When Disciplining Students Is NOT Allowed

It's like Deja Vu when I read the description of the intolerable situation our reader is being subjected to on a daily basis. I harken back to my own experience 4 years ago at Mark Twain Middle School, where Principal Lessie Caballero refused to discipline clearly disruptive and abusive students who were tacitly allowed to stop education from taking place. Down to the state "red team" audit, which found no discipline plan in place, our situations are exactly the same. And sadly, Principal Caballero -- in recognition of her excellent work -- has been promoted...away from students and teachers.

Read the email:

"My biggest concern is that I teach in a school where a small percentage of students are allowed to derail learning because the school administration does not allow effective discipline for the trouble makers. For example, a student can be openly defiant to a teacher and is right back in the same class the same/next day. The trouble makers rights are more important than the overwhelming majority of pupils who are trying to learn.

The administration's goal seems to be to "keep all kids in school" so that: (1) no money is lost; (2) no problems with misbehaving students' parents arise; and (3) suspension/expulsion numbers are down making the school administrators "look good." This has a devastating effect upon preparation for the "all important" test scores. It also hurts the teacher retention rate at our school.

Students who are trying to learn are frustrated because, as they say, nothing ever gets done to the trouble makers. Several years ago we had one of those LAUSD "Red Teams" come to Carnegie to evaluate our "failing situation." The team came to the same conclusion that more needs to be done regarding discipline issues. It also stated that teacher morale was very low and more needed to be done to support the teaching staff. This is my <Removed> year at this school and very little has changed.

Give us your best disciplinary horror stories...



01 2010


Here is my original comment:

When I first started with the district a number of years ago, I was absolutely shocked that students I had sent out for tearing up my classroom, abject disrespect to me and interrupting my lessons were not disciplined and often sent back the very same period. When I asked administrators later about it, they acted as if I were the problem, not the disruptive kid! This undermines the teacher's authority and makes us look like powerless idiots in front of our students.

To survive this, I learned a few survival tactics from some of the old timers and the UTLA rep. First: Cover ALL of your bases before you speak to the Front Office. Call the kid's home--this is the first thing an administrator is going to ask you, 'did you call home?' Make sure you've moved the kid's seat a few times because they're sure to ask, 'Did you try moving the kid's seat?' Next, speak to the kid one-on-one and ask him what the problem is. Speak to the counselor and dean about the kid because the administrator is sure to ask you 'did you talk to the counselor?'

And, as always, Document, Document, Document--make a note of and date any pertinent calls you've made, any conferences you've had, how exactly the kid has disrupted your classroom, any meetings with counselors or deans--and record the responses you've received. Cover your bases, all of them--remember, a lot of administrators don't want to deal with discipline problems or hostile parents. Don't let them tell you 'the kid is only having problems in YOUR room' that is a BS lie--be sure to speak to the kid's other teachers as well. There is a 99% chance the kid is tearing up all of his classrooms and the administrator knows it.

Finally, I learned from the UTLA rep that we teachers have a contractual right to send kids out when they are disrupting the educational process and we are not to accept them if they're sent back--if you send a kid out, it is now the administrator's job to handle the problem. There is no limit as to how many times you can send a kid out--if an administrator says you've reached your limit have him show you the exact number in the UTLA contract.

This particular UTLA rep also Xeroxed the specific page of the contract about classroom suspensions (NOT school suspensions, that is a different issue), underlined the pertinent section and stapled it to each and every referral that he wrote, something I started doing as well. No kid was EVER sent back when I did this. Kids in the room also get idea that you have authority over them and your classroom and will not tolerate disruptions.

Don't let administrators tell you in meetings that 'teachers are sending out kids who don't have a pencil or paper'--that is a BS lie. I covered the referral room many times and asked others who had done the same thing-- none of ever received a kid who had been sent out by a teacher for 'not having materials.'

I read about a group of teachers in Minnesota who got tired of administrators doing nothing about disruptive, sometimes dangerous students and finally went to court and got restraining orders against the students! These students were barred from coming within 1,000 feet of the school if the teacher were present.

And lastly, the most important thing of all is to KNOW YOUR RIGHTS as a teacher--I've come across too many teachers over the years who have let hostile administrators push them around only because the teacher did not bother to read the UTLA contract--hell, you're paying (what?) $600+ per year to UTLA. It is in your best interest to know what administrators can and cannot do.

And, as always, Good Luck. Not all administrators are jerks, but I've had my fair share and am lucky now to work with several who are at least fair to teachers and respect the UTLA contract.

Did my comment about the disciplinary process go through? I wasn't quite finished writing it and hadn't edited it yet (I have a new, very sensitive computer and I think I pressed 'send' by accident)

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