My daughter is in her last year of Middle School right now, in the Gifted and Talented program. She can't wait to go on to high school. If you ask her why, she'll tell you because she wants to be around students who want to be there and who want to work. Her least favorite classes now are ones where there are kids who misbehave, or take away instructional time with misbehaving.
While I know my daughter's distractions are relatively minor, her comments were in my mind as I've been following changes to the discipline code within JCPS. The bulk of the information and focus of the discipline code has been on finding ways of equitably addressing discipline while trying to keep the student within a learning environment.
These goals are noble, and understandable. It certainly is much better to try and intervene at an early age and get a child on the right path then simply to kick them to the curb.
But what I don't see within the discussion is concern about how the way in which you discipline a student for misbehavior impacts the students and teachers who are in the classrooms with those children. In the past year we've seen multiple stories and videos of kids shoving each other down bleachers, getting into fights, and intimidating and harassing teachers and other students verbally, physically, and sexually. My own daughter has witnessed two instances in which teachers were injured trying to break up fights. As parents, we hear stories of kids removed from the classroom only to be returned to offend again. If you are a student trying to learn and follow the proper path or a teacher trying to help your students learn right and wrong, what message is sent to you when you see multiple offenders allowed to stay in the classroom or shuffle from school to school until they either age out, or commit a violent crime, sometimes against faculty or students. If my daughter has difficulty learning and focusing in an environment with relatively minor discipline issues, what is it like for a child who is trying to learn in an environment of continual interruptions and repeated instances of violent behavior without serious repercussions for the offender.
Again, I understand completely what JCPS is TRYING to accomplish with a revised discipline code. But it is not clear to any of us who send our children to school each day how you can make a weaker discipline code work when clearly the one we have is failing the kids who are trying to learn, and the teachers who teach them. For months, parents and community members have been asking for a comprehensive plan on discipline, one that provides appropriate training and resources to help our teachers and staff deal with these issues in a way that will help them get on the right path. Without that plan, I fear that these guidelines only serve to feed the perception, and potentially the reality that many JCPS schools provide an environment that is unsafe and not conducive to learning for the students they serve.