University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Communities should Support a School with High Standards

In The View from the OEP on March 16, 2012 at 6:48 pm

It is highly likely that you read the article that hit papers all over the United States two days ago about the five-year-old child that was suspended from the Rogers School District for saying a certain four-letter word that is, according to most, inappropriate for 5-year-olds to say or hear. The news probably would not have made the headlines had it not been for the fact that the father of this child, a lawyer, decided to skip over the established rules for appealing a suspension and instead file a lawsuit against the district.

Here at the OEP, we’d like to signal our support to the school leaders in Rogers.  The threat of this lawsuit sends a bad signal, in our view, to parents, students, and educators.

First, consider what the initial actions of district personnel may have meant to students and parents. By reacting with a firm but relatively harmless consequence, the district signaled to both the offending child and his peers that this school holds a high standard for their students. Failure to meet this standard has consequences for students. We have had the opportunity to observe first hand how the Rogers School District holds all their students to the very same high expectations and have also observed the impressive results this has produced in terms of student achievement. It seems to us, that this is exactly what the district was doing-holding high standards for every child.

It is important to mention,that while the consequence certainly sent a firm message, the punishment itself was in no way harmful to the child. The child stayed home from school for one day. It is hard to imagine that this child’s opportunities will be hindered by his school record showing that he cussed in Kindergarten.

While the district’s action signaled high standards for kids, the resulting lawsuit sends a message to to children that they are not responsible for their actions and standards will be lowered if there is enough protest.

We should also consider the message to teachers from this episode. The next time student learning is hampered by student misbehavior, the teacher must decide whether to hold the standard high or dilute expectations in order to avoid trouble. It is our hope that the community sends a strong signal to educators that we appreciate the efforts of teachers who work to protect the learning and environment and keep the standards high for our children. Lawsuits (threatened or real) such as this might encourage teachers to take the path of least resistance and avoid conflict by allowing misbehavior.

It is our view that the community should show support for principals and teachers who hold their students to high standards. We should be pleased to know that while our most valuable possessions, our children, are being cared for by educators who will expect good behavior from our students and mete out reasonable consequences when those expectations are not met.

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