Disrespectful behavior by middle school students toward adults has been making headlines recently, including a You Tube video in which seventh-grade boys berated a school bus monitor and a Times story that focused on abusive treatment of teachers by students at Oak Grove Middle School in Concord.
The Mt. Diablo school district and others around the state are beefing up their anti-bullying policies in response to AB 9, which goes into effect July 1. The law requires districts to adopt a policy prohibiting harassment based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or certain other characteristics.
Kipp Penovich, a Clayton Valley High teacher, addressed the Mt. Diablo board June 18 regarding the need to improve overall discipline policies, citing his own personal experience with a disrespectful student.
Here are his excerpted comments:
“I’m here to address this district’s need to improve their discipline policies at school sites. I have been a teacher at Clayton Valley High School for the last 20 years, and before that went through 1st-12th grades at district schools. So I have been associated with this district for over 30 of the last 40 years. In that time I have seen a deterioration of discipline that has lead to an increase in poor student behavior. I am primarily referring to personal behaviors, but I believe this has also impacted academic behaviors as well. I would probably be OK saying that a large majority of students attending our schools are good, decent people, but there is a growing number of students who are not displaying good behaviors (both personal and academic) that are negatively impacting the environment of our schools and which infringes on those students who deserve a safe and ethical environment. I’m here to pass along my recent experience with this. Just over a month ago I became involved in a situation where there were two students in the hallway (who turned out to be boyfriend and girlfriend) who were having an animated discussion when they should have been in class. And, it appeared the young man was preventing the female student from getting to her class. So I became involved and asked what was going on. I was told “None of your F***ing business”. I decided to become a little more involved and asked for the young man’s name, and was met with the same type of profane response. The interruption allowed the young lady to move on to class, so it was just he and I. He continued to refuse to give me his name, so I just walked around behind him as he wandered around campus (I came to find out he regularly does this during class time) regularly throwing out “F***ing” this or “MotherF***ing” that, and telling me I looked “F***ing stupid” (which I would agree, but I think I didn’t have much other recourse available to me). After about 5 minutes he did finally give me his name, and I went and talked to an administrator up in the office. I was told to fill out an Incident report. Now as far as I understand in following up on this, the only thing that was done is that there was a meeting at a later date (which I haven’t really been able to confirm) with the student and his parents to discuss his bad behavior. I was never contacted or given confirmation of this meeting. There was never any real discipline levied on this young man. And I understand that this student has a long list of disciplinary issues. Do you think this really is impactful? How do you expect teachers to get involved when this weak response is all that will come out of it? At the very least, the student and his parents (accompanied by an administrator) should have come down to me and had the young man apologize out loud to me for the manner in which he addressed me.
If there was anything that I would suggest doing, it would be to develop a system of consequences that is meaningful that would help deter students from poor behavior. Additionally, I would suggest empowering teachers and backing them in their attempts to instill discipline in their classrooms, and on campus in general. I think many teachers are unmotivated to get involved if they feel nothing will really be done about anything, or if they do, they will be criticized because of some technical issue that an administrator doesn’t agree with (which presently happens). You need more manpower in dealing with this overall issue, and if you won’t be bringing in more people, you ought to make better use of the people that are already there.”
How do you think districts could improve discipline policies?