I have been debating about what to put in my letter to you, because there are so many things that need to be said. However, I would like to address the state of behavior at the middle school level, and the lack of consequences and administrator involvement.
I have been a teacher in Achievement Area 5 for the past seven years. At my current school, I can honestly say that I feel unsafe. On a daily basis I am not only breaking up fights, but dealing with students screaming in my face because I have asked them to take off a non-dress code item, or simply asked them to follow along with the class on an assignment. In addition to the violence that I see not only between students, and between students and teachers, the language is absolutely atrocious. Before eight o’clock on any given day I have heard the F word at least 20 times. It happens so much that it is now culturally acceptable. Why is this continuing to happen? Glad you asked!
This past summer, I came in to work on setting up my classroom. An assistant principal and I were talking about how they just got back from a meeting with the district. At this meeting, all assistant principals were told about new student discipline practices. They told me that representatives from the district told them that if a teacher is threatened by a student, to have the student apologize and go back to class. Not only are the teacher’s hands tied, but the administrators hands are also tied with what they are allowed to do. We are also constantly being told about suspension rates, and keeping our suspension rates down. If an assistant principal has a high suspension rate, they get a phone call from the district about keeping their rate down. What exactly happened to the phrase, “the punishment fits the crime?” We are doing a disservice to our children by not teaching them that when they behave a certain way; they will receive a certain consequence.
In our school, we use the BIL system to report behavior, instead of paper referrals. Unless I walk up to an assistant principal and tell them that I wrote a BIL that I need them to look at, and do something with, nothing will happen to it. I have had BIL’s at a level 4 and 5 go completely unanswered. They are completely overwhelmed with the behavior, which makes the teachers also completely overwhelmed.
Here is my challenge to all board members: get out in the schools! You know which schools in your achievement area are struggling. Show up unannounced and observe, talk to teachers, talk to students. Get a feel for what is actually going on in the school. When you tell the school you are coming, they will put on a dog and pony show. You won’t see the real problems that are happening. Then, and only then, will you be ready to help us find solutions. We all know that we desperately need the solutions. Please help!
An incredibly concerned teacher
* Identifying information has been removed from these letters. However, their source is not anonymous to Dear JCPS. JCPS Board members have been provided with a Dear JCPS liaison and are encouraged to contact us to validate, verify, and follow-up on any of the concerns or suggestions in these letters.