0157: Guns, Violence, and Zero Tolerance…Oh, and exile for kids
#education #prison #SOSchat
The past few days have been a bit turbulent. There have been quite a few fights, some threats made by students, and a gun. All violent things. All falling under zero tolerance policies, of which I am not a fan. I must state, up front, that I understand the concept of punishing/treating the “crimes” that are the most dangerous or the ones that have the most danger of being repeated in such a way that would discourage them from being repeated (visit Foucault for on this). Guns are not a good idea at school, clearly. Fighting is not the best outlet for conflict resolution. Threats should not be made. But, should students be exiled from education completely for the acts? Put another way, does simply removing the “perpetrator” from the academic environment help more than it hurts?
First, I’ll address guns. My first week as a teacher ended with a student bringing in a sawed-off shotgun. To my knowledge he had no intention of using in class, even though he and I had a heated exchange. He claimed that he was being beaten up on the way home from school. The gun was an extreme measure, but he deemed it necessary. He was expelled without any services from the district. So no school, and no help. He was exiled. I’ve not heard from him, but nothing was done to help his situation or help him deal with it. Potentially he became a violent offender, followed through with the his original intention, etc. He certainly did not return to school. Expulsion may be the best option. Certainly, we should do what we can to prevent students from bringing guns to school, but we should equally do what we could/can to treat the symptom. Shouldn’t we try to help students deal with problems before they get to the point of bringing a gun? If they bring one should we try to help them so the problem won’t worsen? I don’t think completely severing all ties is the best course of action for the student or for society. The student who brought the gun last week was also expelled, but with no psychological services and will be returning next year. Perhaps time will help?
Students who fight are arrested, carried away in a police car, and suspended for ten days— no questions asked. They return after ten days, or not, and receive no services, no conflict resolution, no anger management, nothing. Additionally, they’re behind in coursework, and possibly were behind to begin with. Many students get in more trouble while there are home for suspension. The alternative to suspension of course would be an alternative setting or some sort of psychological/conflict resolution service which of course would have a cost. And then, there’s the reinforcement, for some, of being hauled away in a police car. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? Is it necessary to send children away in a police car simply because they got into a fight? Should there not be some sort of teaching that extends beyond the tested curriculum? Teachers try, but often aren’t equipped or allotted the time. Further, fights are born out various stresses and conflicts some stem from the neighborhood others from school. The test certainly adds to stress, and when it’s over it seems supervision becomes lax.
Some fights that would usually have been prevented happen. Yet, another factor. So if some responsibility lies with the school should the school just ship students away? Certainly not.
The same goes with threats, violent language, etc. We punish the language without offering a reasonable or better alternative. We punish and do not replace as as a system. There should be some teaching dialogue that accompanies infractions; that is, if we don’t want them repeated.
The system is broken. Sometimes it seems schools are prison-preparation programs. What can be done?