Do schools need a new approach to student discipline?
Five Florida school districts face a federal complaint that they punish minority students at a disproportionate rate.
In Flagler County, one of the five, some community leaders suggest that the district should consider working more closely with troubled students rather than simply disciplining them. "If you're going to have suspensions, have in-school suspensions and have parents more informed," local NAACP president Linda Sharpe Haywood told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. "I think it's a travesty to expel children from school when they are already at risk."
That's a move that the Palm Beach school district (not one of the five) already is considering. The Palm Beach Post reports that the School Board this week will workshop a policy revision that puts more emphasis on assistance over punishment. It's acting in light of its own data review that showed its out-of-school suspension rate of 8.7 percent exceeded the state average.
The goal in Palm Beach is to help students find ways to correct their actions. "The idea is to make it a teachable moment," assistant superintendent Keith Oswald told the Post.
Yet in this time of school board and superintendent elections across Florida, we still hear talk of getting tougher on misbehaving students as a way to support teachers and the students who come to school to learn, not watch their classmates get in trouble.
Is there a middle ground that can get the bad apples out of the classrooms they're disrupting, yet ensure the kids don't just end up on the streets causing more trouble and costing society even more in the long run? Can districts afford to create new programs in this time of limited financial resources? Can they afford not to?