A disruptive student can be devastating to a classroom. A disruptive, violent and disobedient student can kill the learning environment of the classroom. You don’t have to be a genius or hold a Doctorate Degree to figure this out. What does a disruptive student do to a classroom? This sort of a student behavior manifests itself into a situation where other students, there simply to learn and do what is expected of them, become stressed to the point that it affects their learning. And teachers get worn down. Often, in this district, teachers are told they must attempt to curb the bad behavior of a student 6 or 7 times through re-direction or other classroom management technique before sending a student to the office. How much class time does that waste? How much learning time does that rob? What sort of a toll does it take on a teacher, who is simply trying to do his/her best to teach, when after attempting to re-direct the bad behavior 6 or 7 times and having to eventually send the student to the dean’s office—the behavior continues? And administrators have the student returned to the same class the very next day for a replay? I know this is devastating to morale. That’s why we have such tremendous churn in some schools. And it’s why we have some teachers, desperate to re-locate out of these schools and precluded from doing so, try desperately to be moved down to the kindergarten or first grade level. In some cases, some of these disruptive students get violent; they are intimidating to some teachers. There are some 5th graders who are 14, 15, even 16. Frustration builds and the environment gets toxic. And the employee churn begins, many teachers quit, principals get switched around, and the underlying environment stays the same. The lucky teachers, some might say, are the
ones who are able to get a transfer to the ‘burbs, where they enjoy parental support, stability, a better classroom environment, and an overall better atmosphere. Many of these fortunate teachers will finish out long careers at these suburban schools. Good for them!
Because overall, teachers absorb a lot of blame. Teachers are blamed when students from families who do not parent at all, when these kids do not do well in school. Teachers and others are called “failures.”
It’s not fair, but nobody cares and it is tolerated.
Teachers are blamed by administrators in suits when their students do not score well on standardized tests. Then these same teachers are micromanaged and force-fed proscriptive remedies for “fixing” their (perceived) teaching deficiencies. Then the suits blame school administrators. And the stress levels go through the roof and more tests are mandated. Then pre-tests, and post-tests, and formative evaluations, then summative evaluations and more standardized tests. Don’t forget the class time prepping for all of the all-important end of year EOCs and NRTs. It is insane.
And if parents check out and do not bring their children to school consistently, do not ensure their children do their work, do not ensure their children behave—these things are discarded by the suits. The teachers are blamed.
Teachers have parents blaming them in front of them, and suits holding knives at their backs behind them (using a bit of hyperbole).
And we wonder why we have high levels of absenteeism at some locations, why we can’t get substitutes at some schools, and why classes get doubled up. And this becomes a consistent, persistent problem.
And then, when a student like Mr. “61” is thrown into this chaotic mix and allowed to stay, what does this do to the environment?
To further complicate matters, “61” is a young Black Male student. And teachers and others have been blamed in this district for “targeting” young Black Males students for disparately punitive discipline. So we certainly have to ensure that we treat students like “61” with extra-special caution. We don’t want to be sued; we don’t want to be called racist. We don’t want to be stigmatized.
So the social justice organizations line up, study statistics, and threaten to sue the school district over our “unfair treatment of students like 61!” …And the suits get terrified and put into place new policies on discipline to genuflect, acquiesce, and pander to the misguided, ill-informed social justice groups.
And who gets caught in the middle? Teachers do.
I asked someone intimately familiar with the district’s student behavior challenges what he would do if given latitude to fix this issue, and his honest answer was “I don’t know if we can fix it, Mr. Bergosh.”
“What would you do?” He asked.
I told him I would not tolerate this. I would institute an new directive that would:
1. Install cameras in the 20 schools with the highest levels of discipline problems.
2. Immediately implement a policy that with 15 referrals in any given three year period, a change of placement would be mandatory for a period not to exceed 6 months. I’d massively expand the ISS programs and staff them with large, physically imposing men to manage the students- because the last place these students need to be sent is home. (that’s what they want)
3. If ISS students wouldn’t conform, they’d be transferred to Camelot, which I would also massively expand.
4. If students could not function at Camelot, we’d transfer them to DJJ programs.
5. I would emphasize personal responsibility as the factor that contributes to students who end up in alternative settings, I’d be vocal about it, and I would drop, immediately, the PC application of discipline based upon race.
I would do this and I would not tolerate any disruptions that linger over and over and over like what has happened in the case of “61.” I’d end that. There are WAY TOO MANY students still in class that have over 40 referrals, and these same students continue on, destroying class environments, other students, and teachers.
Meanwhile, our enrollment is stagnant. Giant corporations bring in thousands of employees, but our schools attendance remains stagnant and Santa Rosa grows from 15,000 students to 25,000 students in a decade. Why?
Because parents want the very best atmosphere for their children, that’s why. They simply do not trust us to maintain this atmosphere—particularly at the Middle School level. So these corporate newcomers commute to Escambia County for the paycheck, use our infrastructure, and go home to Santa Rosa County where they pay property tax annually, and their children generate recurring yearly FTE revenue for that school system of $8,000 per student. Every year. And we wonder why? I’ll tell you why. Because we have not protected the learning atmosphere for all students from students like “61”—that’s why. And the public knows it.
The teachers most definitely have not failed. The administrators who are charged with executing board policy and maintaining safe atmospheres are the ones who have allowed this to happen. The PC apologists are the failures.
Those who have perpetuated this problem are the failures.
Those empowered to suggest or apply a fix but for unknown reasons haven't-they are failures.
Those who have not addressed this problem for fear of "rocking the boat" are failures.
Those who have just gone along to get along-congratulations, you are a failure.
Perhaps I have not done enough to fix the broken discipline issues in this district from my position as a board member. I've tried, but not succeeded. For this, I accept the fact that I have failed.
But I will never, as long as I am on this Board, stop in my quest to foster a change to this broken district practice as it relates to discipline, because I know it is slowly destroying us from the inside out.