Saturday, September 24, 2016

Louisiana Educator: School Disciplinary Authority is Being Seriously Eroded

Louisiana Educator: School Disciplinary Authority is Being Seriously Eroded:

School Disciplinary Authority is Being Seriously Eroded

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This article in Education Week magazine describes a growing national trend to reduce educator authority to suspend students for disciplinary infractions. A major substitute for out-of-school suspension is a program called restorative justice. In this scheme, teachers are expected to refrain from removing disruptive students from the classroom and instead implement various interventions. As the article explains, denying teachers the authority to remove extremely disruptive students often infringes on the rights of other students to receive productive instruction.

This is how the writer explains the issue:

Why can't Johnny read? Or, assuming he can, why isn't Johnny closing the achievement gap?
It's politically fashionable to blame his tenure-protected teacher. But might it have more to do with the pathologically disruptive classmate who, given infinite "second chances" by detached policymakers and feckless administrators, never gets removed from Johnny's classroom?

Thanks, in part, to an increasingly popular behavior-management approach known as "restorative justice," soft discipline is on the rise in public schools at the same time that education reformers are demanding higher standards and teacher accountability.
Restorative justice emphasizes correction and counseling over punishment, and seeks to replace strict zero-tolerance discipline policies with collaborative opportunities for restitution. Its primary goal is to keep students in school rather than suspending or expelling them.
Generally proponents of alternatives to suspensions are not the professionals who must deal with disruptive behavior in the classroom on a daily basis. It is relatively easy to be a "Monday morning quarterback" and insist that there must be a way to correct student misbehavior without the need to resort to removal of a student from the learning environment. Often the "experts" on such alternatives are persons who never have to actually implement these "miracle cures" in a real classroom setting. You see it is much easier to advocate for these alternatives to suspension than to actually implement them!

In Louisiana our State Department of Education has for several years recommended a program called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports known as PBIS.  Many Louisiana school systems require schools to implement PBIS as a way of reducing suspensions.  But the problem is that many teachers complain that PBIS greatly reduces the teacher's ability to take immediate action to stop disruptive, dangerous or disrespectful behavior by removing a student from the classroom. Such behavior often interferes with orderly and effective instruction of the great majority of students whose instruction is put on hold while the teacher fills out paperwork and then attempts to accommodate disruptive or disrespectful students using this alternative strategy.

Right now state law in Louisiana gives each teacher the right to remove extremely disruptive or disrespectful or dangerous students from the classroom by simply filling out a discipline referral form and sending the student to the appropriate disciplinary administrator. That is currently the law and the teacher should have the right to use the law to insure that she/he can effectively conduct class without interruption. But some school systems and some administrators have instructed teachers that they may not remove a student unless the teacher has implemented various steps of the PBIS procedure such as documenting several disruptive incidents and sometimes even telephoning or conferencing with the parent. But such alternatives for the one disruptive student can take away from time the teacher could be instructing the class. Is is right to deny or delay instruction of cooperative students to deal with one student who refuses to comply with the teacher's directives? I believe that school systems that deny a teacher the right to implement immediate removal of extremely disruptive or disrespectful students are in violation of state law. But there are current attempts to change state law to take away the teacher's right to remove such students.

During the 2016 legislative session, the legislature debated a bill(HB 833) by Representative Leger that in its original form would have forced schools with 150% of the average number of student suspensions to implement a plan to curtail suspensions by the use of alternatives to suspensions such as Restorative Justice or PBIS. Many administrators and teachers contacted their legislators and explained that such mandatory restrictions would tie the hands of principals and teachers in schools that faced greater than average challenges to maintain a productive classroom environment. Does it surprise you to learn that
Louisiana Educator: School Disciplinary Authority is Being Seriously Eroded: