Friday, March 27, 2009
The extremes of public education discipline
The South Carolina Court of Appeals handed down a ruling this week that a 14 year old girl was wrongly expelled by Richland County School District Two. Apparently, the girl went into the boy’s restroom after a comb a boy had taken from her. The school administrators deemed that a sexual offense and expelled the child. Then, the school district spent thousands of taxpayer dollars defending their decision, only to have both the Circuit Court and Court of Appeals rule against the expulsion.
While there should have been some sort of punishment for the child’s act, expulsion did seem extreme. But, that is the culture of public education today. Nowhere else in the state will you find bigger egos and more overreaction to events than in public school administration. Not all public school administrators fit that description but a growing number do as “zero tolerance” policies are embraced.
Our schools are a place where far too many administrators treat far too many students like criminals from the first day of class. Law enforcement is criticized for using profiling methods, yet teachers and administrators use it everyday. While there are some teachers and administrators out there who want to reach children, far too many just want to handle the children and get through the day.
Far too many administrators are eager to show their complete control. It has got be an incredible power trip to know that one can ruin a kid’s life with a response to just one mistake. Add to that the ever growing nature of policy and legal concerns, and a surreal atmosphere is created in schools.
Take for example the case of the little girl in West Columbia a few years ago. Her mother packed a butter knife in her lunch box for the girl to cut an apple with. Years ago, some teacher would have taken the butter knife from the student, and called the mother and gave it back to the mother. However, in the modern education world, the little girl was suspended and faced possible criminal charges. That suspension will follow that kid for the rest of her academic career.
Also, years ago, if couple of boys got into a fight, they were separated and sent to the principal’s office. Today, chances are, they will face criminal charges. God help a little girl if she has a crush on a little boy and pecks him on the cheek on the playground.
Indeed, chances are some of the teachers and administrators who work in education today would not have their jobs or their degrees had they been held to the same standard that kids are held to today.
It is a different world that children grow up in today. With gangs on the rise and anything the human mind can think of available online, it is difficult to maintain order and discipline. However, when simple mistakes are made in school and are treated like major incidents, it only reinforces the negative influences.
It is often said that people live up to or down to the expectations of those who influence them. The same is true of children. There should be no surprise if a child who is treated like a criminal over a childish mistake grows up to be a criminal.