Friday, April 21, 2006

These Schools are "Copping" the Wrong Attitude

I wasn't sure what I was going to write about today until I went to the DMN site to pay for my subscription renewal, and this story jumped right out at me:
The track team's towel fight started with the usual pops and taunts of teenage boys in a locker room.

It ended when 15-year-old Colby Long was pulled from his first-period class, handcuffed and taken to jail.

Police say the high school freshman from Frisco committed assault; his parents contend officials overreacted to some boyhood roughhousing. Whether an overreaction or just punishment, one thing is clear: No longer is a locker room scuffle a matter of a scolding or a few extra laps.
That's right, the same schoolyard scuffles that would once earn the participants a trip to the office and maybe a detention or suspension is now throwing them right into the maw of the criminal justice system. The Long case isn't an isolated incident, either:
As of late: A hair-pulling, scratching fight in McKinney left 13 girls facing charges for "inciting a riot." In Irving, swearing in class sparked a $260 ticket. Richardson police were called for teens smoking and disturbing class.
Needless to say, a lot of parents don't like it:
Texas Education Agency officials say they are receiving more complaints from parents about police actions against their students than ever before.

"We hold children to higher standards than we hold adults," said Billy Jacobs, senior director of the safe schools division of the TEA. "We don't leave any room for children to make mistakes."
Precisely. It's yet another form of "zero tolerance," something of which, as I've said before, I have zero tolerance for myself. It all comes down to administrators being too scared to make difficult decisions, so they hide behind rigid regulations, and now they've gone as far as completely abdicating their responsibility to discipline students to the law enforcement community:
Thursday marked the seventh anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. School officials say the perils of ignoring basic discipline problems have become so obvious since then that it's impossible to turn back.

"I don't think we can just write off two kids getting into a fight with the nature of our society today," said Steve Payne, principal of Allen High School. "That could come back on us that we knew about it and didn't do anything about it."
Aha--now the truth comes out: They're running scared of lawyers again. And while that right there implies that there are many, many things we have to change about our society before we can achieve any semblance of normalcy (including a return to the time when someone can't get lots of money from McDonald's because her own carelessness caused her to spill hot coffee on herself), it still bothers me that there are people in charge of our schools who are running so scared of lawsuits that they're virtually paralyzed from the brain down in terms of executing even the most basic requirements of their jobs.

I've seen the police officers in all the schools in which I teach; I believe they call them Student Resource Officers (SRO's for short). And that's exactly what these officers should be most of the time--a resource. Sure, they carry the extra weight of the badge, and they can invoke that privilege when things get really, really bad, or look like they're about to do so. But shouldn't most school problems be solved in-school? After all, administrators are always complaining that way too much of their day is taken up by dealing with discipline problems. If that's being turned over to the police, what's left for the principal to do? (Yes, this is just another reason why administrators must teach.)

Sure, there are times when police must be notified...
School officials are bound by law to contact police about weapons, drugs and other serious offenses, but it is largely up to them whether to tap police for more minor infractions.
...but it's interesting to note how much more often some districts pull that particular trigger than others:
At Irving High School, for example, police responded to 322 calls during an eight-month period, records show. Schools of similar sizes in Garland, Richardson and Arlington saw just one-third of that number.
Read the whole article, as there are way too many incidents to describe in this post.

There is one more angle that needs to be mentioned, though:
Educators and police say parents are more apt to pit blame for bad behavior on administrators or teachers than their own children, making it necessary for districts to take a hard line.

"When I was in high school, I got my butt busted by a teacher in the hallway if I screwed up," said Katy ISD police Lt. Keith Meier, who just got permission from the state to start training school police officers. "Nowadays the parents are so quick to say my child does no wrong."
No argument here; this is something that's really changed since I was a kid. There are way too many parents out there who have that "my little darling can do no wrong" attitude, and they really need to take their heads out of the sand before something big happens. But if they're abdicating their disciplinary responsibilities to the schools, who are likewise passing the buck to the police, then we're likely to see this problem get worse before it gets better.

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to my friend and colleague Kris, who gets to "celebrate" by being the clinician for an all-region jazz band.


Anonymous said...

poor kris. I hope he has fun teaching the most awesome jazz band ever.

- colin

Gary P. said...

The DaMN story is getting a lot of play on as you might expect. Someone who has a lick of sense asked "What happened to applying common sense to student issues, and dealing with them on a case by case basis?" to which I replied:

Because, God forbid, some pointy-headed administrator might get charged with favoritism (or worse, discrimination) when a kid who leaves a butter knife in his car gets an easier penalty than a kid who brings a hunting knife into a classroom and threatens someone with it.

It's far better to pontificate that "we have zero tolerance for weapons on school grounds" and suspend both of them for the same amount of time.

Ratspit said...

Unique concept....discipline begins at home!!!! Instead of parents shuffling the kids off to daycare as soon as they are weaned, why not try raising them yourself! Quit birthing babies just to have someone else raise and be responsible for them! Don't depend on the teachers to teach them right from wrong, how to act and all about sex! You made the decision to have children; they are YOUR responsibility and their actions should reflect on you!!!

I don't think there's much sense left in this's just toooo easy! But then it circles right back around to the responsibility thing...not my fault!