Parents Want Their Children in Safe Schools

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was quoted in a speech at Howard University, a predominately black university in Washington DC, that data in a report released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights suggests black and Hispanic students make up a disproportionate percentage of students who are disciplined with suspension or expulsion. (See Here) The report claims black students are 3.5% more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students.  The report also claims that minority students (black and Hispanic) are underrepresented in calculus or gifted and talented programs.

Either Mr. Duncan has never been a teacher or administrator at the campus level or the Secretary is pandering for November votes. As a former teacher, coach, principal and superintendent, no one will ever convince me that educators have any other motivation except to educate children in a safe and orderly environment.

As a former principal, there are three areas we detest: cheerleader tryouts, enforcing the dress code, and handling classroom discipline. The notion that principals are assigning a more severe punishment to minority students is insulting. Students who receive a more harsh punishment for misbehavior are the students who are repeatedly sent to the principal’s office by the teacher. Period.  To this day I’ve never seen or been accused of interrupting a classroom, rounding up the usual black and Hispanic suspects and suspending them from school for being too ethnic (whatever that means).

So, in the eyes of the Secretary Duncan, I assume he wants principals and teachers to either overlook the misbehavior of students based on race rather than consistently enforce expectations of behavior. Or better yet, have the principal interrupt a classroom, round up the usual white suspects, and suspend them for being too non-ethnic (whatever that means). Once again, this is where I say either Mr. Duncan has never been a teacher or administrator at the campus level or the Secretary is pandering for November votes. Tying the hands of teachers and principals through threats of investigation from the Office of Civil Rights for consistently disciplining students will create the proverbial monkey see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. In this scenario, only the well behaved students will suffer having to share the classroom with students that disturb the learning environment or make the campus unsafe because teachers and principals will turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to unruly student behavior. I’ve been there as a teacher and I’ve seen it. As a teacher in the early 1990’s, I had a student sentenced to my classroom by a judge while he was awaiting his trial for murder. Is this the direction we want to take our schools? Where was the Office of Civil Rights then?

This is common sense stuff here. This is not a racial issue as Mr. Duncan has concluded; this is an economic issue which in turn is a parenting issue. It’s the elephant in the room. Students from economically depressed backgrounds not only do not come to school as academically prepared as their middle class peers and many times don’t come to school as socially prepared either. This is not new news either. This has been known and understood in all counties regardless of ethnicity since data has been collected. And one more thing, removing a persistently disruptive student from school does not create criminals for our prison system. It removes criminals from our classrooms.



About ourschoolsblog

Rickey Williams is the author of this blog and began his career in public education in 1982. He has a deep respect for educators and the mission of public education. The author earned his doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin in Educational Administration. As an adjunct, he teaches graduate level courses to aspiring campus principals. His public education experience includes teaching math and coaching to secondary students (6-12), leading campuses as the high school principal, and leading districts as the superintendent. Foundational beliefs about public education include: Students and staff must feel safe and valued while in school. Educators and parents who promote and value an education enhance a child’s education. Students must be given the opportunity to reach their academic and social potential through high expectations, sound curriculum, and differentiated instruction. Enthusiastic educators have a passion for teaching and continuous professional growth. All district employees will be examples of professional and ethical conduct and will promote and enhance a positive and collaborative school climate.
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