WHO ARE WE HELPING?

“She believed in nothing. Only her scepticism kept her from being an atheist.”
Jean-Paul Sartre

“She could no longer borrow from the future to ease her present grief.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

One of the biggest honors in writing this blog is the ability to use it as a vehicle to allow teachers and families to  express their thoughts and feelings. Below is an email that I was copied on. It has been sent to all MNPS board members.

This year MNPS leadership made a move to change discipline policy throughout the district. Suspension, expulsion, and arrest, were no longer an option for k-4 grades except for level 5 offenses, and it has become much more difficult to suspend/expel older kids. As a general policy, I think the majority of people support the reduction of suspension rates. Nobody wants to see children removed from the classroom.

However, good policy without good execution and implementation does not lead to good results. I’ve written repeatedly about the lack of support MNPS has in place in order to make the new policy work.The argument in support of the policy change has been framed as a false equivalence. The only two options presented are suspending kids, which is painted as throwing them away or keeping kids in school with the supposition that supports and services will suddenly magically appear.

Neither of those two statements are true absolutes. Kids can be removed from a classroom and provided supports so that they can successfully re-enter class. Leaving kids in schools without proper supports just sets them up for future failures. Failures that often come at a time when stakes are the highest.

Supports for kids will not suddenly magically appear just because kids remain in a classroom. We have to demand that those supports be put into place. Part of that means being extra diligent on spending. I’m told putting trauma specialist in every school would run around a million dollars and we say we don’t have it. Yet two years ago we spent nearly a million dollars for an assessment platform that schools aren’t even using. Think about if that money had been re-purposed?

Our focus should be on keeping schools a safe place for ALL kids and getting kids the services they need in order that they have the best chance at success. Lowering suspension rates without lowering discipline issues does nothing but exacerbate a problem.

As a teacher wrote to me,

They only rolled out a part of the program without the consequences incorporated  We have failed to implement the accountability portion of restorative practice, where students would be required to make amends and pledge to make real changes in front of a school panel before re-entry into classroom after suspension. Writing a SEL goal on your board and spending 5 minutes discussing feelings does not help chronic offenders with conduct disorders.

We need youth counselors in each middle school, mentors as well. A youth counselor would take students aside and relieve teachers, then bring students back to their classroom. That would be a way to reduce office referrals

Knowing that fewer children are being removed from school rightfully gives adults the warm and fuzzies. But good policy shouldn’t be based on how it makes adults feel. Policy should be rooted in successfully addressing community needs. In talking to teachers and parents, I have become more and more convinced that the policy change made this year by MNPS does not sufficiently address our schools needs and as a result, is bad policy for kids.

Sadly, I also believe we are seeing echoes of this bad implementation of policy play out in our city as well. People are starting to pay closer attention to Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway and her policies toward juvenile crime. Policies that do not appear to be working. Our kids are killing and dying across this city and at way too high a rate. We have to get this right.

So without any further ado,

Dear MNPS school board, I am a disgruntled parent. You may have seen my name from time to time as my husband has spoken and I have spoken up multiple times. I have 4 children at MNPS schools.

I am involved with both PTO’s, I am a substitute teacher (so I see how the school system works and what goes on 2-3 times per week), my children are active in the schools, and I am a MAJOR supporter of our public school system.

I am tired, as I am sure most of you are. We all want what is best for our children, other people’s children, and our school system. We want to succeed. We want our children to succeed. It is a scary world and we want our children to see a light and be a light. In my opinion, I believe that is ONE thing every single person on this email can agree on.

Lets put political stances, color of our skin, our past lives, and our personal lives aside. I want to take you on a field trip. This is a field trip through a school I absolutely love and support 100%. These students ( all of them I have had the pleasure to sub for) and teachers are my friends. I hear their hearts and listen to them every single time I am at our school.

From the perspective of a teacher. She or he wakes up (tired and weary), gets his/ her own children ready for school, gets in the car not knowing what today is going to look like. She/he walks into the school, opens the classroom door, and gets ready for the day to begin.

Is the boy going to be here today or not? Will I be able to get things done in my classroom today or not? Will I be able to use paint today to work on that project or not? Minutes pass by and that boy walks in. Teacher then realizes what her day is going to look like.

She prepares herself, puts a smile on her/his face, and greets each child with a heartfelt greeting. As the day goes on, the teacher has had to interrupt learning time 5-6 times to redirect the child. Said child runs around the room disturbing the class even more. The teacher grabs the child only to then be punched in the face and the back of the head. Not only that, the child then bites the teacher.

The teacher is clearly shaken up and calls the office to be told that she needs to go get a tetanus shot. The classroom then has to be split up amongst the other classes. Learning time is now disrupted for each 2nd grade classroom.

From the perspective of a child…

The child barely slept last night because he/she didn’t know where his/her parents were. That’s okay. The child is about to get on the bus and go to a place that actually cares. The child will get a warm breakfast and feel safe…for at least 7-8 hours today.

The child gets in the classroom and notices that the child that causes lots of issues is there. “Dangit. He makes my teacher speak loudly and get angry. This is the only part of the day where anyone speaks nicely to me, ” the child thinks.

The child does as he/she is told and, like always, classroom time is interrupted many times with the teacher redirecting the other child. Finally, the teacher gets up and grabs the child to put him/her back in their seat and all of a sudden the teacher has tears and is screaming for help.

The other child has hurt your teacher by punching her and biting her. You don’t know what to do. You do know that you want to cry because you love your teacher and she is the only person who hugs you every day.

The teacher then has to leave and you get thrown into another classroom with kids you don’t know that well with someone who hasn’t earned your trust. A safe place has now turned into a scary place.

When is enough going to be enough? There are students in multiple classrooms with these kinds of behavioral issues. I have seen blood be drawn. I have seen chairs thrown. I was actually held down on the floor one day by the same child who punched and bit. There is always an excuse.

We can NOT excuse poor behavior. We just can’t. There are other students watching. They are constantly learning. Something has to be done with foul language (there needs to be a punishment). And something has to be done with assaulting a teacher. A teacher should NOT be scared of a student. This should be ZERO tolerance and the child should automatically be expelled. PLEASE wake up. Please hear the cries from your teachers. Please hear the cries from the parents. Please hear the cries from the other children. I genuinely thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

Dad Gone Wild is always here to support teachers, parents, and students. In that role we welcome any submissions. Drop me an email at norinrad10.com. Thank you for your support.

2 thoughts

  1. To get a counselor full time in every school will be way more than $1 million. At just 1 mil it is sharing across maaany schools.

    Honestly, I’d rather start by ensuring all ES (and ALCs, ahem) have SROs. But to get this and get trauma counselors you might as well forget fundng anything else for a long while.

    PS-anyone else notice that the mayor couldn’t even fund operations from the land sales?? Does not bode well.

  2. there have got to be some conflict of interest rules for board members, and probably rules about outside consulting fees for admin employees. the grift HAS TO STOP.

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