It's Irresponsibility In Schools, Not Race

COMMENT

November 07, 1993|By STEPHEN WALLIS

A recent article in The Sun read, "Black Suspensions Worry Schools." Many responsible citizens of every color would like to feel that the parents of those disruptive children worried or cared enough themselves to accept responsibility for their children's irresponsible behavior and their own individual parental ineptitude. But to expect others of every ethnicity to tolerate and accept disruption to teaching and learning is itself unreasonable.

Educators find exhausting the protracted parent telephone calls and conferences regarding their disruptive children, who often have equally difficult parents unsupportive of school efforts. We should consider the following:

* Schools could acknowledge the many tax-paying citizens who feel that too many school system policies on student discipline are bland and seemingly written more to avoid legal entanglements than to send a clear message that disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. * School systems can stop listening to those who are quick to use race to rationalize failures or successes.

* Discipline should be substantive, caring, responsible and nurturing. Youngsters ought not be denied the opportunity to understand and experience discipline as another avenue in promoting growth, cultivating personal accountability and effecting positive change.

* Individual school parent groups can encourage other parents to give up a vacation day and spend it in the schools in the effort to monitor the student population and assist teachers and students. Parents need only see what goes on every day in the schools to appreciate the position of teachers.

* School systems could require the parents of disruptive students to accompany their children to classes. Having employed this in the past, I know that there can be positive results from such a practice.

* Schools could offer the parents of students facing suspension the option of accompanying their child to all classes, including the lunch hour.

* Schools could require students on suspension to perform community service for the period of time on suspension.

* School systems could charge parents of disruptive students for the inordinate time expended by teaching staff to try and effect a positive change in behavior. If, for example, a teacher spends a total of two hours in a particular week conferring with the child and speaking on the phone with the parent, and a counselor and administrator are needed, then the parent might be presented a bill for, say $513.50 for the time that otherwise would have been spent on the running of a school.

* School systems could practice using Breathalyzers on school grounds and at school-sponsored events when a student is suspected of alcohol or drug use. Due process, of course, would be employed, but if they refuse, the students would be banned from all extracurricular activities for the remainder of the year. You can be confident that few, if any, kids will want to take the chance of getting drunk before or during a school activity. My bet would be that the majority of students would welcome such a stand on a scourge that is fast claiming too many of our youngsters' lives.

* Schools could provide an area of the building that is run in an ROTC program-like fashion for unruly students, who are placed in the program by school staff. Students would remain in the program until a substantive change in behavior was demonstrated. Should the parent refuse this recommendation, the student would be withdrawn from school. The student could apply for admission to an evening school or another public school, pending approval by central office administrators. The message again is that under no circumstances is the school to be used to warehouse the result of someone else's inept parenting or a student's continued obstinacy.

* The whole notion of self-esteem as a sunny, feel-good exercise practiced in far too many schools is undermining real education and achievement. Genuine self-esteem rests on effort, conscientiousness and mastery. We used to say in our school, "Let's go teach the students!" We meant all students . . . every one every day of the academic year. And while this profession admittedly has its mediocre-to-poor teachers and administrators throughout its ranks that ought well be removed, I've yet to encounter a colleague who would not extend the effort to offer assistance or guidance to any youngster. In the vernacular of some of our high school cherubs, we need to "get real" and look seriously at tackling this dilemma if we are to rid our schools of the double standard that too many of our students believe exists.

The writer is an assistant principal at Wilde Lake High School.

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