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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 13, 2013 at 6:30 AM

Discipline in Seattle Public Schools sparks debate, federal investigation

Teachers cannot be held responsible for parental role

As a retired professor who spent 27 of his 32 years in higher education teaching in public four- and two-year colleges, I concur entirely with Dan Magill’s excellent argument about the need to discipline, and at times, evict disruptive students from class [“Sometimes, a student should go,” Opinion, March 11].

Responsibility for learning and for maintaining civil relations with one’s fellow students rests first on students, then on their parents and then on teachers.

Students who come to grade school knowing nothing of self-discipline or what constitutes acceptable social behavior will not learn those skills in school; they must learn them at home and then carry them into the classroom. Parents who refuse to teach their children respect for themselves and for others are lying to their children, and responsibility for their children’s failures in school rests with them.

Asking teachers to do the job of parents is unconscionable.

–Michael W. Shurgot, South Puget Sound Community College, professor of humanities (retired)

Students should be respected, part of the decision-making process

I found it interesting to read both Dan Magill’s article titled “Sometimes, a student should go” the same day Jerry Large wrote “Better ways to change misbehavior” [NWMonday, March 11].

I’ve worked with students K-12 more than 32 years and have observed students from many diverse settings.

I would venture to guess that any educator, counselor, parent, administrator or student would want to implement the communication model Principal Jim Sporleder does in his school (treating students respectfully and having them become part of the decision-making process) — and kudos for him for doing so.

His entire educational approach was altered dramatically after he attended an ACE training (Adverse Childhood Experiences). I believe most students who “act out” do so (as the founders of the ACE model say) due to childhood trauma and the lack of appropriate behavioral role models.

But — here’s the thing. Lincoln High School, an alternative school in Walla Walla, has 200 students.

Franklin High School in Seattle has 1,302.

With counselors being asked to do more clerical work, social workers being cut, mental-health services going away and teachers dealing with huge class sizes and issues, how can this dream be made a reality for all students?

–Ellen K. Reichman, Kirkland

Students should have an alternative

After reading Dan Magill’s op-ed, I am reminded of a lesson I learned years ago from a student.

Day after day, this determined student managed to derail my well-planned eighth-grade English lessons with his antics. A few years later, this same student walked into the class I was teaching at the district’s alternative school. As we got to know each other, I asked him why he had been so disruptive in junior high. He admitted he couldn’t read, couldn’t do the work I was asking of him and didn’t want his classmates to know. It was easier to be the class clown than the class dummy.

In the small classes at our alternative school, he learned to read, earned the credits he was lacking and eventually graduated. Alternative programs are expensive, but so is the cost to society of students dropping out.

–Erica Posner, Redmond

Follow Jim Sporleder’s lead

I have been reading the articles regarding student suspensions and expulsions. Someone finally got it right. Thank you, Jerry Large, for your article about the work of Jim Sporleder.

There are reasons students act out. Sadly, most of them have experienced serious neglect, abuse and lack of parenting. If our education systems would apply Sporleder’s approach at an early age, teachers like Dan Magill would not feel they have to sacrifice students like “Rheece” for the greater good.

–Anita Hidalgo, Seattle

Research, information should be applied

In the midst of the U.S. Department of Education investigating Seattle Public Schools and its expulsion practices, it is encouraging to read Jerry Large’s “Better ways to change misbehavior.” It is unfortunate that the practices of Jim Sporleder at Lincoln High School seem to be the exception.

In a time of budget cuts and greater demands, the attention and time our schools offer to our students outside of teaching continues to be strained. By no means should a school replace family, but often the tools needed to navigate our systems is displayed within our school walls.

I hope that more teachers and administrators take advantage of the research conducted and funded through our education system. Information is available to help students and our schools and could be better utilized, just as Sporleder has done.

–Mindy Kohanski, Seattle

Social injustice is not always the problem

In regards to “Sometimes, a student must go,” Dan Magill astutely points out issues have several viewing platforms. It is imperative to understand all views before publicly pointing the blame finger as a perceived social injustice.

Many students of all ethnicities do not have the skills to participate in the public-school classroom. Yet, our laws force them into public classrooms that are not economically prepared to handle disruptive behavioral issues. In the workplace, employees with these issues are fired.

Our public-education issues are not going to be resolved by dumping blame on the one group of people who are making a difference for the majority of students. Look deeper folks, look deeper! Every adult with children in a public school (or an opinion) should experience one week as a public-classroom teacher.

The cause of the issue isn’t simply an ethnic group being singled out. As a public community, we can do better. Let’s start by funding education at levels that promote success for all students.

–Joy Findley, North Bend

Comments | More in Children, Education, Race, Teachers | Topics: school discipline, Seattle Public Schools, U.S. Department of Education

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