SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: The NYC DOE Discipline Code Is A Joke and a Disservice to Students

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The NYC DOE Discipline Code Is A Joke and a Disservice to Students

Bear with me while I get to my opinion about today's revelation in the Daily News that the discipline code as been watered down. You'll see what I am getting at.

When I was a junior in high school, in the middle of math class I asked Mr Costa if he had any naked photos of his wife. After he "harumphed" several times, I then blurted out if he wished to buy some. That got me a week's detention. It kind of made a point with me, but with Mr Costa being such a dick, I continued to be the class wise ass.

That same year in science class, Ms Amy the teacher was busting my chops about something. I muttered under my breath, "Jesus Christ." She looked at me and told me that for cursing in class I just earned a week's detention. Being Jewish and failing to understand how I had cursed I muttered those two magic words again. Snap, two weeks detention. I never uttered those words again.

In my sophomore year I had a real tool for geometry, Mr Frigo. Frigo was of German descent and that previous summer I learned a German word from a camp counselor, "scheistkopf" (shithead). I raised my hand one day in class while he was teaching us about right angles and asked if he knew what a scheistkopf is, He said yes, and I gave him a glaring look letting him know that I thought he was one. That was the final straw and I was thrown out of the class permanently and transferred to someone else.

My senior year I decided to cut classes. A lot. The protocol at my school was to announce the names of the students who had cut the previous day during the morning announcements and to have those students report to Mr Deitch, the AP. It would take me about a week or so (and in the meantime still blow off classes) to report to the AP's office where I would hear the speech that it is my senior year, that I mustn't cut, yada, yada, yada. I would say OK, and walk out of his office and blow off my next class. My parents were never notified, nothing ever happened, so why should I stop doing what I was doing?

My freshman year in high school during a morning free period a friend and I went out to the football field and under the bleachers smoked a joint. My next class was Algebra and came in completely baked. I couldn't shut my yap and I was acting weird. Nothing happened to me. I was to get baked again.

So today when I read that the DOE is now going to go soft on students that show;
"disorderly behavior,” such as smoking, gambling, swearing, lying to teachers and leaving school without permission, will get a slap on the wrist instead of their walking papers. Educators will now respond to such behavior with reprimands, parent conferences and lunchtime detentions."
Yes, in an elementary school we really do not need to worry about the smoking and gambling or leaving the school without permission. But we need to worry about the "runners," the students who run out of class, the students who run around the halls all day.

Reprimands don't work. Parent conferences can work, but it is up to the parent if they show, if they follow up with punishment at home or if they even care. Lunchtime detentions? Big deal. Especially in the winter if the kids do not go outside. In fact, who will be watching the students during lunchtime detentions?

Don't the vast majority of the students in the classroom who are not disruptive and are there to learn have a right to a education free of stress, of disruption, of unacceptable behavior?

But this dolt at the DOE, Margie Feinberg said; 
"....the new rules will keep kids who commit “low-level infractions” in class, where they can learn from their mistakes.
That is a laugher. Learn from their mistakes? Yeah, the News reports that;
Meanwhile, students who display “disruptive behavior,” such as disobeying teachers, pushing other kids, or vandalizing school property, can still be suspended.
So does this mean the very first time a student throws a chair across the room he will be suspended? The first time a 5th grader tells a teacher to "fuck off they will be suspended? The first time a 4th grader jabs a student with a pencil he will be suspended? No! Why? It's because principals do not want suspensions showing up on their watch. It is better to bury your head in the sand, sweep it under the rug, rather than deal with the issue.

Those instances I mentioned above about myself, looking back I wish I had some type of boundaries set by not only my parents, but the school as well. I too often was allowed to get away with stuff, never suffering any real consequences. I was never a troublemaker, just someone with a big mouth wish I loved to use.

As I wrote last month about the Happy Good Time Emotion Response Place and School, this liberal way of dealing with bad behavior will hurt the students in the long run.

Yes, I know how many of these students are hurting inside. How many of them come from real screwed up homes, families, situations. But we as educators are doing these students a disservice if we don't teach them life's lessons. If the bad behavior is enabled each and every student is being damaged. 

Yet, too often it is enabled. How can it be stopped? The parents of the students who are caught in the crossfire must stand up and fight for the rights of their children to be in a safe environment. Never in Scarsdale, or Roslyn, or Franklin Lakes will a student be allowed by the parents to disrupt the learning process. when my son was in 1st grade there was a very troubled student in the class. He threw pencils, cursed at the teacher, punched students. The parents of my son's class knew that a squeaky wheel gets oiled. Each instance was brought to the attention of the principal. The principal had a zero tolerance policy. The boy was suspended multiple times until finally the boy was removed from the school and sent to another school.

There must be a zero tolerance policy of discipline in the NYC DOE. Yes, of course there will be mitigating factors and those factors must be used in any decision of discipline, but the excuses must end, the parents must fight back against administrators who cover up, sweep under the rug such behavior.

When this happens, it will be a small, yet important step, to improving the school culture in NYC.


bookworm said...

I have often wondered in amazement how the parents of the "good" kids in a class with a group of over-the-top disruptive students stay so quiet while their children are deprived of an opportunity to exercise their right to an education.

As you said, here in the 'burbs, NO parent would tolerate their child being in a situation where furniture was flying, and cursing/screaming/running were the orders of the day. Those parents would be storming the main office until the perpetrators were removed or until their children were placed in a different class.

Often the parents of the "disruptive" kids are inept, absent, disinterested, or simply overwhelmed with other issues that they are unable or unwilling to reign in their child, which is why it is imperative that the parents of the "good" kids stand up and refuse to allow their children to endure these learning conditions.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

I am a Schwartz v. Schuker (298 F. Supp. 238) purist:

"Gross disrespect and contempt for the officials of an educational institution may be justification not only for suspension but also for expulsion of a student."

Expel away!

Anonymous said...

My perspective:
NYC DOE doesn't do anything b/c more kids enrolled in public schools means more tax money in funding. Administrators by being soft on students like your past self do this to prevent lawsuits from uncompromising parents. This system lets kids get away with murder system b/c it'll make the school's report card looks better b/c Admin wants their tenure, Students play the game to barely passing high school, a baby sitting service...The system is dysfunctional. There's not good or bad students. The bad students are those that are forced to say math class, or forced to academia, when they would be better off in a class like auto shop. The bad student is that one who's bored having to wait to learn new material b/c he/she is placed with classmates that are at a slower level but the school lacks the funds to have an honors or accelerated program or even lied to the student of the quality of the school in order to recieve more government funding.