A Tale of Two Back to School Nights

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Excitement and enthusiasm were in the air as teachers in my new high school in a middle class neighborhood prepared their classrooms by decorating their bulletin boards, displaying student work, and straightening desks. Welcome messages abounded, Remind.com messages were sent, and we opened our doors to meet the parents.
I have done these events for 24 years, four times a year at my former school in South Central L.A. But this year’s Back to School Night left me reflecting, and perhaps shedding a tear.
First, my new parents were fantastic. They were friendly, enthusiastic, and supportive of the new ideas I bring to the school. I knew in them I would have allies to incorporate my findings from my Fulbright exchange in Finland earlier this year. Parent after parent nodded their heads and strongly affirmed that break time was important to students, teachers, and workers in general. They were excited to hear about the summer travel programs I had prepared.
As I looked at their warm and s…

Suspensions don't work! Tell that to the other 35 students

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Question: In lieu of suspensions for severe misbehavior, we offer what? A talking/healing circle?

What if the bully doesn't want to talk or let the victims heal?

We know suspension doesn't work for that ONE student who gets sent home. But does it help the other 35 who remain in school?

Who is fighting for the rights of the 35?

I think I might be the only social justice educator in favor of lifting the suspension ban.

Not for little things like talking back (I applaud it when it is thought provoking and reasoned.)

But for, I don't know, assault? Vandalism? Sexual and profane language?

When the powers that be tie our hands and do not allow the professionals who actually work at the school the authority to make these calls, the misbehaving students see a green light to go on a rampage. It's been happening since suspensions were banned. No, it is not just for willful defiance...a ban has sent a chill down administrator's backs for fear of attracting downtown's attention. So it includes virtually all causes.

If we cannot provide the type of resources needed to support the needs of challenging students, then we are literally handicapping our students from being productive members of society when they become adults by banning suspensions. And we are robbing the other 35 students of the full attention of the teacher.

There has got to be a better way.

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