Senator Chris Murphy (D – Conn) attended an event, “In Class; Not Cuffs,” at the Center for American Progress, a noticeably leftist think tank. It is extremely unfortunate that the entire premise of this “event” is flawed from the get-go. Senator Murphy has tied herself for a typically false left-wing narrative.
The purpose of the event was to discuss and bring attention to the belief by many on the left that disciplinary policies in many public schools are skewed in such a way as to have a far more negative impact on students of color, disability, or minorities and show lenience toward white students. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is high time that we all look at this issue in the clear light of day and be brutally honest.
The decision to discipline a student is a decision that must be viewed from the eyes of the teacher or administrator who witnesses the behavior that results in the discipline. When a teacher is responsible for the entire class and focused on delivering the required material to the students in furtherance of their education, disruptive behaviors cannot be tolerated.
The teacher should be in possession of the necessary information about each of his/her students to know what to expect from each one. Do they not review prior grades? Why not disciplinary records? They certainly should not be placed in the position of being “blind” going in with no awareness of the student’s history of behavior.
On the first day of school, all students are coming in with a clean slate. No history available, but that is not a serious problem in kindergarten or the first couple grades. At these early stages, teachers can usually deal with disciplinary issues with measures taken within the classroom to control the situation…even if it requires increasing the level of discipline with repeat offenders.
But as each child progresses through the grades, they either mend their ways or escalate the problems depending on their home environment, mental health, parental involvement, and the success of earlier measures to modify behavior. All these factors impact the results achieved, but it would take some hard facts and honest statistics to convince me that there is a built-in discriminatory effort in place to direct discipline toward any of the categories of students considered to be “over-punished” in a manner that could be called systemic.
It is far more likely that the number of disciplinary events in the life of any student will be correlated more successfully based on the factors identified in the paragraph immediately above. It can, understandably, also be tied to the student’s history. To suggest that a teacher should not consider history as part of the evaluation of the context for the current event is unfair at best and irresponsible at worst. To do so fails to adequately convey the need for changes in behavior.
I will suggest something here that will probably cause some progressive educators’ heads to explode, but isn’t it possible that some of the categories of students mentioned above are more likely to demonstrate inappropriate or disruptive behavior based on factors other than the category into which the student has been identified. Home environment, parental involvement, and outside influences are powerful determinants of behavior in and out of school.
There is adequate statistics available regarding certain adult, racial or ethnic groups committing a disproportionate number of crimes when compared to the overall population. It is difficult to take seriously the suggestion that students can go through their entire primary and secondary school years without any sort of disciplinary problems but then immediately move into adulthood where criminal behavior becomes heightened. This adult behavior is often just an escalation of problems that previously took place within the school environment. It would stand to reason that students with a propensity for disruptive behaviors could be expected to be disciplined more often than those who are not disruptive.
Does it not seem more reasonable to consider approaching the problem a bit more logically? An attempt to intervene to determine the underlying causes of the behavior in the early years seems preferable to waiting or ignoring the behavior based solely on a concern for whether the student is being disciplined in a manner identical to another student who may or may not have the same history of bad behavior or risk factors for such behavior?
To attempt to equalize discipline, the problems that create the need for that discipline would have to be identical to decide whether disparities exist. So far, I have found no convincing evidence to indicate that such a disparity exists in this application. Isolated cases may exist, but there is no evidence that it is systemic.
What I am far more confident in is the knowledge that there are inherently subjective judgments at work and pre-existing propensities in some children that are not present in others. The latter are far more dominant in the results that move unruly students out of the classroom and into the handcuffs. Making excuses for any single category of students that allows the misbehavior to continue does both the student body and the teacher an extreme disservice.
It is truly unfortunate that leftism has benefitted by creating different “classes” of citizens who can be played off each other to promote animosity between these groups. This is the philosophy that promotes equal results rather than equal opportunity. The former develops mediocrity while the latter encourages individual freedom to excel. Regardless of the student’s characteristics, finding the causes for the behavior is equally important to consider as the frequency and intensity of discipline.