Teachers in the Akron Public Schools are not happy with discipline procedures in the district. They do not think administrators are doing enough to remove students who demonstrate serious behavior problems, put teachers, students and staff in physical danger, disrupt classes and interfere with learning.
Public schools are responsible for the education of all students, including those who are chronic behavior problems. Administrators thus must balance the safety of an entire school with the obligation to educate the disruptive few. Grievances filed by the teachers union the past year indicate the balance is not easily achieved.
Both sides agree that just a small number of repeat offenders — about 200 in a district of some 21,000 students — present serious concern. Yet if the conflict over discipline procedures is not resolved in a way that allays the safety concerns, the district risks perpetuating a perception that chaos rules and the city schools are dangerous places to be. Whether the perception is accurate or not, it helps neither the district’s image nor its effort to reverse declining enrollment.
In emphasizing in-school alternatives to suspensions and expulsions, school officials are responding to a valid concern that kicking troublesome students out of school often is counterproductive. Such students fall further behind. Worse still, unsupervised, they are likely to get into more serious trouble on the streets.
It would appear that with 750 seats in 10 alternative programs, the district has enough slots to accommodate students who, along with help to keep up with school work, need expert attention to modify their behavior. It is encouraging that in reviewing the discipline situation, district officials will reconsider the practice of assigning students to alternative programs for “a set number of days” whether or not the set period is adequate time to address behavior issues and return offending students to regular classrooms.
It would be a shame to allow the behavior of a tiny segment of students to set the tone of a school building and put the reputation of the entire district in jeopardy.