Suspending everyone

At F.D. Moon Academy in Oklahoma City, there are 147 sixth graders. Wednesday, 136 were suspended for slamming tables in the cafeteria, talking back to teachers and disrupting classrooms.

(Elaine) Ford, in her first year as the school’s principal, said teachers can’t improve test scores until disciplinary issues are resolved. She estimated teachers spend 85 percent of their time reprimanding students.

A majority of suspended students’ parents showed up for a meeting to discuss the problem. But some came to yell at the principal.

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  1. I’m surprised that the story didn’t end with irate parents demanding Ms. Ford’s ouster for having the gall to discipline their precious little babies…

  2. But the whole sixth grade class? What did the teachers do to provoke this kind of response? Kids don’t just do stuff like this for the hell of it; something set them off. It is interesting that none of the news orgs have even thought to ask. It might make our educators look really supid again.

  3. When I was 12 I did ALOT of things for the hell of it. As I remember, it doesn’t take much to set off a chain reaction at that age.

  4. This sounds like a problem that was ignored for too long. If kids aren’t reprimanded for poor behavior, that behavior will continue, and others will adopt it. About time these kids were disciplined, but it should have started long ago.

  5. one reason that I am a former teacher is that children and parents are no longer accountable for their actions.
    The idea that many of these parents have that it must be the principal/teacher’s fault that their children have been suspended tells volumes of the failure of our “education” system.

  6. During the Civil War, the entire sophomore class of my undergraduate school was expelled for refusing to participate in military drills. Somehow this reminded me of that (true) legend. On the other hand, eventually the president relented and readmitted all but the organizers of the revolt.

  7. Bad behavior tends to escalate. If I have a couple of “off” days when I let things slide (I’m not feeling well or whatever), the kids will escalate their behavior until I put a stop to it. They’re not bad kids; they’ll just do whatever they can get away with — social stuff is just way more interesting at that age than whatever your teacher is doing in front of the room. If this group has been allowed to get away with stuff all year, I can imagine it getting pretty bad by now. It’s the fault of the staff that it has gotten this bad (to some degree — I wouldn’t absolve the kids of responsiblity for their own behavior) — but if they’re taking steps to correct the situation, I wouldn’t prevent them from doing that.

    I spend a LOT of time on discipline issues — the paperwork alone when my students get ISS from behavior in another class usually eats up at least an hour or so a week. Heck, just writing up tardies is a time-wasting hassle. But you have to do it because most students — even the “good” kids — won’t pay attention to the bells without an extrinsic consequence.

    I suspect a lot of this behavior is about exploring limits. When I set firm limits, I have happier students. They know what to expect from me, and I think teenagers really crave that kind of structure. When I get distracted and wishy-washy, I end up with VERY surly kids.

  8. Mass suspensions aren’t new for that school. Last year they had 50 at once.

  9. Walter Wallis says:

    Tyhis is no longer an educational issue.

  10. Good for Ms. Ford. The article did state it is her first year as principal, so any “escalating” problems are new to her — and now she’s dealing w/it. In grand fashion, too. Reminds me of Joe Clark purging his school of the repeater trouble-makers.

    You gotta make a BIG point these days to get kids’ attention. I salute Ms. Ford.

  11. This story does my heart good.

    Suspension should have nothing to do with number but only with behavior and the goal of maintaining a safe, orderly environment for learning.

    And this is the main reason why private schools are better than public schools. In private schools, children must behave. In public schools, very little can be done about disruptive behavior.

    If we want to make public schools as good as private schools, it won’t cost more money. All we will need to do is empower teachers to maintain orderly classrooms.

  12. Tim from Texas says:

    Suspension is a crock. it just gives the kids days off. Of course they can’t be expelled-the precious ADA would suffer. In the case of this OK
    cafeteria mess and pertaining to many other messes roud up everyone and investigate and find out all who the perpetators and better yet the instigators and send the parents a bill for the investigation expenses, damages etc. In other words, hit em where it hurts.

  13. Tom West says:

    All we will need to do is empower teachers to maintain orderly classrooms.

    The question becomes where do you put these expelled disruptive students? If there are enough of them, then essentially they *are* much of the school system. The tacit admission of this fact are administrators who essentially prohibit expulsions because there isn’t anywhere to expel the student to.

    (You cant expel them to a vocational school when you *are* the de facto vocational school.)

    Deprived of the ability to threaten the ultimate sanction, most teachers are not in a position of authority in the classroom. Those that maintain that authority do so through personality and skill rather than power.

  14. Suspension is not a crock. Many of the worst trouble-makers never miss a day. For them, school is all about socializing with their friends. They don’t like to miss that. Many of them could skip any day they wanted, but they don’t. They come to school every day, never doing enough work to actually graduate. They drop out when their friends graduate. So kicking them out of school for a few days is actually a real punishment.

  15. Tim from Texas says:

    Rita, you do make a good point. I suppose i just
    disagree with suspension as a means of punishment
    altogether. I think the method of hitting them where it hurts, in the case of cafeteria riots,
    vandalizm etc by charging the parents pocket books. Afterall, we’re all paying a condsiderble
    chunk thru taxes and all. Why shouldn’t these certain types pay for their mess, and not let the
    little darlings back thru the door until they have paid or signed an agreement to make payments.

    And as for discipline infractions and including the above kind of infractions, keep an ongoing
    record of the perpetraters and their deeds from
    day one. Establish a situation, or the number of situations that the teachers put their foot down and demand that john Doe or Mary Moe who the records show have done more than their share
    and demand they be expelled, not just from the school,but the entire district.

    Yes, politics are involved here, but it can be overcome. One way is to have the students expulsion be put to a vote. A mandatory school faculty meeting can be called and all aspects of
    the student be discussed both positive and negative. Then when all discussions have expired
    themselves, put the expulsion to a vote. If a say
    solid 65% vote for expulsion then so be it and if not the student gets a reprieve for now.

    Now,of course, the parenta have to be notified on
    a continued basis and conferenced also. Naturally
    when the students activities are approaching the
    critical number or kinds tolerated, the parents
    and the student must be sternly warned to let them know what the school is going to do if things continue any further.

    And moreover, and possibly, the most important is
    that the student body has representatives at the
    table and at the meeting with discussion rights
    and voting rights. Now how can this “heresy” be
    accomplished. Give the students a decent number
    of reprentatives and let them decide through a vote who should represent them. It is my personal belief that the student body and their
    reprentatives will surprise you with a mature
    approach to this.

    Also, the students, must be allowed a way to challenge what a teacher, student, janitor,etc,
    has said they have done. One way this can be done is to allow them to vote for what I would
    call Trust Teachers at the beginning of each year. These teachers’ responsibilty would be to
    talk to all concerned to try to get to the bottom
    and truth of the matter, for after all, the adults are far from perfect. Of course, a system
    like this takes a lot of work and follow through.
    And, if I may repeat myself, it is my belief that
    it can work and the student body at any school will surprise you with their abilities to be just
    and fair.

  16. I can’t speak for all districts, but all our discipline records are computerized. I can pull up a student and see every referral.

    Parents almost always have to pay up for physical damage done by a student.

    Your plan sounds interesting. Character Ed. people would go along with most of it.

    There are usually legal barriers to kicking a kid out just because you’re sick of dealing with him/her. Remember that public education is a right. Also, there are a lot of really, really annoying freshmen who straighten out after a year or two and turn out alright. I wouldn’t want to deprive them of their education (even if they do spend a year or two giving me grey hair).

  17. Tom asks where do you put the disruptive student. My answer: out of school.

    What good does that do for the disruptive child? Frankly, I don’t care.

    As for Rita’s annoying Freshmen, I have no problem depriving them of an education.

    Parents who have taught their children how to behave should be able have their children in safe, orderly classrooms. Parents who have not taught their children how to behave should have the doors to public school closed to them.

    Isn’t education a right? Sure. But if you have a drinking problem, you lose your driver’s license. If you don’t return your library books, you lose your library card. If you are convicted of a felony, you lose the ability to vote. So I think if you haven’t taught your children how to behave, you need to find a private school.

    And I think there’s a good chance those annoying Freshmen wouldn’t be annoying at all if they knew that good behavior was a requirement and not just a request.

  18. Tim from Texas says:

    Rita,yes public education is a right. If a student is expelled from a district, it doesn’t mean he can’t and won’t find another school,but
    it would certainly mean he would have to convince
    the other district he was certain to change his or her ways and the parents would certainly have
    to promise same. Oh, yes this would probably mean the family would have to move. So, people
    move all the time for frivolous reasons.

    Also, I am not speaking of annoying students, that woudn’t hold up in the meeting of faculty
    and students, nor should it. I’m talking about
    about drawing a reasonable line across which the
    students know they shuldn’t go. Also, the body of
    students would, I think, definitely agree, for
    they are the ones who really take the brunt.They
    want something done about these problems.

    As to the legal problem, that can be changed. I would argue almost everyone wants these problems
    solved-especially the students.

    Now, I don’t think anyone is against trying to help them along the way and helping them get assistance after expulsion.

    But,many times,not sometimes, enough is enough.

  19. One of the deans at my son’s public middle school pulled all the boys off a school bus and told them to call their parents for rides home – this after one of the boys gave him the finger and no one would identify him. So far as I know, none of the parents complained to the school, and the offending child later confessed and was suspended. There are very few disciplinary problems at that school, surprise, surprise.

  20. I’m not certain about the law in the USA. Does the district have the right not to educate students it considers disruptive? If a parent can’t afford a private school or transportation out of city, (again thinking about poor urban neighbourhoods), just what legal sanctions would the parents face if the state won’t educate their child?

    As for some examples like driver’s licenses, etc. I think that there is a confusion between rights and privileges. A driver’s license is considered a privilege, while state education and enfranchisement (voting) is a right.

    (I will say that the idea that parts of the USA disenfachise significant numbers of people strikes me as exceedly odd coming from a country founded on revolution against disenfranchisement. I would have thought that Americans would never allow any adult American to be disenfranchised under any circumstance! Shows how well I understand the US :-)).

  21. What do you do with them after expulsion? You have such a detailed plan. I’m curious. And how do kids with IEP’s fit into this?

  22. D. Cooper says:

    Tom, in NY if a child is suspended from school for whatever … a week or 5 weeks…, they are entitled to home teaching … at the schools expense and that child receives tutoring at home. There are regulations that apply, and certain amounts of time allotted for each subject they are taking. This becomes an added expense to the school district and community. This would of course also be true if a child was going to be out of school with an illness for an extended period of time. Although it may vary, in my high school whenever possible, the student’s regular teacher for that subject would do the home tutoring.

  23. Do students have a ‘right’ to an education, even if they don’t want it?

    And what about the students who DO want that education? Surely the school has an obligation to provide it by removing the unruly and disruptive student who prevents them from providing an education to those who truly want it.

    Are they supposed to hold down the disruptive student and force-feed knowledge into his brain? Sheesh, if the idiot doesn’t want an education, let him go. Kick his backside out and let him perish in his own little chosen world of stupidity.

    True stupidity usually prevails, and its greatest blessing is to remove the stupidest from the gene pool before they have a chance to pass on their deficiencies.

  24. Claire, why don’t you research school law and let us all know what the balance is between the rights of the disruptive student and the rights of the students being disrupted, and, while you’re at it, the students who are sometimes one, sometimes the other. I mean, do you REALLY think we’re keeping them in school because we love being disciplinarians?

  25. Tim fromTexas says:

    What do you do with them after expulsion?

    First, what I mean by helping them along the way, the “them” here are the “unsocialized” student and/or parent(s)who has revealed himerself or who have revealed themselves thru their actions and reactions.

    Of course, with the installation of such a system, all students and parents must be told
    ,in a well thought out well written, spelled out
    style, that even a monkey with a stalk of bananas could understand,what kinds of behaviors,and/or repetitive behaviors that will certainly lead to that not to be crossed line or critical mass which will put into motion the expulsion process. Also,along these lines,make a rock-solid-firm stand against allowing any act of physical agression to a teacher,t.a.s et al to be included in general guidelines. Make it crystal clear those actions will be put to a vote
    for expulsion immediately. In addition, it should be made clear that,let us say, knocked to the ground teacher, will file assault charges with the backing of the entire district. Unless,however,it is proven at expulsion meeting that said teacher had provoked ,in no uncertain terms,the altercation. So, this leads us to another aspect of such a system.

    Teachers et al must wholeheartedly agree to open themselves,and all things and aspects of their activities pertaining to the job of teaching and keeping order, to scrutiny and judgement also. And yes, this must include, grade books,tests, disciplne proceedures and the like. A school,a school system,the school district and the curriculum cannot just hold the students and the parents to accountablity. Let’s face it, there are “unsocialized” and agressive to extremely agressive, and ,of course, just plain old uncapable, just plain bad teachers, principals, V.P.s etc in our schools also.

    Well now, as to the expelled student, you and your school and your district are finished with
    himer. As to help for them, why goodness sakes, one aspect of this country is that it has never been on the short side of having avenues for those who need help, want help,and seek help. And if you believe that a void exits here, have no fear it will get filled.

    And how do kids with IEPs fit in?

    Well, Rita, I’m glad you asked this question. Putting the kidding aside,I must begin by saying that the special ed. program is a badly used, abused, bloated cash cow which when it’s not leaving its droppings everywhere to hop over it,s smashing toes, not to mention the damage it has done to those students, and the number is considerable, that should not be in the program.

    Too many times,and I’m assuming some agreement here, the program has been a dumping ground for students, who shall I say, are difficult, lazy, annoying,underachieving,unkempt smelly ones-yes those too, and those inividuals who at best can be only described as perplexingesspecially those of the above mentioned who have clueless and/or cloutless parent(s),BUT are not really slow or emotionally disturbed.

    Again, a well planned curriculum must take into account this aspect of the difficult job of educating our youth. The students who are truly slow and who are truly emotionally disturbed must
    be identified. Then, they must get help, and alot of it, but not in the main stream. The others, those that have been dumped into special ed incorrectly, can fairly easily be dealt with and taught as the process moves along.

    Well,I know this is heresy at its utmost to some or many of you out there because I’m hinting at the beginning of,yes, tracking. It’s coming. Where do you think high-stakes testing,standered testing and all that goes with them will lead? The test will and must get more difficult until the students are properly challenged.

    Now, before anyone gets rabid towards me, look at it this way-we track all student already- we’re just not straight-forward and honest to ourselves about it. The best graduated from our best high-schools get into our top,lets say 25 schools, which more or less, are the only ones that rightfully should be called universities. We can argue about the number I just used, it’s bigger maybe, but before you start seeing red just humor me here a little. The next group of students below the best,for the most part,go to Ut,Penn,Ucla, etc. and the rest attend,again for themost part the other “universities”. But in truth, should they be called universities at all. Take A&I university,for example, in Kingsville,Texas, and others here in Texas, and others like it throughout the states. Do they compare to Harvard, Yale,MIT,Stanford and the like? I argue not. So why do we call them universities? I’m not saying they don’t and shoudn’t have a useful function.

    So,tracking is in force here but not recognized officially as such,and therefore,dishonestly done,which is a disservice to our children and our nation. By the way,tracking begins in our school districts with the jerrymandering of the individual school zones. I think we just need to be honest with ourselves and with all about it, and get with a program which is honest,honorable,
    fair and good for all.

  26. Tim, I stopped reading your post when you called special ed kids “smelly”.

    Even the most frustrated teachers I know wouldn’t stoop so low. Sheesh.

  27. Tim from Texas says:

    Dear Susie Q:

    I suppose I did not make my thoughts,on that section of my post,absolutely clear. I should have,for I was speaking to a very sensitive subject, and for that, I most humbly apologize.

    However, I am not and was not calling special ed. children smelly. Many students have been channeled into the spec.ed. program,I contend, that shouldn’t have. I described those children as,(difficult),(lazy),(annoying),(underachieving)
    I also included in that group what I described as the unkempt-smelly types,who for the most part,come from poor to poverty stricken and/or shattered families,who have become withdrawn and ashamed,and because of it, many times they are plastered with the spec.ed. label. In my opinion, most don’t rebel themselves when it happens,for they have just given way. As to the parent(s),it is my opinion they don’t rebel for their lives are shattered,or they are clueless or they are cloutless.

    Now I don’t intend, nor do I think, that my statements here or anywhere,by any means,are all inclusive. Also,I don’t mean to sound frustrated nor a hauteur with all of this.

    However, with all due respect, I am compelled to close with this: Any teacher out there that doesn’t know these situations exist is seeing and observing through rose colored glasses.

  28. Cheers to Ms Ford. Finally an educator who is not afraid to address the real problem in our education system, parents sending undisciplined children to school. Being afforded a public education should be a priviledge and not a right and those who do not demonstrate basic civil behaviors should not be allowed to undermine the education of those who want to learn. Those parents who came “to yell at the principal” are where the real problems in our education system start.


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    Joanne Jacobs writes about a school in Oklahoma City where the majority of the 6th graders have been suspended for unacceptable conduct. Essentially the principal, in her first year, has been having a real challenge with student behavior. Things came t…