Don’t leave school discipline up to Mr. Petrilli

Found this article by Michael Petrilli: School discipline: Too important to leave to liberals which initially irked me because while I tend to align pretty moderate, I would, in some circles still consider myself a liberal and I have some very important ideas and experiences around school discipline.

Apparently it is an extension of this original article: Charters can do whats best for students who care.

Mr. Petrilli, How much time have you spent in classrooms? Your bio does not indicate any educator experience, but are you qualified to perform much research?! While you are correct about the chaos our schools are in, you are incorrect that not all students “care.” They care but have little or no direction from family or school about how to go about it. You are right that we need:

NY article 1

The kids who need the most guidance and counseling are the kids you describe as trouble makers. And of course you don’t let them “take over the classroom” but you need to sit and listen to them, show them compassion and how they can make a positive impact on the world. Kids generally feel helpless, with no control over their lives (especially the negative circumstances) and they need our love, support, caring and counseling.

Do you disagree that a student who is a “behavioral disturbance” needs a school discipline and climate that you mentioned above? Are you simply stating that not enough traditional public schools don’t have the school discipline systems and climate to effectively influence these students? That, perhaps is an argument to make, and you can go on to talk about all the charters (we know some don’t) that have great school discipline and culture. But do not blame the lack of school resources on the kids and their behavior. I generally appreciate your work and your efforts, but this has clearly, crossed a line. And I am on the side of education reform.

Next, I’d like to see your evidence supporting this statement:

But declaring, as some districts have, that they are going to eliminate suspensions and expulsions entirely is a totally different matter. It’s the educational equivalent of giving up on assertive policing and letting windows stay broken. Most problematically, it elevates the rights of the disruptive students above the needs of their peers. The well-behaved kids—the serious learners—are the ones who will pay the costs.

First, your statement about behaviorally challenged kids is the “educational equivalent” of giving up on kids that you don’t know, or don’t understand, or don’t want to understand. You apparently have not found a way to value all kids and I am very sad about that. I hope those who use your research to implement policy, or whatever it is that we all do with research, understand where you are truly coming from and take your words with a grain of salt.

Second, the only google-able evidence I found of eliminating suspensions completely, were in Southern Indiana.  “In Clark and Floyd counties, Greater Clark County Schools is the only district to completely eliminate expulsions, which occurred in 2010…” They also make use of alternative schools and alternative adult supervised “out-of-school suspension.”

These are other districts who have moved towards policies that reserve suspension for only the most critical cases:

Portland, OR; Boston, MA; State of Maryland; Denver, CO (and here); Los Angeles, CA; Paterson, NJ

In all cases they are moving towards alternative solutions – that actually value students and don’t essentially “throw them away” by suspension. I would very carefully adjust your position on this as it does not line up.

Feel free to advocate that traditional & charter public schools need to have comprehensive school discipline reform but don’t discount the efforts of those who are doing just that.

Also recommend reading a bit about how we can help kids in our schools in this blog post: What do you think about when you sit down to work?

Here is the next post regarding Sarah Blaine’s response to Michael Petrilli – and my opinion of her inaccuracies Focus less on type of school, more on student needs


2 thoughts on “Don’t leave school discipline up to Mr. Petrilli

  1. Pingback: Focus less on type of school, more on student needs | Best Interest of Kids

  2. Pingback: Make your own choices about what to believe | Best Interest of Kids

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