Every now and then I find a recommendation in an agenda that I just cannot support. Last night there were two such recommendations that I voted against, both dealing with student discipline issues.
Over the last nine years on the board, I have seen much inconsistency with respect to the punishments meted out to individuals, based upon a variety of reasons. Although minorities appear to be removed from school at a greater proportion than their representation percentage would warrant, I have also seen that oftentimes these same students receive far more “chances” than their non-minority peers get (# of major discipline referrals given), before they are eventually punished with removal from their school.
Last year I went through the statistics and found some evidence of the trends I had seen but not previously verified.
Consistency is important, and following board policy is important as well.
Minimizing some infractions and going the opposite direction and going overboard on other rules transgressions is a big problem--- and two cases yesterday fall right into this category.
Student “A” had a checkered past, racking up 10 discipline referrals for major rules violations, fighting, threatening a board’s employee with physical violence, numerous major class disruptions, dropping the "F" bomb in class frequently, and then he finally he brought a bag of marijuana to school. The
recommended punishment? One semester in an alternative setting. Then right back to his zoned school.
But the board traditionally has mandated a one year minimum removal for three big offenses, 1. Bomb Threats, 2.) Weapons on Campus 3.) Drugs.
So I was the sole vote against this student’s minimal punishment. He’ll be back at one of our High Schools this fall, eligible to participate in sports, clubs, activities, and all other aspects of school despite his record and despite the fact that he brought drugs to school. Not a good message to send to parents that are considering enrolling their students in our schools….
More and more frequently, I am seeing students who bring drugs to our campus receiving less than a full year removal, and I think this sends a dangerous message and I do not and will not support a punishment of less than a year for a student that already has a long discipline record of trouble and who then brings drugs to school. I’m going to watch these, pull them at meetings, then vote against them when/if they are brought to the meetings for a vote. We cannot afford to water down and minimize the penalties for bringing drugs to school, to mollify special interests or to appease those who want us to tolerate such behavior for political correctness’ sake.
Student “B” committed a major offense, no doubt; however it was not an offense for which board policy dictates a minimum punishment. It was not weapons, drugs, or a bomb threat. In fact, student “B” is a very good student with a very high GPA and ZERO (0) previous disciplinary problems. She and another student committed a sexual offense (for which the other student did not receive a disciplinary reassignment or expulsion) and for this, Student “B” is being removed from her school and sent to an alternative program for a full semester---in spite of her spotless disciplinary history and good grades.
So students “A” and “B” essentially receive the same punishments although the transgressions were very different.
I strongly feel that student “B” should have been allowed to serve a 10 day suspension, followed by a 30 day period of ISS with some counseling mandated as well. She did not deserve to be punished so severely, given all the circumstances surrounding her issue. It is for this reason that I pulled her issue for a vote. The superintendent’s recommendation for student “B” was approved by a narrow 3-2 vote, with Linda Moultrie joining me in voting “no” on this recommendation.
We simply must do a better job of punishing the habitual offenders and finding ways to not “kill houseflies with jackhammers” like we did with student “B” last night.
I am going to watch these cases closely going forward, demand legible, complete backup, and I'm going to continue to call out instances where I think we are falling short or being inconsistent on our discipline recommendations.
This is going to be my dedicated area of focus from now on, because I know this on thing: Although we can’t control environments outside of school (dysfunctional families, poverty, crime, drugs, etc.) WE CAN, if we have the will, control the environments in our schools and demand that students conform to our discipline standards and behave—regardless of their home life. We owe this to our constituents, the taxpayers, and our teachers. We ought to be doing this!
So I’m going to focus on this like an Eagle because this is an area we fall short on regularly, like I feel we've done list night with students "A" and "B".