Mass. Had Hundreds Of Suspensions Last Year — In Kindergarten And Pre-K

Mass. Had Hundreds Of Suspensions Last Year — In Kindergarten And Pre-K

On the front porch, Dashon Smith watches for his school bus with his mother, Dolores Michel. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

On the front porch, Dashon watches for his school bus with his mother, Dolores Michel. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

BOSTON — Massachusetts public and charter schools suspended kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students 603 times in the 2014-15 school year, a WBUR analysis of state data shows.

Students in their first year of school were sent home for offenses that included hitting, disrupting, disrespecting, throwing things and fighting.

Dolores Michel’s son Dashon got one of those 603 punishments. He was suspended from school before he could read, write or tie his shoes.

“Oh, the first time was incredible … that was early last year,” Michel says. “They call me and tell me that my son had done this and done that and you need to come and pick him up right away. And I’m saying, ‘What did he do?'”

When Michel got to her son’s school in Dorchester, she found out. After Dashon got off the bus, he pushed to the front of a line. He wanted to be the first student in class.

“The teacher didn’t want him to cut in front of the other student, so the teacher [had] him wait outside,” Michel says.

And the 5-year-old Dashon did not like that. Michel says he banged on the classroom door and ran into other classrooms. When a teacher stepped into a doorway to block him, Dashon slammed the door. The teacher’s hand got caught.

“They did an X-ray,” says Michel. “They say it’s a hairline fracture on the finger.”

And Dashon’s punishment? Suspension from kindergarten.

Young, Disabled, Black And Traumatized

“I understand he should not have swung the door,” Michel says. “But he’s a kid. He doesn’t know that was gonna hurt the teacher like that.”

At first, the school’s principal wanted to suspend Dashon for three days for assaulting a staff member. After Michel spoke with a lawyer, the punishment was reduced to one day. Either way, Michel says, Dashon didn’t completely process what the suspension meant.

“He did not understand why he did not have to go to school. He [wanted] to be in school,” Michel says. “So how fair is that? That’s stopping him from learning what he could have learned.”

The principal at Dashon’s former school, Lee Academy, did not return a call for comment.

There’s a handful of factors that put Dashon at higher risk for suspension.

First, he has mild autism. Last year, students with disabilities were suspended at more than twice the overall rate: One in 16 was sent home.

Second, he’s black. Black students are suspended almost four times as often as their white classmates.

And there’s another thing. Dashon has experienced trauma. Dashon’s mom says she had an ugly split with his dad when Dashon was little. And Dashon saw it.

Dashon Smith, now in first grade, signs and dates his homework assignment with his mother, Dolores Michel, before leaving for school. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Dashon, now in first grade, signs and dates his homework assignment with his mother, Dolores Michel, before leaving for school. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Experts say trauma makes suspension more likely — and more damaging.

“What a traumatized child craves the most is connection. Feeling connected, having relationships with that educator who can really help the child feel safe,” says Susan Cole, director of Boston’s Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative. “When a school responds by actually removing a child, it has quite a devastating effect.”

She says kids often behave badly as a way of saying, “Help, I’ve been traumatized.” And, she says, they shouldn’t be suspended.

But others say suspension can be necessary. Even in kindergarten.

UP Academy Holland, a school in Dorchester, dealt out 68 kindergarten suspensions last year. That’s the most in the state. And over three times more than any other school.

UP Education Network spokeswoman Victoria Criado defends the suspensions. She says the school only sends kindergartners home when they become physically unsafe.

“Throwing things or moving their body against objects in a way that would compromise their safety,” Criado says. “That would be what I’m talking about.”

The school’s principal, Jabari Peddie, refused to be interviewed. Criado initially told WBUR that the school was reviewing its policy.

On Tuesday, she called back to say the UP Network would ban kindergarten suspensions starting the next day.

Classroom Management

Many teachers say suspension can be avoided. And the key: classroom management.

Longtime kindergarten teacher Donna Hill-Harris has a slew of tricks to keep rowdy 5- and 6-year-olds under control.

“Sit. Down. Right. Now,” Hill-Harris barks. Immediately a smile creases her face. She breaks out in laughter. “That would be my ‘angry teacher voice.'”

She has an “angry teacher voice,” but also an “angry teacher face.” When kindergartners in her classroom at Dorchester’s Roger Clapp Innovation School see it, it’s time to listen.

“They know right away,” Hill-Harris says. “You know, the furrowed eyebrows and the scrunched-up face. They know, they know.”

Donna Hill-Harris prepares for her kindergarten class at Roger Clapp Innovation School in Boston. The longtime kindergarten teacher says good classroom management helps avoid suspensions. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/WBUR)

Donna Hill-Harris prepares for her kindergarten class at Roger Clapp Innovation School in Boston. The longtime kindergarten teacher says good classroom management helps avoid suspensions. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/WBUR)

It’s often up to teachers to learn how to control a class on their own. Through experience.

“They did not teach you this in classroom management 101,” says Hill-Harris. “No they did not.”

Classroom management and a structured day, Hill-Harris says, help her prevent situations that could lead to suspension. Over the past 20 years, she says, it’s true that students in her class have been suspended — but only two or three times.

“If I recall correctly, it was hurting another student intentionally,” Hill-Harris says.

While she agrees safety is a priority, Hill-Harris doesn’t see any long-term benefit to suspension.

“Being suspended for two, three days, it’s like they’ve lost the whole point,” Hill-Harris says. “They’ve forgot. Out of sight, out of mind.”

A Law On Discipline

Cities and states throughout the U.S. find different ways to stop suspending young kids. Connecticut and Minneapolis ban kindergarten suspensions. Houston’s school board is considering a similar move.

Massachusetts policymakers haven’t gone that far. But in 2014, a new school discipline law went into effect.

The law requires principals to notify superintendents in writing before any out-of-school suspension in kindergarten through third grade.

Some advocates question whether that part of the law is followed. But others credit it for a drop last year in kindergarten suspensions. The 603 reported kindergarten and pre-kindergarten suspensions from 2014-15 are about half as many as the year before.

“Frankly, it’s a little fail-safe kind of provision so that you get kind of a second look at what’s going on,” says Alice Wolf, former Massachusetts state representative.

Wolf helped write the law when she served in the State House. She now works with Massachusetts Advocates for Children.

“It means the schools are beginning to really think about how they’re operating,” says Wolf. “And I think it will be a protection.”

It’s a protection that might keep adults from setting off a domino effect in children’s lives. Even one suspension, at any age, puts a kid at higher risk of dropping out later on.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to UP Academy Holland as a charter school. UP Academy Holland is run by charter operator UP Education Network, but isn’t a charter school.

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  • AuggieEast

    There is another factor that puts kids at risk of suspension- bad behavior. And being Black or having autism is no excuse.

    • Jemimah Stambaugh

      Suspension at age 5, Auggie? Really? Come ON!

      • AuggieEast

        I wouldn’t suspend kids for minor violations of the rules but it sounds like this boy was totally out of control, leading to the teacher’s injury. I would balance the boy’s right to learn with the rights of his classmates as well.

        • downtown21

          He was “totally out of control” because an idiot teacher left him unsupervised in the hallway instead of teaching him what he did wrong.

          It was a “minor violation” when he pushed to the front of the line. It was his teacher that let it spiral out of control by kicking him out of the classroom. Had she handled it properly, everything that happened after that would not have happened at all.

          Get it?

          • Alissa Johnson

            You keep disparaging a teacher you don’t know without having a full understanding of the situation. You should stop that.

          • Quinn Harbin

            It’s important to look at behavioral management strategies in order to make effective change. I won’t call the teacher an “idiot”, but this student should never have been left behind to run in the hallways after being frustrated.

          • Alissa Johnson

            We don’t actually know that scenario to be truth. For all we know there was indeed another adult, maybe a para, standing with him when he bolted. We only hear one side here. Neither the person writing the story nor the parent were actually there. I don’t disagree that schools need to work to change the stats but I do take issue with ripping apart the teacher when there is no information included about things she actually did for the child.

        • Quinn Harbin

          Never mind how this incident escalated without appropriate supervision and intervention, how does this child now return to the class much improved? What do you think a 5 year old- with a disability no less- learns from hanging out at home instead of learning in school?

    • honeyluv14

      How is this family using race and autism as an “excuse”?? You clearly don’t understand the point of the article or you do, but you choose to deny that the punishments did not fit the “crime”. The whole chain of events and actions of the very young child, who is 4 or 5 years old, and adult is the onus of the adult. How can you justify putting a child out of class just because they wanted to be first in line!? Can’t you imagine the fear and shame the child would feel after being left outside while his class is playing and learning inside? At this point the adult is physically blocking the child from entering the room because of what, because he wanted to be the first in line? Lets remember at 4 a child’s mind is still developing and you cannot expect a baby to completely understand the consequences of their behavior. And severely punishing them instead of teaching them doesn’t help them fully understand. It only teaches them fear and anger.

    • Quinn Harbin

      FIVE year olds- including ones with disabilities who have the social-emotional functioning of a much younger child… and you think kicking them out of school is effective?

  • Geheran1958

    Another great “Right Wing conspiracy”? This latest finding of apparent discrimination joins a long list of “disproportionate” treatment of Black and other members of the minority community. That list includes – but is not limited to – traffic stops, resisting arrest, illegal drug activity, shop lifting, disruptive behavior in K-12 classrooms, et al. Is it possible that these occurrences of “disproportionate” treatment is the result of kids growing up in fatherless or dysfunctional families on a scale that is fundamentally “disproportionate” to the rest of American society?

    • Quinn Harbin

      Maybe you want to return to 1958?

  • Christine Langhoff

    Please break down the number of 603 suspensions of pre-K and kindergarteners. How many were dealt out by charters, which run under different governance, and how many by traditional public schools?

    • Louise Kennedy

      This is something we’ll be looking into as we continue to dive into issues of school discipline. Thanks for the suggestion.

      • Christine Langhoff

        I’m looking forward to reading more on this topic. The author, Peter Balonon-Rosen, told me via Twitter that 189 preK and kindergarten suspensions of the 603 came from 18 charter schools, nearly one-third of the total. Given that parents choose to enroll their children in charters and presumably are advised of the strict disciplinary approaches used, it is quite startling to read of such high numbers of suspensions at these schools. Here’s a link to suspension numbers from DESE:

        http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/ssdr.aspx

        It’s quickly ascertained that many charters are outliers in this regard.

      • Alissa Johnson

        while you’re at it, please look into how many children with special needs are returned to traditional schools from charter schools (“we really can’t meet their needs here”) AFTER funding for those students has been distributed. Check out how they take the money and return the student. Please.

  • FrancisMcManus

    Good article. Thank you.

    Citing the number of suspensions without citing related information fails to give it context. What is the total student population/ Do some schools have lots of suspension while other schools have few? Do teachers understand that punishing a 5 year old is about coercing compliance not developing understanding, and that teaching social behaviors is a big part of what we’re asking teachers to do, and do well.

    • Louise Kennedy

      Thanks. You’re right about the total number; another commenter has posted it further down, and I’ll doublecheck that. And yes, the numbers vary widely from school to school – that’s why we reported on the one that had three times as many as any other school. And we’ll keep looking at the numbers in more detail.

  • pto

    Whatever you call it, removing a kid who is hurting other kids is sometimes going to be necessary. You don’t have to call it suspension if that creates a stigma, just focus on teaching the kids how to behave and taking whatever time and attention outside the classroom it takes

    • downtown21

      Doesn’t seem like they’re focusing on teaching kids how to behave at all. They’re just kicking them out of the classroom, which is the exact opposite of teaching.

    • Quinn Harbin

      Then the child needs intervention to manage such impulses- that requires that the child remain IN school in order to learn how to behave IN school. This approach is effective (unlike removing the child) and requires thoughtfulness and education in child management strategies.

  • Michael Difani

    What the….? I was pushing 5 in Sept. 1947 when I started kindergarten in inland s. Calif. Whoever heard of kids at 5 being suspended in my day? Sure, there were some minor scraps on a playground, and the women teachers were strict.

  • Alissa Johnson

    I love how Donna Hill Harris’s “classroom management” style that was quoted in this article (and rasped out on the audio) is basically scaring the crap out of 5 years olds. Awesome. I’m sure she would have been just what the first, traumatized, child listed in this article needed. Way to highlight best practice WBUR!

    • Fifi

      Please read the section about Hill-Harris again. She sounds wise and caring, recommending classroom management, a structured day, and safety. In twenty years, only two or three children in her care have been suspended, and she believes those were children who intentionally hurt someone! Which Dashon did not do. And if hearing an adult say, “Sit down now!” with a raised voice and furrowed brow is “scaring the crap” out of a five year old…. Well, I’ll bet Hill-Harris would have the savvy to recognize that and to address the problem. Most people, including five year olds, know the difference between a strict, caring teacher, and a mean, scary one. I’d also bet that in Hill-Harris’s class, Dashon would have already learned that lining up in an orderly way was how things were done (“classroom management”) and he wouldn’t have gotten in trouble in the first place.

      • Alissa Johnson

        You are giving too much credit to one stranger and not enough to another.

        • Fifi

          I think that’s because one sounds wise, good-humored, reasonable, and thoughtful. Unfortunately, your post sounds sarcastic and angry, while offering nothing helpful.

          • Alissa Johnson

            She is pitched to sound that way by the flow of the article. What I am pointing out to its writers is that, as its written, they picked a poor example to hold up as a beacon of classroom management. The trauma specialist speaks of kindness and connection, of forming a bond with the children. As Hill-Harris’s techniques are described as a “slew” what she and the writers chose to highlight was the “angry teacher voice” and the corresponding “angry teacher face”. As if…. It’s an odd, old school, wink-wink, nudge nudge, “I know how to keep them in line” way of thinking about school disciple that does not mesh well with the message of the article. I’m sorry if I was originally to pithy for you. I stand by my opinion.

          • zuccardi81

            In addition to sounding caring, good-humored, and thoughtful, Ms. Hill-Harris’ approach seems long-term. She focuses on what will happen after the suspension, way down the line (in middle school, then high school, then beyond). Will the student incorporate this suspension into their own identity as a student? Moreover, she’s preventative. She thinks “what can I do to make sure nothing ‘suspendable’ happens?” beforehand instead of “what can I do now, right now, to make this stop?” after the fact.

          • Alissa Johnson

            Hahahahahahhaa. Just stop. You are either a fiction writer or Ms. Hill-Harris herself. Either way, you have no idea what you are talking about.

          • zuccardi81

            Oops. Meant to respond to Fifi. Your unintelligent comments do not justify response.

          • Alissa Johnson

            ok Ms. Hill-Harris….

          • jshore

            A teachers biggest job in a classroom is the safety of ALL the children in it. If a child has low social skills and is a danger to others, the best practice is to be pro-active. Ms. Hill-Harris, is not being mean or scary. She is using what I call the “firm but fair voice” to redirect the children. The teacher is the adult in the room, she is friendly to the children, she doesn’t have to be the child’s friend. They have friends their own age.

          • Quinn Harbin

            Actually she admits to using a scary face and scary voice to make children comply.

          • Fifi

            And she laughed when she said it. I think you’ve made a number of very wise comments here, but speaking as a former school nurse, I think it’s unfortunate that you and several others who have commented really think Ms. H-H sounds like a dragon. I bet the kids in her classroom know when it’s time to settle down, and they know Ms. H-H is not “scary”.

          • Alissa Johnson

            I bet you are wrong. I bet her kids are indeed scared of her. And I bet she laughs at that part because she thinks scaring them to keep them in line is funny.

          • Quinn Harbin

            Look, I agree that we don’t know enough to judge this teacher’s overall approach, but the author focused on this “strategy” as somehow recommended practice and an alternative to suspending the child! It is not.

          • downtown21

            It was written just fine. You’re the only one who interpreted it the way you did. So the problem is you.

          • Quinn Harbin

            Child and school psychologist here and I am also concerned that this teacher’s “child management” strategies are focused on expressing anger and making the children nervous enough to comply. There are other strategies that are more appropriate for young children- especially vulnerable ones.

          • Alissa Johnson

            Thank you! I’m glad I’m not the only one!

          • Alissa Johnson

            Oh look….you are incorrect. I am not the only one to interpret it that way. So maybe the problem isn’t actually me but is instead an old school classroom management methodology.

          • zuccardi81

            In addition to sounding caring, good-humored, and thoughtful, Ms. Hill-Harris’ approach seems long-term. She focuses on what will happen after the suspension, way down the line (in middle school, then high school, then beyond). Will the student incorporate this suspension into their own identity as a student? Moreover, she’s preventative. She thinks “what can I do to make sure nothing ‘suspendable’ happens?” beforehand instead of “what can I do now, right now, to make this stop?” after the fact.

      • downtown21

        Good comment.

      • Quinn Harbin

        My kindergarten teacher never acted this way, but I grew up White in a middle class primarily White town. The use of authoritarian tactics is much more common in urban schools with minority populations. There is this attitude that these children are “hard headed” and under socialized and need to be brought in line. All young children need a nurturing and supportive environment- with limits and expectations.

  • JPFitz

    They cite disabled, black and traumatized as factors in suspension, what about being male

  • Rick Evans

    Fascinating how in an era where adolescence seems to extend into 30s schools expect 5 year olds to have the maturity of well adjusted adults.

  • Elizabeth Quaratiello

    This issue is much more complex than classroom management. Staying in line sounds like a small thing, but it’s the kind of rule that kindergarten teachers need to enforce every day to help establish orderly, safe routines. Perhaps the little boy in the story was made to wait outside the classroom as a way of showing him that he wouldn’t be rewarded for pushing to the front. The story doesn’t really explain. Once he started running down the hall and entering other classrooms, what should his teacher have done? She couldn’t leave the 20 (or more) other children alone to chase him. If suspensions are on the rise, maybe it means challenging behavior is on the rise too and that is not just a classroom management issue. For instance, if this little boy has mild autism and a history of trauma, is he getting counseling and behavioral support? What about the other 602 children suspended from K and Pre-K?

    • downtown21

      “Once he started running down the hall and entering other classrooms, what should his teacher have done?”

      She should have realized how utterly stupid it was to leave a 5-year-old unsupervised in the hallway, who probably didn’t even understand why he was being punished. Of course he started acting up at that point. He should have been brought back into the classroom, in fact he never should have been sent out in the first place.

      • Alissa Johnson

        Are you a teacher?

        • Quinn Harbin

          I’m a child psychologist and it was indeed a poor choice for the teacher to make, particularly with a child with autism.

          • Alissa Johnson

            Again, no where does it say that he was left unsupervised. The mother reports this was all over a simple infraction (line cutting) but she wasn’t there, and that does indeed sound like a stupid response. All I’m saying is that its possible that there is more to this story. I think perhaps the child wasn’t quite calm or safe enough to enter the room and was being worked with in the hall. That scenario makes more sense to me and my own experience with schools.

    • Quinn Harbin

      Then she takes his hand and helps him wait, praising him for being patient, and then they enter the class together.

      • Alissa Johnson

        You assume the teacher didn’t do that, but you may well be incorrect.

        • Quinn Harbin

          Are you reading the same description of events above? He was left to wait outside. He could not have run around the hallway if his teacher was holding his hand and guiding him through the process of waiting and entering the room with her. “The teacher didn’t want him to cut in front of the other student, so the teacher [had] him wait outside… he banged on the classroom door and ran into other classrooms. When a teacher stepped into a doorway to block him, Dashon slammed the door. The teacher’s hand got caught.”

          • Alissa Johnson

            I am reading the same passage. No where does it say she made him wait alone. And it sounds like the teacher who got her hand broken was a second teacher, one who may have stepped up when he bolted from the first.

  • BecauseofWind

    Let me get this out of the way: I’m a public elementary school teacher in an urban district. Disproportionate number of suspensions for minorities/children with special needs is a real issue. And if we want kids to be learning, they need to be in school, so in my opinion “in school suspension” is a way better option.

    However, according to the state of MA department of ed., there are 95,196 students in pre-k and K this year (taken from their website). The article claims there were 603 suspensions. That works out to 0.6% of these students being suspended.

    This means that if a school had 167 kindergarteners, (that’s about 7 or 8 full classrooms), on average only one of those students would be suspended in a school year. Does this seem unreasonable?

    More interesting data would be where the suspensions are coming from.

    • downtown21

      You made the exact same comment on boston.com, and yes…it’s still unreasonable to be suspending a 6-year-old.

      • BecauseofWind

        I replied to this comment on boston.com, but I’m not arguing in favor of suspending preK/K students. But if we are working with the system currently in place where suspensions exist and are used in (hopefully only) extreme situations, I also don’t think that, as a data set, the idea of 600 “extreme situations” out of 95,000 is an unreasonable number. It would obviously be preferable if it were 0. Again, not saying 600 suspensions is preferred!

        • Quinn Harbin

          Suspensions have doubled since the 1970s- this isn’t because behavior is worse (as some people like to think about the new generation). It is due to “zero tolerance policies”, which encourage more harsh discipline. And who pays the price the most- primarily kids of color and kids with disabilities. I know a child, Black and 6 years old, who was suspended for two weeks from her public school after she laughed at another student at recess- everyone agrees this is what happened. Common behavior for a young child learning social skills and not nice behavior that needed correction, but it was deemed “bullying” and so she was suspended. Her parents were understandably appalled and protested, getting nowhere due to the subjective nature of disciplinary policies. Both college professors, they had options and pulled her from school and placed in her private school- a school that was ALSO appalled by the suspension. That child has had no further issues.

    • Quinn Harbin

      That is 603 too many, so, yes, we need to discuss it.

      • BecauseofWind

        I’m not saying it’s not worth discussing. To clarify–I don’t support suspensions at the elementary school level at least. But the discussion would we WAY different if the data set was 603 suspensions for 9,500 preK/K students instead of 95,000. More importantly (in my opinion), is a discussion of why one school has over 10% of the suspensions from the entire state.

        • Quinn Harbin

          What would make the difference- that you would care about it more? This is a pattern we see across the nation, and as a consultant in schools I see it first hand. So why can’t we look at this issue critically and generate solutions?

          • BecauseofWind

            Not arguing against looking critically at the issue and generating solutions. But if using data to prioritize need, you’d have to care about it more if it was happening at a higher rate–like it apparently is at that one school from the story. That should require more immediate discussion/solutions. If there was a school that had zero suspensions, they could still have discussions and think critically about suspensions in general, but it would be less of a priority. But of course, should always be thinking critically about trying to make things better!

          • Quinn Harbin

            Initially you are said it seems “reasonable” to have these numbers. And I’m saying it is not reasonable. Moreover, it’s important to note that your stat of .6% suspended is for total students in these grades is not addressing the article’s point: suspensions are disportionately higher for students who are Black and disabled, suggesting potential bias and a very troubling, but not new, pattern. As someone who consults with schools I have seen evidence of this attitude. I am constantly intervening so that schools follow the law and best practices when addressing student behavior.

  • Mort Sinclair

    This practice is ludicrous and is entirely inconsistent with any acceptable pedagogical practice. That said, if a student is consistently hurting other students at this age, then there are certain to be other issues at work. The student should be assessed and potentially outplaced until he or she can safely be integrated back into a gen ed classroom.

    • Quinn Harbin

      The child above has mild autism and should be receiving services and support to manage his reactions and get along socially- these are EXPECTED needs for that diagnosis.

    • Fifi

      You’re right! And so is Quinn Harbin. “Services and support.” Has anyone looked at socio-economic factors that could be at play in the schools with a high number of suspensions, e.g. class size, SPED funding, average age of the faculty? Large classes with young, inexperienced teachers, and an under-funded SPED department are not likely to lead to the kind of interventions you both are recommending, unfortunately.

  • downtown21

    Suspending a 5-year-old is madness, he won’t learn anything from the experience.

    What I gathered from the story is that the boy committed a minor infraction by pushing to the front of the line, and instead of teaching him what he did wrong the teacher just kicked him out of the room. Unsupervised in the hallway, and probably very confused about why he was out there (and angry that he’d been shunned), he naturally started acting out even more. And the school, refusing to admit their own failure, blamed the boy.

    Assaulting a teacher? Is this principal for real?

    The school won’t talk about it, they’ll cite FERPA as prohibiting them from publicly talking about an individual student’s discipline. But FERPA is supposed to protect STUDENTS, it was never meant to be a shield for cowardly administrators to hide behind when the press asks them embarrassing questions about their own failures. The mother has already given up her son’s privacy by choosing to discuss this with the media, I’m guessing she probably wants the administrators to face tough questions about how this was handled otherwise she wouldn’t have gone public with it. She can sign a waiver authorizing the administrators to discuss it, but I’ll bet she doesn’t know that. And the school will never tell her that, because they want to have an excuse to avoid answering questions. I wish reporters would bring that up when they interview families about these issues. “Have you been offered waiver to sign that would authorize the school to discuss this matter with us? Currently they’re citing FERPA as prohibiting them from doing so.”

    • Quinn Harbin

      and if he has a disability (autism) then they cannot suspend him for behavior related to his disability. Reading this account and knowing he has autism, I cringed the entire time- none of the staff responses is appropriate for this child and the fact his behavior escalated was absolutely predictable- and related to his disability.

      • downtown21

        Good comment.

  • Lawrence

    Just maybe if the kids were taught how to act like normal human beings, how to abide by simple rules, refrains from fighting and stop the violent outbursts they wouldn’t be suspended. Duh!

    The story only cites the least offensive example, what about the violent kids who act out, let’s hear about those stories.

    • Quinn Harbin

      Again, these are our youngest students. I’ve worked at fancy private schools and you will still see students acting out, but it is handled very differently and the students learn to manage their behavior better and become successful. By simply removing these children from school, they will only learn that they do not belong in school.

      • Lawrence

        I suppose you are saying that you worked in both, private fancy schools and inner city schools as well, in a capacity to be able to see differences and draw distinctions?

        The fact is that some of these students who never had parents who taught them to behave in civil society don’t belong in school as they disrupt the entire system. Black kids are seriously deficient in reading and math and to have disruptions and violent outbursts only exacerbates the problem.

  • Matthew Herzog

    DAS RASSIS

  • LZC1

    I’ll bet this is more of a charter school approach, one that is ineffective. Suspensions and retaining Kindergarteners do not work according to credible research. It sets children up to fail before they have even begun to learn. However, parents too need to prepare children for the social aspect of school by rewarding kindness, patience, turn-taking, sharing, etc., which most try to do. They can help by disclosing and being honest with schools about the help their children may need to be successful in school. Finally, students who have experienced trauma or have special needs require specialized instruction. Their teachers require training and the opportunity to consult with specialists, such as school psychologists. Often charter schools do not want to pay for the required services that many children need, or the teacher training in responsive classroom management.

  • Kathy

    UP Academy is a charter school — even Boston Public Schools says so. http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/Page/932

    • Louise Kennedy

      That’s a different UP Academy, UP Academy Dorchester – this is UP Academy Holland. They’re run by the same network but have different designations.

  • vps

    We have all heard it before: “education, behavior, and respect start at HOME. As a retired elementary teacher, kids MUST be made responsible for their actions, and the mom in this case had to explain to him that his behavior is not acceptable anywhere, but most of all school….period, and NO excuses…autism, black, etc. Stop that nonsense, and “lawyers”.

  • RMS

    Thank you for this article. I hope we can find ways to do better by the children in this country. It is disheartening that children are treated this way and that schools find themselves in the position of needing to suspend students. Please keep up the good work bringing our attention to these issues!

  • Cmj

    Maybe its time to suspend unqualified teachers. If you don’t know how to handle difficult kids, should you really be teaching. Our kids are far more advanced now then they were in the 50’s through the 90’s with all the technology. Maybe the teachers need more training in child behavior and methods to address it. This country places no value in children. Schools are falling apart, lunch programs being taken away,teachers are underpaid and too many teachers do not like kids! They like the time off they have so they can have 2nd jobs. The least they can do is try to handle a situation before they start punishment. I’ve seen the same thing in day care centers. They want quiet little drones that don’t take too much energy to watch. You wouldn’t mind teacher being paid more, but they need to be GOOD TEACHERS.