Monday, April 02, 2018

Suspensions Up in NYC, UFT and City Fight for More Singing of Kumbaya

I'm not surprised to see that the suspension rate has risen this year. I'm not surprised either that the cited article interviews not one single UFT member. Fortunately, they ask Mona David her opinion. David runs some parent group which, as far as I know, consists of at least her and some guy from Staten Island who wish to kill teacher tenure. Why bother asking teachers what they think?

The article cites reasons suspensions are given, though:

Students are suspended for such infractions as attacking staff or other students, destroying school property or bringing weapons to campus.

Fortunately, the city is looking to take a "restorative justice" approach to these matters. So if you or one of your students get the crap kicked out of you at school, the attacker will get to sit around and talk about just why he hit you over the head with that two by four. When we finally discover the root cause, you and your assaulter can hug it out. What's better than that?

Let's say that some student offers to kill your entire class. Doubtless he's misunderstood. You should talk to him, and find out why he feels that way. Let's say you respond, and he once again signals his intention to kill everyone. Clearly he's had some childhood trauma that put him in this unfortunate situation. There's a conflict between him and the entire class. The only thing to do is set up a mediation. He can explain why he wants to kill everyone while you and the rest of the class explain why you don't want to die.

Hidden and buried feelings are simply unhealthy. So it's important that you get them right out there in the open. As educators, it's important that we not just skim the surface. Now sure, this is not 100% effective. I mean, sometimes students actually show up to schools and kill everybody. But don't you want to be absolutely sure you've exhausted all restorative means at your disposal before you resort to something as drastic as suspension?

I'm kind of old school, so you can't really go by me. Once, I was teaching a class, and a student I'd never seen walked in. I told him he'd have to leave. He was offended by that, and thus he announced to the class that he was going to blow my head off with a 45. Clearly it was my fault. I should've taken the time to ask him why he felt he needed to come into my classroom, as opposed to whatever one he belonged in. Had I taken the time to understand him, perhaps he wouldn't have felt the need to threaten my life in front of 30 witnesses.

But that's not all I did. After the class, I ran around the whole building and sought to ascertain the identity of the kid. When I finally did, rather than apologize face to face for failing to understand his needs, I wrote him up to the dean. Not only that, but I followed up a few days later. I asked what happened, and the dean told me they had called the kid's parents. I asked why he wasn't suspended. He had problems, they told me.

Now here's how callous I am--I said if he had problems that caused him to threaten people's lives in public, he did not belong in the same building as my students. Can you imagine my level of insensitivity? Even now I feel wracked with guilt over my unreasonable requests.

Statistics show that students who are suspended graduate at lower rates than students who are not suspended. Clearly the suspensions are damaging to student self-esteem. Now I know there are Doubting Thomases out there who will say, "Hey, NYC Educator, don't they graduate at lower rates because they bring weapons to school, or run around assaulting people and threatening to kill them?"

To you doubters, I say this. Last Wednesday UFT passed a resolution for more restorative justice and less suspension. And they must be right, because E4E also supported it, and they're endorsed by Bill Gates.

What more evidence could anyone ask?
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