In Minnesota, the Saint Paul Public Schools district is in a state of chaos. Earlier this month, a high school student assaulted a teacher and left him with a traumatic brain injury. Last year, nine teachers at a middle school quit within the first three months because the students were “out of control.” Reports of other behavioral incidents involving students abound.
Teachers are pointing to the district’s controversial discipline (or lack thereof) policy as the cause of the chaos. Over the past four years, to curb suspensions and expulsions among students of color, the district has implemented a program that provided racial equity training for teachers, and short-term counseling sessions for students that acted out. Instead of kicking students out of school, administrators and teachers have been encouraged to quickly resolve differences and return misbehaving (and sometimes violent) students to the classroom as soon as possible.
One teacher recently spoke out about the district’s discipline issues in a local paper. According to her, behavior issues have more than tripled in recent years and teachers are unable to regain control:
“[T]eachers feel powerless to discipline. I am not exaggerating. We are told to never under any circumstances touch a student as a behavioral intervention. We have no way to discipline. If a child is running around screaming, we let them run around and scream. If a student throws a chair at the Smart Board we remove the other students and call for help. If a student shouts obscenities, we simply use kind words to remind them to use kind words themselves. I am not kidding.”
The teacher continues:
“Please don't give us more staff development on racism or classroom management skills on how to de-escalate a student altercation. Engaging lessons aren't going to help a violent or disruptive student to pay attention.”
Schools have a mandate to educate children, but it shouldn’t be at all costs. Parents also have a necessary role to play: they must prepare their children to act appropriately within the school environment. If they fail to do this, society should find other ways to help these children, but not at the expense of other students in the school, and not at the expense of teachers’ safety.
It’s a very sad reality, but a reality nonetheless: maybe some kids just don’t belong in school.
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