Teachers: Suspensions are down, but so is safety

Denver schools have cut suspensions and expulsions dramatically, but some teachers say their schools aren’t safe, reports Jenny Brundin on Colorado Public Radio.

“Students have threatened to follow teachers home and jump them,” says Greg Ahrnsbrak, who teaches at Bruce Randolph, a 6th-12th grade school in north Denver.

 We’ve had students who have threatened to bring a gun and kill teachers. We’ve had students who’ve threatened to kill all of us with a bomb. Our administrators have tried to expel some of them and they’re told they can’t.

“Our schools are safe,” says Assistant Superintendent Antwan Wilson.

But, nearly all of the staff at Denver’s Morey Middle School, Bruce Randolph and Munroe Elementary schools signed a letter complaining there are no consequences for fighting or cursing at a teacher.

A local parent and youth activist group Padres y Jovenes Unidos, pushed for the new discipline policy. “We had thousands of students being referred to the police for minor discipline issues, like being disruptive in class,” says Lalo Montoya.

Now the discipline process is complex, writes Brundin. “In order to get a belligerent kid removed from school or even class, it takes multiple steps, and sometimes weeks of documentation that teachers say cuts into teaching time. Kids know that and push boundaries.”

A teacher, who didn’t want to use her name, says she used to be able to ask a disruptive student to leave the classroom, knowing the student would leave.

And now they won’t. They refuse. So you’ve got to call security. Actually,  just yesterday, I had a student who was using horrible language, just yelling these awful, awful things. I asked him to stop. He said he would and he didn’t. And then he started laying hands on some of the other students, kicking, hitting, pushing. Just very violent. So I called for security. Security comes out and says, “I will ask him to come with me, but I can tell you right now, he’s not going to come.”

Students can be sent to an in-school-suspension room, where they’re supposed to get counseling. But schools don’t have enough counselors.

Student: When kids get real angry, they just be cussin’ at the teachers, and the teachers really don’t even do nothin’. They just send us to the SI office. You just sit down, do your work and just wait until the next period and get your stuff and go!

Students can be suspended or expelled for bringing guns or knives to school, Wilson says. He concedes schools need more support to make the new discipline policy work. An extra $1.5 million is budgeted for mental health specialists next year, targeting mainly middle schools.

Via Education Week.

About Joanne


  1. Solution?

    Spend $25 on a sturdy wooden paddle, and use it.

  2. They need an additional 1.5 million dollars in mental health specialists to teach anger management??

    Their security doesn’t know how to take out an uncooperative student??

    Sounds like someone is trying to reduce unemployment in that district.

  3. Insane.

  4. Teachers should start calling 911 if they or if their students are physically assaulted or threatened with out-of-school harm and get it on an official record. Take cellphone videos. Call the local news media. Brats or thugs who do these things need a fast dose of unpleasant consequences; military-style attitude adjustment would work wonders for those too old, too arrogant and/or too stupid to learn from the paddle. Strict alternative placement, perhaps single cubicles with classical music, should be an option until they’re willing to control their impulses and behave. Forget anger management classes; immediate, unpleasant consequences should be absolute.

    That Hispanic parent group is part of the problem; they’re obviously OK with their brats/thugs interfering with other kids’ educational opportunities. If they don’t like their kids “referred to the police for minor discipline issues like being disruptive in class”, perhaps they should demand that their kids stop being disruptive. Idiots.

    This scenario will soon be enacted in LAUSD, thanks to its similarly idiotic policy. Quelle shock! No consequences leads to more bad behavior! Insanity. Someone should enlighten the parents, admins and politicians; the “school-to-jail pipeline” (which seems to be at issue here) is not caused by school disciplinary actions. The same brats/thugs who don’t behave at school also don’t obey the law outside of school.

  5. Roger Sweeny says:

    Three thoughts:

    1. Calling the police for “being disruptive in class” is a bad idea.

    2. A remainder-of-the-period stint in the “SI room”, and nothing more, for “being disruptive in class” is also a bad idea.

    3. Lots of these kids are being disruptive because they are not interested in and/or are not good at academics. They should have someplace else they can go and do something useful, rather than wasting their own time and messing up other young people.

    • I said to call police if there’s physical assault or specific threat. There is specific mention of threats to bring a gun or bomb. I’m not recommending calling the police for “routine” disruptions. I’m talking about thugs who need to be removed, permanently if necessary. Re your #3, I’ve often posted that the mandatory schooling age should be lowered to 14 or completion of 8th grade and that there should be voc ed programs – and kids/parents should know about them in ES and what requirements are needed to get into various ones, so they can work toward it.

  6. Obi-Wandreas says:

    My own district is on the way there. They wanted to lower suspension rates, so they just made it incredibly difficult to suspend anyone. As a result, behavior issues go up, and more and more class time is lost.

    Downtown gets to boast about lowering suspensions, and we have to deal with the day to day problems in our classrooms. There are no consequences for failure to behave, and there are no consequences for failure to perform. And who is held to account when student scores drop? Not the students who refused to do the work, not the parents who can’t or won’t teach their kids proper behavior, and not the administrators who make sure that they get dumped into the next class and kept there, despite having learned nothing in the previous class.

    The only ones who are actually under the gun are those of us in the classroom constantly trying to push the boulder uphill while the gutless desk monkeys downtown keep throwing more and more obstacles in the way. We used to take pride in being able to help tough cases in tough situations. Now we’re just getting burned out. I have never seen more demoralized teachers than I have this year.

  7. George Larson says:

    Isn’t this a legitimate concern for a teacher’s union, to protect its members and their students from an uncaring and incompetent management? Can’t union dues go to bring civil suit against the parents of violent students, superintendent, administrators or members of the school board? Can the union get the attention of the district attorney and not just the press? According to what I read the teacher’s unions have the politicians in their pocket, but that does not seem to be the case here.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    What used to be called “minority push-out” is now “disparate impact”. Arne Duncan doesn’t like disparate impact.

  9. lightly seasoned says:

    Like a lot of districts, we’ve been dinged for disparate impact. Last month we had a threat of a shooting, but because the student was part of that group, he was never suspended.

  10. “And then he started laying hands on some of the other students, kicking, hitting, pushing. Just very violent. So I called for security. Security comes out and says, “I will ask him to come with me, but I can tell you right now, he’s not going to come.”

    If the student doesn’t leave, call 911. He is assaulting other students by kicking and hitting.

    • I don’t know how much the cops will help.

      This week in my district in Georgia, a student with a 26 average approached his Spanish teacher and asked what he could do to pass. His teacher said, “well you can’t now. You have a 26 average.” (It’s the last week of school, BTW.) The student replied, “well, watch out, Mr. So and so, you might get shot.” The school resource officer, who is a sheriff’s deputy, was standing right next to the teacher and just said, “well it’s not really a threat since he didn’t say he was going to do the shooting.”

      Warms your heart, doesn’t it?