Sunday, September 2, 2012

Will Others Follow NY Moves To Cut Suspensions?

The New York Public Schools moved last week to drastically cut suspensions in its district with a model that I hope will be implemented by districts in our state, because too many of our children continue to be pushed out of school before graduating. 

I spar verbally on occasion with a good friend named Dr. Peace, a longtime, respected educator, about the need to lessen penalties in Michigan for minor misconduct in schools because those infractions account for 90 percent or more of the suspensions that take place. This is important to note because, being suspended for relatively minor things like talking talking too loud or being late to school, one time is major.

Research shows that once a kid is suspended once, the odds of that child being suspended again rise dramatically. And, repeated suspensions make it likely that a child will dropout of school or end up in the justice system, without a diploma. What education officials in NY did was enormous for the movement to end what is known commonly as the school-to-prison pipeline. Once students are out of school as a result of discipline issues, the likelihood of them ending up in prison as opposed to college is huge.

I mentioned my good friend Dr. Peace because, I do feel for the teachers in NY, who now have to come up with ways to do even more with less. There was no mention of additional counselors, social workers, mental health professionals or training in the announcement of the new policy. The good doctor would quickly point out this fact to me. And he is right.

I am not without sympathy for the plight of educators. My  tenure as a substitute in the Pontiac school district was short-lived specifically because of the students in my class who required so much attention due to discipline issues that I felt I was short-changing the kids who were there to learn. Granted the experience was different for me as a sub, but they are the same children.

I read this week that Michigan ranks 36th nationally in private sector incomes because we have so few people in our metro areas with degrees, according to Michigan Future. If you don't graduate from high school, college is a pipe dream. Getting a better handle on how we deal with discipline is a critical first step in getting more children in Michigan into position to graduate from high school, succeed in college and have a shot at getting a job or starting a business that allows them to build a self-sufficient future. We have to stop pushing them into the pipeline. NY may not have it right, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. Our state can't fall much further.

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