Barking at teachers?

School discipline: Recent cases of unruly students merited firmer,more proportional responses.

February 16, 1999

HANDLING discipline problems in school may be an art rather than exact science. Unfortunately, Anne Arundel County's recent handling of two separate incidents produced an ugly portrait.

Late last month, county police issued a juvenile citation to a disruptive second-grader at Freetown Elementary in Glen Burnie. They charged him with criminal assault for behavior that, while inexcusable, warranted less than police intervention. Meanwhile, from Chesapeake High School in Pasadena came the story of an A-student who knew enough to earn a 3.8-grade point average, but not enough to stop intimidating a teacher whose lackluster recommendation may have kept him out of the National Honor Society.

In the Freetown incident, a second-grader pretended to urinate on a teachers' aide and shoved a teacher. He deserved to be reprimanded and his parents summoned. But why is the school system making such a case a police matter? The school system has psychologists and counselors on staff who should be able to remove an unruly student from the classroom, arrange a meeting with his parents and develop a plan to correct his behavior.

Chesapeake High senior Franklin Pierce Wright III also apparently was in need of discipline. He admits to barking in hallways at a teacher who denied him membership in his school chapter of the National Honor Society, and beeping his car horn when he passes her house. Perhaps Mr. Wright's exclusion from the honor society was arbitrary and unfair, but the student should be informed that this is not the last disappointment he will ever have to deal with. One of the toughest lessons in life is dealing with failure, justified or not.

No pupil has the right to hound or harass a teacher, or a peer. Mr. Wright's parents and school administrators should have made clear long ago that he could repair his behavior or risk expulsion.

Pub Date: 2/16/99

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