Kicked Out of Class Over What?

That can’t be right was my reaction, and I imagine a lot of folks’, to the report out last month that 60%  of Texas students get suspended or expelled in middle or high school. When I was in school, getting suspended or expelled was for the worst of the worst: the showing-up-drunk-in-class-and-hitting-a-teacher types. News that good research finds it’s happening to most Texas teens—that the majority of the million kids studied were suspended or expelled repeatedly—got to me.

My little one is going to enter public school before long, and I’m not too crazy about these odds that say, more likely than not, at some point the system is going to throw up its hands and take her out of school if she acts up. I understand that teens misbehave and need limits, but suspension and expulsion are like the H-bomb of school discipline. Maybe some sanctions or diplomacy could be tried?

Principal's Office
Creative Commons License photo credit: ecastro

The study, which was done by the Council of State Governments Justice Center and Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University, found children removed from class were five times more likely to repeat a grade or drop out of school and twice as likely to enter the juvenile justice system. Yet the offenses that got kids removed, in nearly every case, were minor enough to be considered against school rules but not against state law. (For serious offenses, schools have to suspend or expel.) Less fair still, schools aren’t enforcing those rules the same for every child: kids of certain races or with special needs bear the brunt of the punishments.Advertisement
Fellow adults: let’s step back for a moment and consider what it would be like if, every time we had a not-so-good day on the job, our employer kicked us out. I think that would be a pretty hostile work environment, particularly if I were going through a lot of transition and drama at the time, as nearly every adolescent is. Schools, of all places, need to be able to handle kids being kids without periodically throwing in the towel for 60% of those in their charge. There are less reactionary ways to discipline and guide behavior.

School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a method on a lot of school campuses that prevents kids from acting up, leads to students and teachers feeling safer at school, and improves student grades and attendance to boot. An Austin American-Statesman piece yesterday noted that it works so well, not only does the Texas Education Agency recommend it, the U.S. Department of Education is working actively to bring it to more schools. PBIS looks like the low-hanging fruit our schools need to replace what isn’t working in school discipline today.

What did you think of the report? Do you have kids in your family or of friends who have been over-disciplined at school? What advice would you give parents who think their school crossed a line when it came to discipline?

About Christine Sinatra 53 Articles
Christine Sinatra is the communications director for Texans Care for Children and mom to a kindergartener. Her past experience includes working as a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and the Oakland Tribune company, being a Peace Corps volunteer for high school girls in Africa, and studying at UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs.

1 Comment on Kicked Out of Class Over What?

  1. Speaking as both a former kid who acted out and now a parent of one likely to do so, I can honestly say that a teacher or administrator who is caring, compassionate, and actually listens to the acting-out kid in way that shows them that they matter goes much, much further than any punishment.

    Sometimes a kid just needs to know that someone gives a damn; that their problem, while it might seem small and petty to everyone else, is monumental to them, and if only someone would care and listen then they’d feel valued enough to stop raving.

    And much of the time, more often than teachers and administrators would like, they’ll find out the problem isn’t small or petty. Like maybe that popular kid really is torturing the one acting out. Or maybe that kid is acting out at school because they’re getting the crap beaten out of them at home. Or maybe the teacher the kid railed against really was breaking the law by insinuating religious doctrine into math class. Not that I’d know anything about any of these causes, no no no…

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