get themselves back on track. it's very humiliating to admit that you can't read or do math on grade level, so you cut up.

discipline problems are a great way to identify kids who need reading and math help - like four or five grades worth of it. they settle down a lot once they get appropriate intervention and start making substantial progress.

other sources of discipline problems? gifted kids who've been underestimated by teachers and streamed into vo, gen-ed or remedial. nothing like a bored genius to fuck up a class.

so, sure, you can kick them out of class - but it's a teacher's fault - a teacher who didn't do his or her job - that they started blowing class up in the first place.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:51 PM on March 20, 2010


I guess maybe they lack the teacher resources for it, but don't other schools have In-School Suspension? you sit in a small classroom and work on homework, day-long detention, kinda. I'm not sure if it would be effective at all in changing behavior, but they wouldn't be denying education, in that case.

But it *is* denying an education. ISS is removing a child from a classroom, and that's where one learns things. You can't possibly expect that a student causing discipline problems severe enough to warrant ISS is also going to learn from doing homework, can you?

The best solution, in my opinion, is to remove students from the classroom, but move them to an environment where they can learn productive things like (as toodleydoodley says) remedial classes or (as the article points out) classes on conflict resolution.
posted by TypographicalError at 7:25 PM on March 20, 2010


toodleydoodley, by the time the kid is cutting up in your class it is not your fault, and all you can do is help the other students by getting rid of the disruptive influence. Otherwise it will be your fault that some other student is the one who didn't learn to read and ends up messing up the situation for some other teacher a few years down the line.

I was given to understand when I was in school that one of the purposes of the vast school administration bureaucracy was to deal with the students who are getting kicked out of class because they are disruptive. I guess that was before they were all reassigned to ruining peoples' lives for inexplicable bullshit reasons.

It's not a teacher's job to save the world; it's their job to teach. They should have the authority to deal with things that prevent them from doing their job. The people who supposedly manage them should have their back, not put obstacles in their way that make their job even harder.
posted by localroger at 8:03 AM on March 21, 2010


TypographicalError: "The best solution, in my opinion, is to remove students from the classroom, but move them to an environment where they can learn productive things like (as toodleydoodley says) remedial classes or (as the article points out) classes on conflict resolution."

Unfortunately, very few schools have the resources to implement this solution, since it requires additional teachers, rooms, curricula, and materials. You'd also have the problem of kids rotating in and out of this remedial environment as they did or did not make trouble in class, which is hardly ideal for teaching anything. Unless you meant that after some threshold kids just got assigned permanently to the remedial class, in which case you've just reinvented a kind of tracking.

The problem with public education comes down to resources, which is why I was intrigued by a proposal on some earlier MeFi thread that we let parents waive traditional education and send their kids to public vo-tech schools. The immediate objection was that we'd see droves of poor parents signing their children over to be automobile mechanics. Yes, that probably ruins their chances at higher education, but I'm not convinced those chances weren't ruined already. If this proposal can provide a good education for some (and I would consider marketable skills only a mediocre education at worst), it seems better than one that's currently providing a terrible education for all but a few.
posted by d. z. wang at 12:58 PM on March 21, 2010


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