The Continuing War on School Discipline

Governor Ralph Northam (right) at bill signing ceremony at Henderson Middle School. (Photo credit Richmond Times-Dispatch.)

Last week Governor Ralph Northam signed two bills limiting the suspensions Virginia schools can mete out to maintain student discipline. One bill bars school divisions from suspending students in pre-K through 3rd grade for more than three days; the other reduces the cap for long-term suspensions from 364 calendar days to 45 school days.

“There is power in every child,” the governor said, as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We want to keep our children in school.”

The justification cited for the changes, as Bacon’s Rebellion readers will immediately surmise, is not based upon research showing that reduced suspensions are more effective means of discipline, they are based upon the disproportionate percentage of black students referred to law enforcement. The T-D frames the issue as part of the larger movement to combat the so-called “school to prison pipeline.”

Data released by the U.S. Department of Education in April show that while black students made up 15 percent of national enrollment in 2015-16, they accounted for 31 percent of students referred to law enforcement or arrested that year.

Every Richmond-area school division posted law enforcement referral rates at or worse than the national average.

I don’t have a big beef with the bills that Northam signed. You’d have to be a really bad-ass 3rd grader to warrant suspension for more than three days. And a year-long suspension for, say, a 10th grader, amounts to an expulsion for all practical purposes. I’m more concerned about how the issue is framed to justify a more therapeutic approach to school discipline, enacted by local school boards, that makes disruptive students the primary focus of compassion and concern.

“Exclusionary discipline is myopic and harmful. We cannot continue to use access to education as a punishment for student conduct and expect positive results from either students or schools,” said Amy Woolard, a staff attorney and policy coordinator at Virginia’s Legal Aid Justice Center upon the release of a report she authored in October.

Do social justice warriors like Woolard care about the kids whose educations are disrupted by misbehaving students? Let’s re-frame the issue: What percentage of minority kids attend classes where disciplinary issues detract from the teacher’s ability to teach? What percentage of minority kids find, as a result, that they gain less complete mastery of the subject matter — as measured by SOLs and other standardized test scores — than they would have if the disciplinary problems had been removed? If the education of a disproportionate percentage of minority kids is stunted due to the misbehavior of their peers, isn’t that a form of racism, too?

We don’t know the answers because nobody asks the questions and nobody bothers to measure. When nobody measures, there’s no injustice for the SJWs to decry. When there’s no injustice to decry for SJWs to decry, the real victims remain invisible. Where Northam says, “We want to keep our children in school,” I say, “We want the children in school to learn.”

There are currently no comments highlighted.

15 responses to “The Continuing War on School Discipline

  1. Isn’t the right answer to set up a separate school in each district (or groups of smaller districts) where you can send serial screw-ups? Setup a program where ex combat vets can get their education degrees and certificates at the state’s expense in return for teaching for at least 10 years in these specialty schools.

    The more people like The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond and Governor / Doctor Dolittle mollycoddle young miscreants the more parents of non-miscreants will home school or move their kids to private / parochial schools. Then the SJWs will howl about how bad society has become with only the children of poor people attending public schools.

    Liberalism is a mental disorder.

  2. Also …

    Which reason required the GA to pass these bills and Dr Feelgood to sign them:

    1. The teachers and administrators in public school systems (like the City of Richmond) are evil racists who must be prevented from discriminating against African American children,

    Or –

    2. The lawyers, gadflies and grifters in the GA know more about education and maintaining school discipline than the teachers and administrators who have spent their lives educating children.

    Has to be one or the other, doesn’t it?

    • Wow, did that comment get a strong response!!! My e-mail inbox is blowing up. Gadflies and grifters from all over the Commonwealth are completely pissed off that I included them in the same category as lawyers. I formally apologize to all Virginia’s hard working gadflies and grifters.

  3. The cause of almost all school discipline problems is in the home. Data show that children of traditional, in-tact families do better in school and in society. The government is wasting much money dealing with the symptoms and not the causes. The government should work, instead, on teaching the students how to be good parents and good, faithful spouses. Discipline problems might persist until the current students, armed with this element of education, have their own children.

  4. I want to hear from Larry on this one. So far, I think Fred and DJ have it right.

    • I’m on an epic road trip to see the less visited National Parks and Monuments. We just left Basin NP and will be visiting Lassen Volcanic tomorrow so.. I’m off the grid at times although we do have our trusty MiFi…

      I agree with DJ and Fred and ask the question… how do you “fix” a kid who has awful parents?

      Bonus Question – if you suspend him and he does mess up big time – do we then create another uber bad parent?

      what so you guys?

  5. I would suggest the better option would be to turn the clock back a couple of decades. I can distinctly remember the sting of the special paddle (with appropriate holes drilled in it to increase velocity) wielded by the principal at Boeblingen Elementary School. The use of that disciplinary measure was at the absolute discretion of the principal and was generally not preceded by calls to the parents. Judgement, sentencing and execution of the sentence were generally accomplished within three minutes, four minutes for officer’s children as it took an extra minute to explain to the little miscreant (I speak from experience) that the principal would take the time to call said officer and inform him of the crime, sentencing and execution, usually to ensure a home version of the trial before Taps.

    Unless one was particularly incorrigible (guilty as charged), such episodes were one-time affairs.

    • I got paddled once. Seventh grade. Dim witted gym teacher / assistant football coach paddled me for next to nothing. When I became a freshman he was an assistant coach. It took a while but there was finally a play in front of our bench and I was coming across the field at top speed from my safety spot. Somehow I missed the tackle but did manage to put my shoulder pad squarely into the redneck asshat’s face. He went ass over teakettles into the water cooler. “Oh sorry coach! You shouldn’t stand so close to the sideline during plays.” I think he knew it wasn’t a mistake but by then I was too big and strong for him to even consider taking me on … paddle or not. Funny thing about bullies who like to hit kids with sticks. Sometimes the kids grow up and remember.

  6. For better or worse, paddling is out… the frustrating aspect is that you got bad kids who got bad parents… and what can – and should – the public school system – which guarantees an education to every dumbass who exists – do about it?

    Bacon and company seem to prefer to bail out cuz it’s a “culture” thing but how many Americans made it – because we DID have a public school system?

    Education is the key to a person becoming a responsible adult. Public education provides that opportunity to all of us regardless of how bad our parents were.

    It’s a conundrum…

  7. I am also on a trip using my phone. I supported both bill’s and not for pay, but as a board member for Families Forward. The first one deals with K-3. Think about that a second. Is a long suspension, an academic death sentence, really a good choice for a second grader? What will a week do that a single day will not? Remember the earlier discussions about poor attendance. The second bill as Jim notes prohibits suspensions that are in effect expulsions. Sounds like Jim is actually ok with both bills.

    There is too much data about racial disparity in this practice to ignore or dismiss. The schools are unfairly placed on the front line in this situation, but there it is, since the problems start elsewhere. When I get a chance perhaps I can dig into this.

    • I hope you enjoy your trip. Why would an administrator give a second grader a long suspension? There must be a reason. These people don’t hate kids. They’ve devoted their lives to working with kids.

      What bothers me is the GA thinking they know more than the professionals who have spent decades running schools. Ignorance coupled with arrogance is a bad combination.

      As for racial disparity, I’m sure that’s true if you say it’s true. But aren’t most of the teachers and administrators in the City of Richmond School District liberals or left leaning? What percentage of administrators and teachers are African-American? Are they racists? Do you contend that the racial differential is an example of blatant racism? The students in the Richmond Public School System are 75% black. The teachers and administrators are prejudiced against three quarters of the students they teach?

      This sounds like feel good legislation passed without understanding the underlying problems.

    • As a former School Board Member and chair in CT, a long time ago, I know there are options out there. I do not know where VA stands on trying those other options, or what newer solutions are being tried.
      First “in house” suspension is one and seems reasonable. School work must still be done and the fun parts of school are out. When normal discipline options were exhausted our district opted for psych evaluations and the potential of special schooling through transfer to alternative schools. That of course costs money.
      Once the extent of latch key kids was known, we offered after school programs that were well received and significant for the kids. That too costs money.
      For the little guys .. the best solution has proven to be early childhood ed., another solution that also costs.
      Suspension as policy seems “penny wise and pound foolish.”

  8. My experience with this was through my ex-wife. She initially taught skills development and then became the reading specialist at a middle school in the Tidewater area. Her classes were small in size, about 9-12 students and all were considered disciplinary problems. When she got the job I told her she was teaching the Sweat Hogs, welcome back Mr. Kotter. In addition to math, and writing she taught reading. With the Principal’s permission she gave them all reading tests and found that on average, they were 4-5 grades below 7th grade. She provided intensive remedial reading lessons and the students improved, some dramatically, some just enough to get by. The number of disciplinary infractions went down because in their other classes they were not as frustrated. It’s hard to get any education if you can’t read.
    I am not a fan of blanket rules because each situation has unique, and sometimes compelling details. Sometimes it is just because that person is a little piece of dung. There are those. So I would feel better if more emphasis appeared to placed on root cause analysis at the school. This may mean hiring a LCSW to help look deeper into each students problems. So be it. I agree with the Governor that ending the HS to Prison pipeline is a good thing.

  9. Please, to understand the suffering and the abuse that our schools today impose on our children, Please see this video:

    How can Governor Ralph Northham sign such a bill?

    This must be changed. I am sure it will. But it will hard. Beyond that abuse these sorts of laws heap on our children, this video also exposes our current society’s refusal to face its social and cultural problems. How instead it desperately seeks scapegoats. And how it punishes all its own children, all of them, in the process.

Leave a Reply