No Child Left Behind Means Every Child in School and Achieving
Bridging the Education Divide Includes ...

Eliminating Out-Of-School Suspensions

by Ollie K. Mears

Whenever a new school dress code is implemented, more students will be defiant and more will be suspended for non-compliance. As parents argue with the Northampton County (Virginia) School Board about student uniforms, the issue of school suspensions is left relatively unscathed.

Parents should redirect their focus by debating the fact that disallowing their children to attend school only adds to their problems rather than resolve them.

Every year school missions are published to the general public and again to parents and students through handbooks.

As an example, let's take a closer look at the noted 2006-07 mission of Accomack County Public Schools in Virginia. William Richard Bull, Division Superintendent, declares "our mission statement, like President Bush's No Child Left Behind legislation, addresses the needs of every child.

The Accomack County School Board and its employees are committed to providing all students with an outstanding education, ... committed to providing a positive and safe learning environment that nurtures the academic, social, emotional, and the cultural development of each child to his or her fullest potential so that each student can become a productive member of society." Sounds impressive, doesn't it?

But if he had published the number of office referrals, suspensions, drop-outs, alternative education students and academic failures during the previous school year, it may appear that the school board is not committed to providing all students an outstanding education. The mission could be considered a bunch of rhetoric devised to appease the parents and the public.

While the intent of the federal "No Child Left Behind" policy is admirable, schools all over the nation are consistently falling short of the goal set by President Bush to assure every student receives adequate education. So is it all just another political farce? Or is it actually doable?

Reviewing the state of affairs within public school systems in the United States, one would have to wonder why such a mandate was issued without strict follow-up procedures in place. Apparently, no one at the federal level is checking to see what still needs to be done at each state and local school level to accommodate the policy.

What are the major issues to be resolved in order to meet such precipitous objectives? Well, it starts with student conflicts and ends with school neglect. Yes, that's right, I used the "N" word, neglect.

It is my contention that no matter what issues students have, it is the responsibility of the school to help such students manage their problems. Every constant deficiency and disruption, whether academic or behavioral, is a cry for help. Any student not receiving adequate assistance with his or her ongoing problems is in fact being neglected.

The question as to who is responsible for student discipline and student progress has been raised, discussed, agreed and disagreed about. The vicious circle reminds me of a cat chasing its own tail. We all agree that discipline begins with the parents and it is continued throughout the school experience.

But is there not some point in time wherein a child will reach an age at which he or she should be self-disciplined? Of course there is. And not only is it a reasonable expectation but an attainable one to boot.

When a public school teacher signs a contract, guard duty or warden is not written in fine print under other duties as assigned.

Yet many people, including students and staff, parents, school officials and the community at large, expect them to provide such services, actually placing themselves in harms way. I say it's time for a huge "changing of the guards."

Schools can penetrate this problem by being proactive, by training children beginning at the elementary level, providing them with leadership skills, letting them see how good it feels to monitor themselves rather than having every adult in the building stressed out from standing at attention all day, everyday.

And how do I know that's the drill? Because I have "been there and done that" as a prior teacher for the high school's Alternative Ed. Program with Accomack County  Public Schools.

Out-of-school suspensions can be eliminated through a cooperative endeavor of students, parents, teachers, counselors, principals and school board.

While children are being trained to develop management skills required to assume responsibility for their own behavior, the process can be heightened though the efforts of everyone else on the team. Parents will need to re-enforce the school's new goal of self-discipline at home and provide mentoring for their children.

Teachers should design effective age appropriate classroom management plans and keep office referrals to a minimum, writing them only when absolutely necessary. Counselors need to get to the root of every child's problems and make complete assessments of each student's needs.

Principals should develop alternative discipline solutions, revamp their in-school suspension programs, and investigate all sides to every conflict to determine who (student or adult) should be reprimanded. The school board can easily require comparable changes be made at every school. With suitable programs in place, out-of-school suspensions can be greatly reduced and practically eliminated.

And why should this strategy be considered as a viable solution? Because being absent from school is counterproductive to the actual school's mission and often exactly what the child desires. It is frequently the source of their motivation to act out until they're put out. Many want to go home, hang around in the streets with their buddies, get into more trouble, not be required to do any class work, etc.

Putting students out of school is putting Ber Rabbit in the briar patch. If it's no longer the first and main option for discipline, being defiant will not be as appealing because students will still have to come to school and will have to complete all class assignments plus the additional disciplinary activities levied as a result of their non-compliance.

From my independent research, I discovered that some schools across the nation have already decided that when what you're doing isn't working, then it is necessary to change directions. Such schools should be applauded for their efforts to truly meet every child's needs.

They realized it is better to design your own school management plan than have someone else force you to use theirs. And I believe it's only a matter of time before each state Department of Education will require all schools who haven't successfully met the federal requirements to switch to a program that has been proven to be effective.

I realize that some folk just don't appreciate change and would rather let children fail school than admit the school has failed the children. But sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade, then turn it over and start digging your way out of the bottomless pit created by all the heads buried in the sand.

This article was written by the owner of Mears Management

Published on pages A4-A5 of the Eastern Shore News Sept. 2, 2006
Renamed by news editor "Tackling the issue of school suspensions"
(Printed under Viewpoint, Another View, Shore Speak and Weekend Wrapup)

Understand Your Responsibilities

(Summary from article above)


Take responsibility for your own behavior
Build positive relationships with others


Emphasize the importance of self-discipline
provide mentoring for your children


Design effective age appropriate classroom management plans
Only write office referrals when absolutely necessary


Get to the root of every child's problems
Make full assessments of each student's needs


Develop alternative discipline solutions
Investigate all sides to every conflict

School Boards

Write policies that are not counterproductive to mission
Create programs to ensure no child is left behind

This section contains special links for parents and students
Click to review important information

President Obama Urges Congress to Replace No Child Left Behind in 2011

U.S. Department of Education on NCLB - Official Information for All States

School Conferences
Tips for Parents and Students


Turn the tables by requesting a conference to stop future suspensions
Use these 10 steps to turn the meeting into a more positive experience:

Before the Conference

Outline your purpose of meeting
Prepare questions and requests

During the Conference
Remain calm during discussion
Make sure you get to talk
Do not interrupt others
Listen carefully to everyone
Take notes on important facts
Thank officials for meeting

After the Conference
Review details of the discussion
Plan next steps to resolve all issues

Forward This Site to Others in Your Network

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This Page Initially Posted in 2006

This Page Last updated October 1, 2012

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