Thursday, March 22, 2012

Suspended for Lateness?

I don't wish to enter the Trayvon Martin saga, but I did read an article that refered to the fact that he was suspended from school for 10 days at the time of his death.  Now, this is irrelevant to the needless circus already surrounding this case, but this same article stated the reason for the suspension was latenesses, which piqued my curiosity.  Talk about the punishment not fitting the crime.  Well, I did a bit of research on the Miami-Dade County Public School website, and suspensions are a serious undertaking, entailing hearings, rights to representation and appeals.  It seemed unreasonable that they would venture such a process for mere tardiness.  And, indeed, according to their behavior code, lateness is not even an infraction listed for corrective action.  You cannot be suspended for 10 days in M-DCPS unless you have commited a Level III, Offensive/Harmful behavior.

Sometimes we need to be reminded
that schools like these exist
I then wondered if it was even possible in any public school system to suspend a child for excessive latenesses.  And it turns out, yes, in certain schools' conduct guidelines such as North Carolina's West Charlotte High School, California's Central Valley High School, and New Jersey's North Bergen High School, a student can be suspened after 4, 9 or 10 tardies, respectively.  I wonder if these policies are strictly adhered to.  Of course, none of the prescribed suspensions were for anywhere near 10 days.  But in other countries, suspensions for latenesses can be swift, extended, and without due process or even warning.  According to a Nigerian newspaper, a principal suspended 97% of the student body indefinitely for coming late to school.  No hearings, not even a phone call, and in order to return to school, the students' parents needed to visit the school.   The article's subtitle read "They're back and better".  A quote from the school's principal is worth highlighting here:
“It’s better to have 20 serious and diligent students who are ready to learn than to have hundreds of unserious ones."
"He reiterated the decision of the school management to ensure that they are sound both in academics and moral, to make them good ambassadors of the nation."

Be still, my heart.  Perhaps I should be teaching in Nigeria.  "The decision of the school management to ensure that they are sound both in academics and moral, to make them good ambassadors of the nation."  Wow.  And the newspaper article, in my mind, is fair and balanced.  Even the interviewed students gave fair accounts of the events.  There was no indignation from the students, only the principal, which is how it should be, I'm sorry.  So, while I found a lot of behavior contracts, codes, corrective actions and so forth for American schools, in Nigeria, they are keeping an eye on morals and making students ambassadors of the nation. Now, the Nigerian education system is not a model for the world, but if a leader of a school can take an action like this and not fear for his job, that is something I can get behind.  I think that those children, who might have been late because they were gathering firewood or tending the herd, were never late again.  How did we get so lost in this country?


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