Schools Cannot Suspend Students…

So, what are we (teachers / administrators) to do with following law:  As the law stands now, schools cannot suspend students in kindergarten through third grade for willful defiance, but the new law extends that ban to include students up to eighth grade. Beginning in 2020, schools will no longer be able to suspend students in grades four and five.

Well, first answer to “what are we to do” question … follow the law.  As difficult as that is… follow the law. 

Next …  explain to your elected official why such a law is immoral.  Yes… immoral.  Immoral:  not conforming to accepted standards of morality. Suspending students sent a message to the student AND OTHER STUDENTS their behavior is unacceptable.  

In a moral society, children should be held accountable for their behavior toward their teachers / administrators.  I am curious to see what is going to happen when parents go into a parent conference with an administrator and quotes the law:  according to the law, my child can be defiant without any threat of suspension and then …….. the conference goes from there.  My child was defending him / herself and that is why he / she was defiant.  Can see this turn against the teacher.  

I can not stand this law.  Yet, let me be mature and give ideas to work with the law: 

1).  DOCUMENT EVERYTHING … be specific in describing the event (date / time / actions) mention no feelings, “JOHN DOE STUDENT made me feel _____.”  Don’t mention how you felt.  You are the adult.  Few administrators are going to care how you felt when the K – 8th student was defiant. 

2).  BE STOIC IN RESPONSE TO THE DEFIANT STUDENT.  Stoic = a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.    “JOHN DOE what you are doing right now is wrong.  Please stop being wrong.”  Whatever you say will be used AGAINST you.  So,  choose your words wisely and do not show feelings. 

3).  BUILD A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR STUDENTS.  Now, at age 54 (January 6, 2020) / thirty years teaching high school music, this “relationship-building” with students has dramatically changed!  I do not want my students to be my “son” or “daughter.”  Or soon to be “grandson” or “granddaughter.”  I know many teachers / administrators embrace that role of “substitute-parent” / “substitute-grandparent.”  I am not “there” any longer.  I am their music teacher.  I will do what I can to show my love / compassion / care for them and REMIND them I show my love / compassion / care for them AS THEIR MUSIC TEACHER, not their dad / grandfather.  You need to let them know you love them and there will be times (like their parents / legal guardians) when that “love” is going to be “strong.”  When the students are good – tell them.  When the students are “evil” – tell them.  Be consistent. 

In the end, be the teacher you would want your child / grandchild to have. 

4).  NOT ONLY WITH STUDENTS, BUILD A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ADMINISTRATION.  Keep that “Emotional Bank Account” out of debt.  Administrators don’t like surprises.  Notify them when Little Johnny is misbehaving.  Get to the faculty meetings on time.  Don’t be a distraction at the faculty meetings.  Be on time for the meetings you have with the administrators.  When you are late, “I AM SORRY” works.  Be prepared for any meetings with the administration.  Every time you are “good” with your administrator is a deposit in the “Emotional Bank Account.”  Every time you make a mistake or poor choice, that is a withdrawal from the “Emotional Bank Account.”

5).  SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES WITH OTHER TEACHERS / UNION.  Many times, you will not be the only teacher who has struggled with LITTLE JOHNNY.  Also, we need to share what is happening with those who have knowledge of doing the job.  Teachers understand teachers.  

Reflection:  This law is written by Senator Nancy Skinner.  A person who has no experience of being a teacher in a public-school classroom – or any classroom.  We are seeing more and more people being “experts” in an area they have never “served.”  (Secretary of Education – Betsy DeVoss – not one day of being a teacher) I have no idea who Senator Skinner is.  I looked at the Wikipedia page and saw… NO TEACHING EXPERIENCE.  Since 1984, Senator Skinner has been a politician / environmental activist.  Thirty-five years of knowing how to be a politician. 

Senator Skinner – if you read this, please consider what your good idea will do thirty years from now.  Children being able to be defiant towards their teachers and administrators and not ever be worried about being suspended.  A new level of “empowerment.”   

Also, Senator Skinner, what was the motivation to create such a law?  Oh, there is an answer: But data from the California Department of Education shows a disparity in who is getting suspended. Black students, while accounting for 5.6% of enrollment, made up 15.6% of all willful defiance suspensions in the 2017-18 school year. White students accounted for 20.2% of willful defiance suspensions while making up 23.2% of enrollment. (US NEWS.  September 9, 2019)  Does this data mean, Senator Skinner, you think the teachers are suspending students due to teachers being  “racists?”  What else does this data imply? 

I trust teachers.  Teaches are IN GENERAL good people.  As families break apart / parents not parenting / screen time on electronic devices exponentially increases and on and on and on… being a teacher can lead to a life filled with misery.  There is a name for such misery: Secondary Traumatic Stress.  I see the “NO SUSPENSIONS” being another step towards an increase in teachers with SECONDARY TRAUMATIC STRESS.  Student misbehaves and can be in the teacher’s classroom the next day. 

And one more thing … using data such as this:  When California banned willful suspensions up to third grade, suspensions fell by 30,000 in the first year. Since 2011, suspensions for willful defiance have dropped 82%, according to a legislative analysis of the proposal.  (US NEWS. September 9, 2019)  To prove Senator Skinner and her followers are correct in BANNING SUSPENSIONS FOR DISOBEYING / DEFYING TEACHERS, this data is deceitful / misleading.   Why is it deceitful / misleading?  OF COURSE, THE NUMBER OF SUSPENSIONS WENT DOWN!  California BANNED willful suspensions.  Wouldn’t logic say if something is banned, the number would go down? 

Would logic say, the more we allow our children to be immoral towards our teachers / administrations, the better chance our nation will become more immoral towards authority figures?   Suspension was a tool to stop defying / disobeying teachers.  Hope Senator Skinner and her followers are correct that this is going to lead to better people.