Starting a conversation on discipline

PASS Parents and Friends —

One of the biggest issues facing SCPS is a breakdown in discipline. It is one of the reasons we have trouble recruiting and keeping substitute teachers and bus drivers and it is a major drain on staff morale. We at PASS plan a series of posts dealing with the question of discipline from different perspectives.In seeking one such perspective, I asked my daughter who is a freshman at CHS if she had seen examples of students being disrespectful to teachers and other school personnel. She immediately and emphatically said “yes, quite often.” I asked how the other students responded. Her answer was interesting.

She said, “They basically break down into three groups. One group is frustrated with the kids who always act up, and embarrassed by it, and they want to help the teacher solve the problem. Another group may not like that the kids are being disrespectful, but they are so used to it that they don’t react at all. The last group is kids who either encourage the behavior, or who use the bad behavior as an excuse to see what else they can get away with.”

That is sad to hear. I am sure most of us would like to believe our children are in the first group, but clearly some of us would have to be wrong. While children who act out may do it for all sorts of reasons, probably the most common is to elicit a reaction from their peers; they think disrespecting teachers makes them seem cool or funny. The kids who laugh at disrespectful behavior or otherwise egg it on are as much a part of the problem as the kid who engage in it.

Discipline begins in the home; there is only so much our schools can do to foster it. I urge you to talk about it with your children and find out what they are seeing in school and how they react to it. Make clear that disrespecting staff isn’t cool or funny or in any way acceptable. Ask teachers where your child falls on the behavior spectrum, and be prepared for answers you may not entirely like.

You will be hearing more about discipline from us in days to come, but I’ll leave you with this: we are all in this together. Lack of discipline is not “their problem.” It is our problem.

Dan Walsh

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