June 09, 2010

The response begins

Sometimes I wonder if the News Journal doesn't write up its ridiculously one-sided articles just to yank the public's chain. The letters reaction has begun to dwindle in from its articles about school suspensions and discipline. Here's a common reaction (based on the online comments) from Mike Stanek of Wilmington:

We are trying to form a foundation for children so they realize what behavior is right and what behavior is wrong. So instead of disciplining these students, let’s blame the teachers and school districts for trying to enforce some sort of rules for the students.

The erosion of accountability of our youths is getting greater. Keep enabling everyone, so we don’t have any form of respect for authority whatsoever. I feel sorry for future employers of these individuals, as they will have no regard for company policies, as long as they don’t hurt anyone.

Next, Marie Anne Aghazadian of Wilmington says schools need to understand special education disabilities:

According to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, students with disabilities are entitled to services and support that take into consideration the manifestations of their disabilities. Yet schools routinely suspend students with special needs for behavior that occurs as a result of their disabilities.

Students with Attention Deficit Disorder are being suspended for making poor decisions, students on the autism spectrum for inappropriate social interactions and children with behavioral health needs for showing signs of anger or depression.

Based on my understanding, such students are permitted to be suspended -- up to ten days per year. They could possibily be suspended more than ten days if the determination is made -- via a "manifestation meeting" -- that the suspendable offense is not related to the student's disability. Ms. Aghazadian may not be aware, but until a student has either an IEP (Individual Education Plan, for special ed. students) and/or a 504 accommodation (for special ed. OR regular ed. students), schools do not have to recognize a student's "disability."

That brings us to the larger question of whether such students -- especially those with more severe disabilities -- should even be in traditional classroom settings if said disabilities may [often] disrupt the learning environment for the vast majority of children.

Lastly, George Poole of Newark notes what Mike Matthews and myself did a few days ago:

“Del. students suspended at twice the U.S. average” (Sunday) was not clear on whether the figures represented the total number of suspensions/expulsions or the number of students who experienced those forms of discipline. In other words, every school has a number of students who are suspended multiple times during the year. For example, a student who is suspended 10 times is very different than 10 students being suspended one time.

The article is not clear about the criteria used by the state and across the nation in compiling these numbers. A school showing a “discipline rate” of 44.8 percent of 1,132 student enrollment faces an entirely different set of issues to work on than examining the total of 498 suspensions at that school. A large number of those suspensions were caused by behaviors of repeat offenders. In that example, the school is not looking at almost one-half of its students being troublesome.

The original article did state that "More than 18 percent of students were suspended or expelled last school year, a figure that includes in-school suspensions and does not count students more than once." But, like Poole and Mike Matthews, I find this extremely difficult to believe.

Not to mention, the fact that the News Journal included in-school suspension in its figures is misleading. A lot of the complaints (even from a person like DOE's Robin Case) are about suspended kids "not being in school" and thus "aren't learning." Aside from the fact that it's a good bet many of these suspended kids aren't learning much anyway due to their behavior(s), in-school suspension is a different animal than out-of-school suspension. Students are supervised by a school staff member (frequently a teacher) and are given school work to do from their various teachers. If they have questions or problems with the work, they can often seek that help or have the supervisor make contact with the appropriate teacher. (Granted, the specific policies may vary from school to school, but that's beside the overall point.) Thus, it is a bit disingenuous to count in-school suspensions in the same way as out-of-school suspensions.

Posted by Hube at June 9, 2010 04:24 PM | TrackBack

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