Somerville Speakup Line:
Dear Billy T and Somerville Speakup Line,
I’m a frustrated parent dealing with teachers at SHS that would rather throw a kid out of the class than try to give a little extra effort to help them.
I spoke with a teacher friend of mine who told me she sees it almost daily from other teachers.
A student’s parent received this letter from the teacher st SHS. There are teachers who treat students differently depending on their race and gender even.
This teacher told a parent that some student’s teacher that keeps throwing a student out of his class is a racist.
I was informed that he doesn’t like dark skinned people. He says he sees this daily.
She sent me this to explain it:
“Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is an educational right of ALL children in the United States that is guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).”
Unfortunately, even with FAPE required by federal law some teachers in our district fail to follow this most basic statute.
They feel that if a student is disrespectful, distracting, or struggles in class that they are wasting the educators’ time. Some educators will then use any means necessary, including failure without intervention as a way to remove a student from their classroom.
Especially in an urban school district, educators will work with students that can challenge authority for a myriad of reasons.
Sometimes the rationale is as benign as trying to impress others in the classroom, but more often than not these same “challenging” students are facing extreme family crises, poverty, and homelessness that interferes with their ability to learn.
These students need to feel included and welcomed into classrooms where the educator is a mentor meeting the student at their level rather than barking orders and becoming a disciplinarian in their classroom.
It should be a teachers responsibility to earn students’ respect instead of demanding it, taking the time to discover who they are and what their interests are, and establish a genuine connection.
Once a personal connection is made and respect is earned, the student is more likely to engage in the lesson and be a positive community member in the classroom. While there are always exceptions, it is the teachers’ responsibility to work with students instead of “creating examples” out of students they find too difficult to manage or teach.
One key support system for teachers to build these relationships is to rely on administrators, assistant principals specifically, to work with any discipline concerns that significantly impact the classroom’s ability to learn.
The lack of administrators consistently and fairly following through with consequences for students has lead to not only more challenges in the classroom, but educators creating authoritative environments instead of focusing in building trust and relationships.
One overarching concern is that the lack of discipline from administrators is to artificially deflate the rate of suspensions and dropouts for the district. While every incident is different, consistency between administrators are key, and the consequence should fit the violation. The punishment shouldn’t change based on the assistant principal, or race and ethnicity of the student.
Unfortunately, administrators feel that Somerville has to sacrifice safety so the numbers look good. The district should be educating the whole student and that includes clear expectations and consistent consequences.
The suspension numbers may spike initially, but over time students will understand what is expected of them without feeling isolated or targeted. Then, educators can be less authoritative and focus on being a mentor and a role model.
With these crucial changes, Somerville can lead the way and make a difference in the school to prison pipeline.
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