Sunday, January 6, 2019

Return of the Rant! Treating the Symptoms?

     It's time for your annual physical examination.  Your physician asks you if you have any concerns?  You reply, "well doctor, I have this constant pressure in my chest that feels like an anvil is sitting on my sternum.  My left arm has been numb and tingly for some time.  This morning I have felt nauseous and have been sweating profusely.  As I came in your office door I had to sit down immediately because I could not catch my breath.  I am very dizzy".  Your physician replies to you that your chest pressure is probably indigestion, your arm probably has a pinched nerve, you may have eaten something that didn't agree with you for breakfast and you wouldn't be out of breath if you weren't so obese.  He prescribes Aleve, Naprosyn, Alkaseltzer, a gym membership and a Keto Diet.  He also adds that it is simply a coincidence that all these things are wrong at one time and sends you on your way.
     Now most middle school age children and probably every adult in this world can tell you that those are the symptoms of a central problem.  That problem will not be going away by treating the symptoms as if they were each a singular problem.  Ignoring the problem and simply trying to address the symptoms is a recipe for disaster in an individual student and their loved one's lives.  As a parent, if my son's pediatrician prescribed baby aspirin and rest for lower right quadrant pain and a fever instead of a CT scan of his appendix I would deem that unacceptable and would subject that doctor to a review of his medical license at the very least.  My son is that important to me as I am certain your children are to you.  As parents, we demand medical proficiency and excellence not band aids and ignorance.
     Isn't our children's educational experience and welfare just as important?
     Then why do we as parents tolerate a primary and secondary school system bent on treating "symptoms"?  Guilford County Schools self reported statistics are not pretty.  Add to that a majority of our school board members care more about their political backing (not necessarily by political party) of the superintendent than actually helping children overcome obstacles and the central issues become magnified.  Trying to fit a square political agenda into a round problem is nothing more than politicians using children to get re-elected.  The excuses these people come up with to justify bad behavior are stunning even if you haven't worked inside a school as I have.  Many will blame the lack of a good "home environment" and I agree that plays a part as does poverty.  However, we cannot legislate home life.  We can provide structure and teach self discipline, character and responsibility in an effort to improve the chances for those affected by a lack of early educational opportunities. 
     Suspensions are individual and not done by group.  They are also a symptom.  The problem is the behavior or bad decisions made by the individual student that has brought them to the point of suspension.  Suspensions stop occurring when behavior improves.  Ironically, when behavior improves, so does the opportunity for teachers to help educate not only the offending students but the other students in the classroom that are being denied valuable instruction time by the offender. 
     You see, these "politicians" would have you believe that the majority of African American students are being systematically suspended because of an inherent bias.  The fact is that the vast majority of African American students are not being suspended, are obeying the rules and learning.  The small percentage that are usually have been suspended multiple times yet the statistics being presented are for total suspensions, not individuals.  Why are African American students being suspended more than others?  Maybe because they are violating the rules more?  Certainly because the vast majority of violent acts are committed in our schools by African American students.  So too are the victims of this violence.  What message are we sending to these African American victims?  Why should they feel confident that their superintendent will protect them when every indication is that she prefers to protect the offenders? 
     During the past election in which I ran for a position on the Guilford County Board of Education, I was accused by Rabbi Fred Guttman of "playing on the fears of people".  He didn't like it that I was letting folks know that our schools are violent places.  He attempted to interject his experience as a school principal but his schools all have strict rules that are enforced.  He seems to believe that our public school system somehow compares and has the same advantages of an elite, private education where rule breakers can simply be summarily dismissed.  Yet, the violence occurs; every single day.  The excuse makers allow the law to be violated every day (NCGS 135C-288).  Charter schools continue to grow in popularity as does home schooling.  Charter schools in Guilford County cannot currently be built fast enough to keep up with the demand as one such school has a waiting list well into the thousands.  Parents do not trust the majority of middle schools in this county.  Elementary school's population is decreasing in some areas because parents are realizing it is easier to get into a charter in kindergarten than it is in 6th grade.  Teachers are leaving for these charter schools, other counties or quitting altogether.  And yes, there are those with agendas that blame charter schools for public school issues.  Charter school's popularity is the result and symptom of the problem which is violence and lack of structure and discipline that exists especially in our public middle schools.  Address the problem!  Yes, it is hard to reach a student who has decided street credibility is more important to him than an education but his followers can be reached once their inspiration is removed.  Stop making excuses for the one to the detriment of his future as well as the education of  hundreds of others! 
     These points only scratch the surface.  An entire article could be written just on school violence and its' victims.  I have spoken to many teachers, principals and administrators during my time as an SRO and a candidate.  Most of them have indicated that during their careers they have had to address issues of bias at the classroom level; sometimes with counseling, others with termination.  None of them have uncovered any inherent, consistent conspiracy by an individual administrator to target students based on race or ethnicity.  When presented with that theory as the reason suspension rates vary, I have asked one question of each presenter that has never been answered.  Punishing anyone in this country more severely based on race, gender or ethnicity is a clear federal civil rights violation.  If this evidence exists in Guilford County in such great indisputable quantity, who have we fired?  If we have fired a principal or administrator for such a public issue, do you believe these excuse makers would allow that to be kept quiet or use it to further their theories or agendas?
     So when you are running on your treadmill, holding your left arm, throwing up and passing out on the floor and cursing your doctor for missing that heart diagnosis, try to understand this.  Enabling violent students to remain in school where they can continue to disrupt and terrorize their victims unchecked simply to "keep suspension rates down" is killing the Guilford County Public School System.  To make excuses and allow this small percentage of students to remain undisciplined simply to hold down numbers to make the superintendent look good is criminal.