It’s important to pay attention to how discipline will be used in a child’s school.
On the first day, a parent might be shocked upon entering their child’s kindergarten classroom to be handed a student conduct code or rule book by a smiling teacher.
This book will have all the dos and don’ts involving behavior. It makes for vivid reading. It will include rules about suspensions, expulsions, and appeal procedures.
School districts usually use this same handbook for K-12. So, parents get this booklet every year with minor changes.
Or, if you live in Pasco County, Florida, the land of third grade retention, Betsy DeVos’s blessing, graded schools, and fly-by-night charters, you might be puzzled and angry to learn rules in one elementary school include stopping anarchy in kindergarten. Here is the updated article.
The rules go like this:
A is for Anarchy
That’s the lowest level, where there’s fear of a lack of order that’s aimless and chaotic. In other words, kindergartners take over the classroom and hell breaks loose. Kind of like the Booking.com ad. I mentioned in another post, only the teachers have already had their summer vacations.
B is for Bullying
There are other concerns. B rules want to nip bullying in the bud. But they end by stating that to stop a child from bullying, the child “must be bossed to behave.”
So apparently adults are supposed to bully the bullying student so they will stop bullying. Try that tongue twister.
C is for Conformity
Children are to cooperate, be considerate, and conform to peer pressure! This is labeled EXternal motivation.
The last thing most parents want to hear is that their child should follow the crowd.
D is for Democracy
Democracy includes self-discipline, initiative and responsibility. In other words, children should not step out of line. Does this also mean that students won’t be allowed to question right from wrong?
Democracy is supposedly “inseparable from responsibility” in this rule. It is INternal motivation. It isn’t clear what kind of responsibility they mean.
The problem with this elementary school in Pasco County is that they implemented this program created by an education writer named Marvin Marshall. The program is called the “Raise Responsibility” system.
They should have first democratically run this by teachers and parents within the school and the school district.
Check Out Disciplinary Procedures in All Schools
But rules and how school discipline is handled should be questioned in every school and every school district. Parents need to understand their rights when it comes to school rules and their children. This is especially important if the school has a resource officer.
In Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students I have a chapter about the criminalization of students.
School Resource Officers (SROs) are sometimes called Peace Officers. They can be a meaningful addition to the school. But their role at the school should be carefully defined. They along with school administrators, might be able to carry out the following:
- get arrest warrants without informing students of their rights,
- require student statements, written or verbal, which can be used against them in court,
- insist that a student be interrogated without a parent present,
- seek criminal charges even if the victim, or the victim’s parents, don’t want to prosecute,
- require parents to get a subpoena to hear the witness’s statements.
The above activity can go beyond what happens to someone accused outside of school!
The following is a list of how school rules should be devised and handled. Some of this is based on the results of the American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force. Zero Tolerance has been controversial for years.
The APA suggest the following school modifications concerning discipline. I’ve added others.
- Include teachers, parents and students in devising school rules.
- Rely on teachers and administrators within the school building.
- Always include parents if possible in disciplinary decisions.
- Create student governing boards.
- Address social justice issues fairly.
- Be flexible when it comes to understanding what’s behind the infraction.
- Understand child development and behaviors appropriate for the age group at the school.
- Teachers and professional staff should be the first point of contact regarding school disciplinary incidents.
- Parents should be notified immediately and included in the solution.
- Zero tolerance should be used for only the most serious and severely disruptive behaviors.
- One-size-fits all discipline should end.
- Gear discipline to the seriousness of the infraction.
- School police and security officers should have training in the developmental level they oversee.
- Provide assistance to students who display emotional and behavioral problems in the classroom.
- Help at-risk youth reconnect to school with support.
- Use threat assessment procedures to identify children who repeatedly act out.
- Develop effective learning alternatives for students who display threatening behavior.
- Provide school counselors, psychologists, special education teachers and other staff for student support.
- Keep offenders in the educational system, but also keep other students and teachers safe.
So, while Pasco County stands out as doing something strange, a mess-up some parents are calling overblown, I am reminding all parents to double check those disciplinary code books and ask questions before students get in trouble.
Parents and teachers should review rules, and if unsatisfied, call for some involvement in rule making and determining how discipline is carried out in their school and school districts.