Abuse in the public school system (part two)

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

While we continue to explore the rising number of verbal and physical abuse taking place in so many of our schools, we cannot ignore the culture that literally allows this injustice to continue to grow without honestly attempting to mitigate this occurrence. Students’ rights in the classroom seem to have trumped the rights of others, especially in the educational arena. After all these years, there is more emphasis put on schools to take the responsibility of accounting for the problematic behavior of students when we all know the problem begins at home.

Solving abusive behaviors manifested by students in the classroom are only exacerbated when you have parents who claim that such behaviors attributed to their child are nonexistent at home; therefore, they must be initiated or nurtured by inadequacies in the academic arena. Even worse is when you have a parent who doesn’t want to be bothered and feels that it is the school’s responsibility to deal with their child’s disrespectful behaviors. They feel their child is being provoked by the teacher or other students. Often you find parents defensive and in denial. But when you follow the child home, you might understand why the child acts as he or she does.

The truth is there are too many factors to address concerning why a child continuously manifests verbal and/or physically aggressive behavior that may be extremely explosive. There are no winners: we have the child who manifests the disruptive behavior; the teachers or student recipients of this abuse; and the majority of the students who actually want to learn. This is why no one can blame a parent who does whatever possible to ensure his or her child goes to a private school or a school where disruptive behavior is unacceptable (pending expulsion of students manifesting chronic disturbances). When all is said and done, not talking about the problem only perpetuates the problem. One must also understand that pointing fingers (whether it is the student, parents, other students, or the teachers) only makes people defensive—crippling the finding of an effective solution.

In the past, the board of education in many districts, as well as high ranking administrators, seem to have attributed low performance grades by some schools on the teachers. They cite the lack of preparation and teaching skills as the prime factors contributing to low student scores on basic state tests. One can only presume that many of these high-ranking administrators or principals find it easier to blame instructors instead of acknowledging their shortcoming or inability to realistically deal with the problem. It’s easier than acknowledging and honestly combating disruptive behaviors in their school districts. In fact, often the behavioral problems are hidden, unreported, and shoved under the rug. Administrators are often penalized, rated poorly, transferred, or dismissed when their school has a high number of studentsuspensions or reported disciplinary problems.

Who knows what the solution is, but not realistically addressing this ‘elephant in the room’ doesn’t serve to help anyone—especiallythe suffering educators, students who want to learn, or even the provocateurs who need extensive help. While there is no panacea guaranteeing 100% success at correcting all these abusive behaviors, these problems can be substantially lessened with much needed long-term mediation at the beginning when these volatile unacceptable behaviors become noticeable.

The question is whether the public school system is willing to pay for all the services needed to correct this pending problem. We are talking about extensive analysis and testing involving all the factors in the child’s life. Meetings should be held with parents, teachers, and school psychologists to try and find the catalyst feeding the problem. Equate if damaging behavior is happening in the home.Is there a starving need for attention? Is the child imitating the bad behavior manifested by an adult in the home? Is acting out masking the fact the child is academically behind? Are chemical, medical, emotional, psychological or biological deficiencies contributing to the child’s volatile behavior? The list continues. Once the problem is found, try using trial and error if necessary to eliminate the problem, whether it be individual or group counseling, removing the child from the home or extensive one-on-one tutoring to help the child academically catch up. Sometimes a student acts out attempting to mask the fact that they are so academically behind.

A contentious argument is that all children are not meant to academically succeed. Some (especially African American males) areconditioned to be fed to the highly profitable penal system. Wouldn’t it be better to spend the money upfront to eradicate behavioral problems instead of giving it to the prison system in the future? Unfortun-ately, lack of effectively dealing with behavioral problems (especially with African American boys) feeds this premise.

Suffering teachers are crying for help and need a voice to advocate for their needs and concerns to be respected and appreciated—not to be treated like doormats by a public and administration unwilling to acknowledge or accept seeking the truth. Help make it possible for teachers to teach in an environment conducive to supporting their academic efforts and discipline and everyone wins. I don’t think it is debatable. We all can agree that true learning is conducive to having structure and discipline.