Saturday, May 19, 2007



WTF? Have CT state legislators lost their minds? The CT state legislature wants to—I kid you not—"severely limit" out-of-school suspensions because, as the Hartford Courant reports “out-of-school suspensions can alienate troubled students and discourage them from pursuing their education.” You’ve got to be kidding me! Some legislators, who are as qualified to understand public education as ultra-unqualified Maggie Spellings, think that teachers and administrators are the problem.

Granted, the number of out-of-school suspensions for last year in CT at first glance is staggering: 77,000, the Courant reports. This number includes pre-K students to those lovely children whom I teach, the 9-12 garden variety. However, what these statistics don’t reveal, though, is what the suspensions were for, whether or not the suspensions were short—2 days—or 10 days long, whether or not prior to the suspension other intervention was involved, etc. In short, there’s more than just staggering numbers.

I believe that no educator I know and respect likes it when a student is suspended. Note: the “I know and respect” clause. It’s true: like in any profession and domain, including the Bush administration, we have the incompetent, the overpaid, the scary lunatic clique, and the WTF do you have this job for group. In fact, just this week another school leader and I actually got on a magic carpet fantasy ride to imagine selecting colleagues whom we would have if we could create our own school; talk about a trip! Regardless of all the bad apples—and there are many, I still can’t think of one teacher who aims to get kids suspended.

Disempowering public school administrators and teachers once again makes no sense. Nowadays, teachers in many instances have little recourse to address a student wrong-doing without going to such lengths as to employ a NY law team to prove a kid was wrong; those of us who’ve been on the word-for-word-it’s-so-obvious plagiarism path know this all too well. And burdening teachers with more “detention-center” duties, whether it’s in their own room or in an ISS (in school suspension) office isn’t helpful either.

Word has it that the legislature aims to structure the bill in a way that would make out-of-school suspension possible if and only if violence is involved—great! So basically a kid can tell a teacher to “f**k off,” get time-out for a spa day or two in school and come back for some more? Wonderful. Yes, I understand the other side’s argument: kids out-of-school aren’t getting education when they are at home. This may be true. But allowing them to stay in school, to stay on site in an environment that they have grossly disrupted—including a disruption to the education of others—doesn’t seem to be the answer either. Furthermore, this insane idea about equating out-of-school suspension with only violent action is NOT an exactly good message either, for if the action is truly violent then those trained to deal with violence—not teachers and administrators—need to be involved. Sorry—most of us don’t have the necessary training in either law enforcement or psychiatry.

So, I have another chapter of my magic carpet fantasy ride: I’m putting the CT state legislature on suspension ad infinitum. Legislators, do your homework: talk to the teachers, talk to the building administrators, and talk to the researchers. Sure, some sort of compromise can be made with respect to student behavior. How about providing funds for smaller class sizes to reduce behavioral problems or adding more social workers to guide students? Let’s not put yet another responsibility on teachers and administrators. TALK TO people who are in the profession, not the likes of unqualified Maggie Spelling types whose know-nothing assessment of things needs to be, well, left behind.


IC said...

Terrific stuff. Will you want to be my Secretary of Education?

Kindel said...

I'd like less suspensions, not because I'm afraid of dampening these students' interest in school but because so many of my students won't serve detentions because they want suspensions. As suspensions don't count against attendance records and students can make up al the work, suspensions are vacations. Perhaps in-school suspensions or suspensions that require students to do some task before being readmitted would be better.