The Los Angeles Unified School District made national headlines this week when it banned the practice of suspending kids from school for "willful defiance." The district felt that sending children home from school for acting out was detrimental to their education and discriminatory to minorities.
The use of willful defiance was criticized by students such as one Damien Valentine, a sophomore in high school and profiled in a recent LA Times article. Mr. Valentine, 16 years old, has been suspended from school multiple times since he was in 7th grade. He said he was suspended for talking in class and not switching chairs when the teacher asked him to do so. Says Mr. Valentine, "Getting suspended doesn't solve anything. It just ruins the rest of your day and keeps you behind." The young man says he likes chemistry and hopes to be a doctor one day.
He says he wished his teachers had spent more time talking with him and helped him control his ill temper. Now he is joining a program in the school district that attempts to mediate the difficult relationships of teachers and students. When students misbehave, instead of kicking them out of class, the teacher and students write letters to each other explaining their actions and how the animosity should be resolved. Says one of the proponents of this new compassionate teaching, "Instead of punishing students, we're going to engage them."
Excuse me if I don't buy into this new touchy feely form of discipline, if you can even call it discipline. When I was little and I acted out in school, the teacher did engage us, with a forced march to the principal's office where the big wooden paddle was just waiting to be taken down from behind his desk. If he didn't do it, I was sure that the note that was sent to my parents would lead to the same actions at home. There was none of this "but the teacher was unfair and doesn't understand me" business.
So Damien Valentine thinks he can get into medical school
despite multiple suspensions on his academic record? His denial of his
own culpability is beyond belief. He hasn't yet realized that his own
actions lead to his suspensions, which most surely ruins his day and all future days. And responsible adults who should know better are abetting his delusions by letting him think it is the teacher's fault that he is getting kicked out of school. If this is the pool of students from which future physicians will be selected, the malpractice lawyers are going to have a field day.