To the Editor:
To “curb” student suspensions of longer than 20 days is not the same as banning them altogether. A prominent education-related website quickly corrected its original reporting error on that.
The story was about disciplinary reforms instituted by the city that will cut down on student arrests and the duration of suspensions while training Teachers to employ more-effective behavioral-modification techniques than those that are rooted in pure retribution in the management of serious student misconduct.
Blacks and Hispanics have been disproportionately represented among students against whom adverse actions have been taken, but although it is hoped that the new practice will help alleviate that, it should be understood that the changes are intended for the good of all communities.
If students realize and regret their violations, try to make amends, alter their ways, obey boundaries (including those that are self-imposed), break habits of insubordination and wrongdoing and dedicate themselves to academics, staying in school and earning a diploma and practicing self-care in the matters of relationships and lifestyle, then the city’s revolutionary initiatives will be fruitful. If not, then at the least it will need to be revised or re-devised, which will be tough.
Will education policy-makers and “stakeholders,” no matter whether they were originally proponents or opponents, have the courage, honesty and objectivity to admit if they’ve been mistaken?
Perfunctory public hearings will be held over the summer. Will there be a steady or a blinking “green light” for the new emphasis on conflict resolution, peer mediation and restorative justice?
As of now, there is no news about amendments to current placement of metal detectors or reversion, as some recommend, of School Safety Agents to be guided by School Principals rather than police department supervision. To prevent inevitable corruption, it is essential that these agents be independent of principals.
Because the new budget funds almost 300 new clinical social workers, there’s a good chance that the modified discipline code will pan out rather than flame out.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew, a staunch defender of the right of students to get a quality education in a safe and stable environment and for Teachers to practice their vocation in peace, endorses the new disciplinary initiatives, especially because there is a vital staff-development component attached. Earning that endorsement will be ongoing. It is predicated on these reforms consisting, said Mulgrew, of a “whole package” that is “proactive, not reactive.”
Suspensions cannot realistically be eliminated totally, but they may be minimized within the reasonable rule of law and consistent with the necessity of school tranquility.
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