Friday, November 08, 2013

Postive Climate and Discipline Advisory Committee

The district is looking for new members for this committee.  The deadline is November 15th.

This might be a good time to talk about discipline issues in our schools.  What have you seen at your school, good and bad, in how teachers and principals handle discipline issues?   What do you think would help - more strategies, more cultural competencies, stricter discipline (if you think it is lax), uniforms?

One issue that came up recently was the interaction between Hale's principal, Jill Hudson, and a student who had recently returned from suspension.  As in any situation where there is conflict and physically interaction, there seems to be a variety of versions of what happened.  (I'll have to read the police report.)  But one report said that the student had been showing something to other students on a cell phone (and apparently the student either was not supposed to have a phone at school or what was being shown was inappropriate) and Ms. Hudson intervened.  One report says that she "taunted" the student in some way.  Most people say that the student did indeed chase her down a hall and she either stumbled to the ground in an effort to get away from the student or was pushed.

I bring this up as an example of issues around bringing back students from suspension and expectations when they return, policies around cell phone use at school by students, etc.

My throw-out thought is that discipline has to be consistent and fair.  Expectations need to be set at the start of the school year and there needs to be follow-thru.

However, in fairness to teachers and principals, is that sometimes it isn't the time to follow-thru.  As parents we all know there are situations where we'd like to take the time to discipline our children but save it.  We pick our battles.

So what may look  - to other students - like unfair treatment could be the case of a teacher who has seen other instances of misbehavior and has picked this time to enforce the policy.  Many times there is a backstory before an incident that others don't know about and it may look like a teacher or principal is overreacting.

But the record is clear - our district has a record of disproportionality of discipline to students of color and that needs to be addressed immediately.  I am disappointed that we have not heard more about this issue from the Superintendent.




17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Though I can't point to it exactly, I seem to recall reading on this blog that disproportionality in discipline is even worse for kids in Special Ed.

Off topic, but not fully:
What about that Level 4 designation for Special Ed with OSPI? Do you have any information about that?

curious

Mary Griffin said...

It looks like the deadline for nominations has been extended, as the old deadline was Nov. 1.

As far as disproportionality for students of color, that plays out differently for different groups/subgroups. Students who are Asian American, for example have a lower risk ratio(0.25:1)for discipline than students who are white, while students who are Pacific Islander have a rate similar to students who are African American (4.5:1) and students who are Native American(3:1). Students who have been identified as receiving special education services have a risk ratio of 5:1.

I will respond to the Level 4 designation for Special Ed with OsPI in the Friday open thread, as it is off topic here.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone sign up for this committee. It promises to affect exactly nothing. They can't even get committee members. Think individual building principals or exec directors will give a rodent's posterior as to what this group has to say? They won't. This is just a cya to get feds off the back of the district. OK, maybe it is also well-intentioned, but mostly it's cya.

Besides, LEV says "we have all the answers". Why bother with a piddling hidden SPS committee when this is LEV's current main reason for existence? They'll be sure to let the district know how to tackle the problem. Guess whose advice the district will then follow (if it listens at all).

DistrictWatcher

Anonymous said...

Speaking of discipline, does anyone know the rules about whether students who are expelled from an SPS middle or high school are allowed to return to that or any other middle or high school at any point? For example, if a kid is expelled from a middle school, is he permanently expelled from that middle school, or can he go back the following semester or following year? To the same school? Only a different school?

Also, if SPS assigns a minder (I'm sure that's not the official term) to a student to ensure the safety of other students when a previously disciplined student is allowed to return to an SPS school, is there increased liability on the district if that kid hurts another student on school grounds during school hours?

My son told me last week that a couple of kids who have been expelled (not suspended) from his middle school have later been allowed to return. One of these kids was assigned a minder by the district, possibly to manage possible violence. Tragically, yesterday the minder wasn't there, and the kid seriously injured another student during class (concussion/trip to hospital, etc).

I'm wondering what the district's responsibility is for this, and how to prevent this type of situation from occurring again.

-concerned

Anonymous said...

I feel like several of the topics that don't have to do with the boundary issue here today are related in a way that may not be obvious. Melissa posted that touching video and wrote about anti-bullying, we have this thread about positive climate and discipline, and we have the thread about Pinehurst. I have spent a lot of time in schools in the last 10 years as a parent volunteer and I have seen good and bad. A positive climate does not just happen. And there are schools where there is a positive climate for some kids but a very negative climate for others. If your kid is in the first group, you may not even realize there is a climate problem. If your kid is in the second group, talking with other parents who have happy kids can make you feel like an alien from another planet. In my opinion, it comes from the top with a strong principal who is a good leader and who makes a goal of putting students first. That means before himself, before the school district, before the teachers, and before the parents. The principal has to know the student body, understand where the kids are coming from and respect every kid as an individual. Every kid should feel like they not only have a place at school but that they are an important part of the school. When this is modeled from the top, when kids see this, they respond. Discipline can be fair and not harsh. There has to be room for kids to be themselves. A school can be wonderful in terms of academics and still be soul crushing for kids who are a little bit different if there is some kind of uniform culture that everyone is expected to reflect. This can be worse in schools where the parents are all the same or very similar in terms of race and socio-economic background. Good principals make it a goal to have a school where there is room for all kinds of outliers, whether that means kids with special needs, advanced learners, kids who look different than the others, LGBTQ kids, or those with different cultural backgrounds. This is the beauty of public school, and what public school is supposed to be about! When kids feel valued and respected, they WANT to please the principal and their teachers. When kids feel tolerated, or worse, unwelcome, they act out. Every school has a social and emotional curriculum these days, but most do this very very poorly. I have seen kids "act out" an anti-bullying scene in class showing what not to do and what to do, and the SAME kids go out on the playground where one bullies the other and no one does anything. Teachers often are not even clued in to this kind of thing, either because they aren't really paying attention or because they are getting some kind of payoff for allowing the bullying. Often the kid who is being bullied the most is punished more or more harshly than the other kids in the class. Schools that do a really good job with social and emotional curriculum don't spend an hour a week on them. The infuse them into the whole school at every level. They use every lesson to teach social and emotional stuff. Alternative schools are often great for kids who don't do well at traditional schools because of their "whole child" approach. Every thing I have said here about what works is part of the whole child philosophy. It makes a big difference! That's why what happened to Pinehurst is so very sad.

Gen Ed Mom

mirmac1 said...

Gen Ed Mom,

What you say resonates with me especially this year. My child, despite being gentle and sweet, get the cold shoulder because she wants acceptance. Makes me want to take her out of the school that I have supported from day one. Today she tells me "I'm going to try and be even nicer so that they will talk to me."

This in spite of my proactive efforts to foster an atmosphere of respect and acceptance of differences.

Anonymous said...

I heard from an art teacher today about the eighth graders who rally around and love a special needs sixth grader. When one of the "in-crowd" sixth grader kids made a mean comment, the older kid jumped to his defense, calling his art "creative and cool."

There's nothing like older kids modeling to help same age peers change their attitudes. Mirmac, maybe you can suggest to your principal some possibilities for eight grader(s)doing mentoring for your daughter and others. This can also be a way for a big school to develop a better sense of community. Even with an excellent principal and teachers, a large school (most middle schools) can lose the sense of support that some kids desperately need.

Also, Gen Ed mom, thanks for your thoughtful and very informative comment.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

Mirmac, that makes me so sad. If you aren't getting help from the principal (have you talked to the principal?) where can you go next? Your daughter deserves an environment where she is wanted! One parent can't create a culture at a school. And enough already, I see your point. I know it's more cost effective to have large middle schools but it seems like it's not really optimal for middle school age kids.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Mirmac, that just breaks my heart. :( Well stated Gen Ed Mom.

This is an issue that I hold very dear to my heart. Every time I see a teacher try to discipline a "difference" out of a child, I am filled with grief, and I see it all of the time. It begins with holding kids in from recess or sticking them in the hallway during class. Today I witnessed a special education student (who struggles socially) be excluded from a "Roots of Empathy" class because he was being too disruptive. The irony of his removal during THAT class was completely lost his teacher. I was in tears. Many of my colleagues seem completely stumped when it comes to dealing with behavior- punishment and exclusion (with a hefty dose of shaming) are often their only tools for dealing with children who struggle to sit, listen and perform. Our teachers need more training, and a great deal of it. I wish I could be on this committee.
TS

Anonymous said...

TS, you absolutely should be on this committee! I am always surprised by how many teachers have very little tolerance for children who have a little spirit or are wiggly or don't have great social skills. The other thing that KILLS me is parents volunteering in the classroom and then gossiping about the behavior of the kids. When I go into a school even as a parent, I am there for the kids. It's their school. If I can't put their needs first I should find somewhere else to volunteer. I need to support all the kids and assume the best about each and every one of them. If they are acting in a way that bothers me I need to remind myself that I am an adult with more coping skills and life experience to fall back on then they have.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

TS - what school is this? could you let somebody know who can do something about it? can you notify somebody who supervises that building.

This is what causes sleeplessness and hopelessness, this treatment of our special needs students.

reader

Lynn said...

Mirmac,

I'm sorry you're dealing with this. I know that feeling of helplessness when a child isn't happy. Short-term I've looked for outside activities that my child enjoys and is good at. That success - and having something to look forward to - can be helpful.

Anonymous said...

Reader,
I'm lucky to be in a building with an understanding principal, and no, I did not keep quiet. He will respond, I am certain.

Unfortunately, the committee is meeting on a day of the week that does not work with my schedule.
TS

Anonymous said...

Sadly, TS doesn't need to name names of schools. TS you are right that teachers need more tools in their discipline toolkit. They also need smaller classes. This kind of thing is going on every day in every school. While I don't condone spirit-crushing discipline, I get why it happens. With class sizes of 32+ and no second adult for support, and predatory principals (who are being encouraged to weed out experienced expensive teachers in favor of TFA) walking in evaluate to teachers' classroom management, a wiggly child is dangerous to that teacher's career. I do not exaggerate. This is the school climate under which teachers are operating, even as they try hard to keep a good climate for the kids. I'd like to see most of the people who comment here try and keep order with 32+ kids with varying needs and abilities - all day long - and actually get content taught. In many schools there is no admin support and entitled parents who escalate without getting the whole picture. If a (female) teacher so much as raises her voice, the parent phone calls to the principal will be coming. Someone should analyze discipline rates of principals toward teachers. Male teachers get away with all kind of bullying because it's just their style, while women are expected to be cloyingly sweet.

Admin doesn't want their discipline numbers to go up, so the kid has to be completely off the wall before you can send them out to the office to pull themselves together.

Waiting for McCleary!!!

open ears

Anonymous said...

Well, like I said WFM, it comes from
the top! That's sad, sad, sad. Who can work under those conditions? No wonder there is not a "positive climate". There is no trust! And no support! No wonder kids act out.

Gen Ed Mom

mirmac1 said...

Thank you for your heartwarming wishes. I've called for an IEP meeting next week.

Anonymous said...

@concerned: if a kid is expelled from a school, they are not allowed back at that school. They may be assigned to a different school after a "reentry" program. See here:

http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?sessionid=&pageid=229258

I hope I am misunderstanding what you said: a kid was expelled, allowed to return to the same school, and then sent another kid to the hospital? That ... should not happen.

jsh