Suspension centers made the Times Union today, this is a piece I rote about a year ago about them. -cpg
“School suspensions drop dramatically” was the headline of the December 8th issue of the Florida Times Union. Good news right! Reading this the people of Jacksonville might think things are “dramatically better” here in Duval County sadly however that is far from accurate. All it is another case of smoke and mirrors propagated by the Duval County School Board. This time however they had accomplices as the Times Union and education writer Topher Sanders refused to bring up any issues of substance.
Such as how are suspensions down 71 percent but referrals down only 30? In the past were administrators just suspending students at the drop of a hat? How have teachers written over 19,000 referrals but less than fifteen percent have resulted in suspensions, are teachers writing students up for the most trivial of offences? The article said thirteen hundred children have been referred to the suspension centers, but it doesn’t say how many have actually attended? Even if they all attended which is extremely doubtful wouldn’t that mean the suspension centers are operating at less than five percent of their capacity? Did we waste two million dollars in their creation? If these students aren’t technically suspended and they aren’t in schools what are they? Why hasn’t the school board just said, refer all suspended children to the suspension centers. This by their computing process would eliminate all suspensions. A 71% drop is great but a 100% drop is even better.
Would you like to know some reasons why referrals are down here in Duval County? Well make sure your tables are in their upright position and you have strapped yourself in, because you are about to go on a wild ride.
The biggest reason there are fewer suspensions is because some teachers have stopped writing children up. Quite frankly nothing happens too many of them when they do so. Students rarely receive appropriate consequences for their behavior and even freshmen psychology students will tell you that often leads to worse behavior. Furthermore teachers are afraid to write up children. If they write to many referrals then their classroom management skills are questioned and that can affect their evaluations. So instead many teachers just endure little Johnny or little Suzie’s disruptive, disrespectful and defiant behavior. Sadly however they aren’t the only ones that have to do so; it’s the other children in the class who have come to learn who have to endure it too.
Suspensions are also happening less because suspending kids affect a schools grade. The school board would rather keep misbehaving children in school without real consequences for their behavior, again despite the fact this practically ensures the behavior will repeat and worsen. And it doesn’t matter to them that this also robs parents of the opportunity to be parental and steals instruction time from children to whom school is important. Meeting their self imposed benchmark and looking better in the eyes of the state, not teachers and students are apparently their chief concern.
Referrals are being ignored. Boxes of unprocessed referrals were recently found at my school and where I can’t say with a certainty this happens elsewhere I wouldn’t be surprised, but I do know that more than half the referrals I write I never get back.
Finally suspensions are happening less because the school board told principals to suspend less and they told their deans to suspend less, regardless of the consequences.
Who wins when these things happen? It’s not the teacher that can’t teach, the children that can’t learn or the children who don’t receive consequences for their actions? It’s the school board who can point to deceptive statistics pat themselves on the back and say; look we’re doing a good job.
Continuing, the principal quoted in the piece said, “If a teacher is talking to a child rather than stopping instruction to write them up, then you get better results and you’re building relationships.”
The thing is which she must have forgotten is that teachers are already talking to the unruly students and probably a lot more than to the students who care about school. Please have a seat, please stop talking when I am talking, please pay attention, please stop bothering your neighbor, please stop screaming at me, and please stop cursing at me usually follows, if you want to talk I am here for you and what can I do to help.
Furthermore all the teachers I know only write up kids when they are forced to, when a student’s behavior is so badly or their defiance is so great that teachers have no other choice. Also while the teacher is spending so much time on the unruly student, who do you think is being neglected? I’ll tell you it’s the students who want to be there that are.
If keeping little Johnny in my class means, Linda, Michael, Bob and Allen can’t learn, then little Johnny has to go.
I had a parent teacher conference a few weeks back where the parent was very angry with me accusing me of singling out her child. He had been written up nine times, seven by me, one by a sub and one by another teacher. This child, a second year freshmen also had six F’s and one D on his report card the first nine weeks and at the conference I brought e-mails about this student from all his other teachers, saying he didn’t do any work and didn’t behave in their classes either. I reasoned to the mother, who cares most about this student, the person who just accepts their behavior or the person who says enough is enough, you need to improve. At the mother’s insistence he is now in another class and his grades and behavior are as bad as ever.
Offering no consequences for behavior doesn’t seem to be working. If you want proof sit in on a tenth grade geometry class or ninth grade reading class at your average turn around school. Or look in the streets and jails of our city. How about we try the opposite and give some consequences including suspensions for bad behavior, it seemed to work for our parents and our grandparents.
When the Times Union prints these misleading puff pieces on behalf of the school board it does their readers, the citizens of Jacksonville and most importantly the children of Jacksonville a disservice. The Times Union should write an article about how the school board and the school system here in Jacksonville is in trouble, deep trouble and we need the help of the whole community to turn it around because if we don’t things are going to get worse much worse. That story would at least be accurate.