More school discipline is urged Parents, teachers seek decorum so students can learn

April 02, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

It's time for Anne Arundel County teachers and parents to take charge and provide discipline so that teachers can teach and students can learn.

That was the consensus of parents and educators who met last night at Annapolis High School for a forum on school discipline problems sponsored by the County Council of PTAs. No students were present, although the PTA committee studying the issue had hoped to hear from them.

"As leaders, we've become submissive to the negativism," said Laura Webb, principal of Annapolis High School. "We've got to come to a decision that we're going to have safe, orderly schools, we're going to require teachers to teach and require students to learn and we're going to produce young people who will go out into this confused world and hopefully get a job."

Zaster Simms, an Annapolis Middle School staffer who is community liaison, agreed. "These kids want discipline. It's time to stop playing with it."

There's no question that when some county students are bad, they're really bad.

This week two students at Chesapeake Bay Middle School were arrested and charged with being involved in a drug transaction; an 18-year-old North County High School student reported she was raped inside the school; a 14-year-old boy was charged with stabbing another teen in the chest at Brooklyn Park-Lindale Middle School; a 14-year-old boy was caught with a .22-caliber handgun inside Corkran Middle School in Glen Burnie; and a 15-year-old South River High School student was charged as a juvenile with possession of a firearm on school property after a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun was found in his locker.

The discussion last night at the first of four forums was over how to reach such students and teach them acceptable behavior. That way teachers can spend less time disciplining children and students can learn without distraction.

The PTA committee plans to issue a report in June with recommendations for changing how students are punished.

"I'm not disappointed in the turnout at all," said Carolyn Roeding, president of the County Council of PTAs and a member of the discipline committee, who had hoped to see some students among the 40 people who attended. "It's working. Just listen."

Susan Gross, a parent, was first to speak. As a school volunteer she sees that violent behavior begins at an early age with pushing and shoving. "At a young age, we have to talk to them about appropriate behavior," she said.

Self-control is the answer, said Joanne Foster, another parent.

"No one's taught them that there's a time and a place for certain things," said Mrs. Foster. "They don't know how to conform to rules. They're disrespectful."

Another problem is misplaced loyalty, said Annapolis Middle School Principal Kevin Dennehy.

"Loyalty among peers is a growing force," he said. "It's difficult to sort out what happened during an incident when they'd rather lie for their friends than tell the truth."

Susan Pheiffer, a former teacher, told committee members to consider shortening the time "between crime and punishment" because sometimes weeks go by before a student is punished "and he doesn't care."

She also advocated in-house suspensions where students study a separate room at school, instead of being sent home.

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