A Descent Into The Maelström: Public School Confidential (Student Discipline)
A2PNotes: Ann Arbor is home to some 16,000 public school students. Those students are parented by tens of thousands of women and men who haven’t a clue about what their kids really do at school all day, not because they don’t want to know. Quite the opposite, most parents of school-age children want to know what happens in the classroom, the lunch room and on the bus. Elementary school parents are hectored into helping out at school; expected to be involved. However, middle and high school are quite different. Parents become personae non gratae not only in the eyes of kids who are trying to become more independent, but in the eyes of a school District that does not provide many opportunities for parent classroom involvement in the upper grades. So, A2Politico has asked two kids to write about their lives as students. One of these students attends the AAPS, and the other attends a local private school. For obvious reasons, these two will write their entries anonymously. So, look for A Descent Into the Maelstrom weekly, and read about what your kids wouldn’t tell you even if you asked.
Violation of Expectations. VOE. Would you consider giving someone a high-five hand slap a PDA (public display of affection?) The Ann Arbor Public Schools does now.
VOE, a new behavior referral system, was begun as a result of budget cuts, and cut staff from the Detention Room. That was where teachers could send kids who were being disruptive or violent. I had experience with the Detention Room for talking while the teacher was instructing the class. The atmosphere in the DR didn’t make me feel like it was a punishment, it more like a time out. There were two supervisors who would talk to you, and then send you into the Detention Room to sit down for a little while. Then, they would send you back to class.
That ended this year with the VOEs. This year, when the teacher feels a student is disruptive or violent in class, the teacher may (or probably will not) fill out a very complicated VOE form. The VOE categorizes a high-five hand slap as a public display of affection. What does that mean? Along with high-fives in this category there is also kissing and hugging. Last year high-fiving would have never gotten a student sent to the Detention Room. Now, a high-five not only could get a student a VOE, and also a letter home to parents as well as a detention.
I know a classmate whom this happened to. I saw it happen. A teacher at my school saw two students high-five each other. I saw the teacher chase my classmate down the hallway, yelling, “Get back here. Why did you give a high-five. I’m going to give you a VOE.” What did this mean to my classmates? The VOE got the students a letter home to parents and a one-hour detention in which (unlike last year) you can’t do homework or read.
Only one of my six teachers supports the VOE system. For example, one time my friends and I were talking about this year’s new VOE system within earshot of a teacher. The teacher said, “This is crazy! Why did they do this?” Another one of my teachers and I were talking about the new VOE system, and this teacher is one who frequently gives kids high-fives, which now under the new VOE regime, is a public display of affection. In general, my teachers have said that giving a VOE to a student for not bringing a pencil to class once or twice, should not result in a detention, which it could under the new VOE system.
My teachers have, all but one, verbally put down the new VOE system, and say they refuse to use it because the system oversteps boundaries—it’s a bit “control freaky.”
Since September, I have seen a maximum of five, perhaps six VOEs given out by my teachers in my classes. Last year, I would say that I visited the Detention Room much more frequently and saw dozens of incidents where my classmates were sent to the Detention Room. Now, kids who would have been sent out of class and to the Detention Room, (myself included, of course) just stay in class and continue to disrupt the teacher. The Detention Room allowed both the teacher and the students to have a break from disruptions, so the teacher could teach and the students could learn. What the new VOE system means to me, as a student, is that when disruptive classmates aren’t getting sent out of the class, it impacts how much the teacher can get done in a class period. This is different from last year when disruptive classmates were sent to the Detention Room, and the teacher could get more accomplished.
I know it might sound funny for a student to say that the student discipline system should be made more effective, but it should. I’d say that the Detention Room should definitely be brought back as VOEs are a much less efficient and effective way of dealing with disruptive students in my Ann Arbor public school. In four out of my seven classes, I have consistently disruptive students who talk, and/or argue with the teacher and students. I have seen teachers in those classes give a total of six VOEs in the past five months of school. Last year, all of those students would have been sent to the Detention Room many, many more times.
I’d like to end this by giving my readers a high-five. This may or may not result in a VOE for me.
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