A previous version of this article was published in The Fresno Bee on October 5, 2019.
Students, discipline and why us parents need to step up more than ever… kindly stop reading now if you don’t enjoy truth in accountability.
Several weeks ago, I had a field day on Facebook with Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent signing of Senate Bill 419 into law — a law that will soon ban public and charter schools from suspending disruptive students from Kindergarten through 8th grade. (Spoiler: I think this is dangerously irresponsible and absolutely absurd.)
No rules, no respect, no consequences… no problem, kids! And we wonder why so many of our California schools are struggling to hold onto quality teachers and keep quality families enrolled in public education.
Before you start wielding accusations using words like “ignorant” and “uncompassionate,” I’ll offer this reality: Our school districts, communities and social structure simply cannot afford to collectively raise more young people who aren’t held to consequences for poor choices and bad actions.
“It’s the parents’ job to discipline children!” many point out. Yes, it IS — except many parents don’t. Many parents fail to realize if they’re lacking skill for raising kids to show reasonable respect for others, for authority, for public places. (That isn’t an attack on these parents’ humanity…. it’s merely observation and truth.)
I chaperoned one of my daughters’ field trips last week and I will be blunt — most of the students were acting like wild cats and dogs. Running. Screaming. Completely unaware and colliding with elderly people trying to walk past our motley crew.
But not my group. My group of five second graders were civilized, respectful and an absolute joy. Why? Because I flat-out told them, before we even set one foot off the bus, that I had rules: “If you run around or run away from me… you will not be going back to school because you will be lost [here at this museum] forever.” Their eyes got wide and they all looked at each other. Then I smiled. “That’s my only rule — can you follow it?” (They all nodded.) “We will act like nice, polite people because this is a public place. Let’s have a great time.” And then we all high-fived. And then we went exploring. And then I continued to firmly remind them of their promise throughout the day as needed. [UPDATE: When I asked my daughter if I was “nice, mean or in-between” as a chaperone… she told me I was “Nice!” Even after all my sit-downs, be-quiets and stop-running-or-else-you-will-be-lost-forever shenanigans.]
Meanwhile, practically every other student in our second grade group sprinted from place to place and embarrassed the hell out of our top-notch, by-all-accounts-privileged school… and I didn’t notice ANY of the other parents saying or doing one thing to stop the mortifying madness. When I’d instruct a child to sit down, get in line, pay attention or just stop running, I’d get looks of shock and confusion from other chaperones.
They’re surprised I’m telling kids to be respectful? Then I felt shocked and confused.
My rash first-opinions about how destructive California’s aforementioned new law is were confirmed: If most kids aren’t getting active and ongoing guidance from parents about respecting authority, and we’re now beginning to prohibit our educators by law from saying, doing or acting on disciplinary action they see appropriate and/or effective to enforce (in the name of establishing and teaching societal rules and consequences, to raise productive young adults), then society as we know it is doomed. Doomed.
Because the children who talk back, yell at and/or strike teachers outright (yes, it happens) need to learn consequences if a parent isn’t holding them to any… before it’s too late and too dangerous. It takes a village, remember?