Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Letter to the editor- Buffalo Schools' suspensions

This misinformed letter writer from today's Buffalo News would have you believe the teachers in the Buffalo Public School system enjoy handing out suspensions for minor things such as "clowning" or wearing hoodies. I'm in the schools every day and I can tell you this letter is a complete mischaracterization of what is actually taking place...

Non-violent incidents don't merit suspensions

The Buffalo Public School District can take a page from the criminal justice system’s new pilot program aimed at rehabilitation rather than punishment. A recent News article showed that there were more than 600 suspensions in September. Punishment seems to be thriving in our schools.

Just as the criminal justice system realizes that providing a support system based on treatment and rehabilitation rather than punishment is more effective, Buffalo schools should also change their approach. Last year, there were 17,000 suspensions. One in five students in Buffalo is suspended, versus the state average of one out of 20.

The adolescent brain is different from an adult brain, and kids don’t weigh risks and consequences the way adults do. If the criminal justice system can differentiate this, then why can’t our school system? Our children are being suspended for frivolous actions, such as class clowning or wearing a hoodie to school.

One preventative measure we can take now to curb the rise of youth in our criminal justice system is to ensure that our children are well-educated. We can’t educate them when we keep putting them out of school and onto the streets.

The district needs to understand that non-violent incidents need to be dealt with differently than violent incidents. It should implement a policy that ends all out-of-school suspensions for non-violent incidents.

Danielle N. Judge-Johnson

Lead Organizer, Citizen Action of New York, Buffalo

Danielle Judge-Johnson and Citizen Action of NY need to wake up and get their heads out of their collective asses if they think this is what is going on in the schools. They try to portray the suspended students as victims of an overly strict system. I'm with the teachers every day. The last thing they want to do is suspend students. They are left with no choice, however, when the same students continuously disrupt the learning environment and affect the rest of the class.

The kids being removed from class are not being removed for "clowning" or chewing gum in class, as the bleeding hearts would have you believe. That is the most ridiculous exaggeration I've read in some time. They are usually removed for threatening teachers or disrupting the class to the point where learning can not take place. Does Danielle ever wonder why suspensions aren't commonplace at the Olmsted Schools or City Honors or Da Vinci? Maybe it's because the students at those schools actually come to school willing to learn and with respect towards their classmates and adults in the building.

If you teach in the city, please feel free to comment on this post and let us know the reasons there are so many suspensions in Buffalo. People like Danielle have been watching too many Hollywood movies and believe the students at these schools are simply mischievous angels. She should sub in Buffalo and see what really goes on in the classrooms. Kids from Burma and Somalia come here dirt poor and are shocked at the way native born Americans are allowed to disrupt class. Nothing's going to change unless we start raising the behavior expectations of the students. The teachers in Buffalo are no different than the teachers anywhere else. It's the behavior of the students themselves that warrants the suspensions.


1 comment:

  1. As a teacher in a Buffalo Public High School, I find Judge-Johnson's letter offensive. She writes as though she is personally watching eager and highly motivated students get pushed out the door with suspension letters in hand for petty infractions. She fails recognize that the root of the problem lies deeper. The majority of the students suspended in my school are kids who lack the skills, support, and the motivation to behave properly in a classroom. They display complete disregard and disrespect for the rules and the staff of the school. So something that may start off as "frivolous" to her, (hoodie wearing and "clowning") end up being a suspension because the student takes it to a much higher level; escalating something minor into insubordination, threats against staff, etc. To say that some kids come to high school unprepared is a huge understatement and if I wasn't a witness to it myself over the last 10 years, maybe I would feel the same way Judge-Johnson does. Of course, we would all rather have students in class learning than be out on the street, but there is only so much that can be done within the school. School is not a substitute for a parent. Furthermore, there is not unlimited staff to 'babysit' students who are not acting appropriate in class & need further consequence. Sadly, many kids don't care when they get suspended and don't really take it seriously. You can tie this directly with the lack of value they have for their education. The real question centers on how you deal with those students - the ones who don't care and don't understand why they should. I would love for Ms. Judge-Johnson to come to my school and see for herself what is really going on with these students and the staff who deal with these situations every single day! Surely it would be an eye opener for her!