“To whom it may concern – Can’t you think of something better to do than to lock kids up so they don’t even breathe?” This piece of graffiti found on a wall of the old IS room reflects the attitude of many students about the school’s discipline system.
The problem of what to do about students who break the rules has always bothered school administrators, LHS is not excluded. With the help of the Joint Committee, some solutions were drawn. Punishment revolves around two basic means: detention and internal suspension.
The most common device used as a misbehavioral deterrent is detention. Causes for this include cutting the first class, not reporting to a teacher, smoking in an illegal area, discipline problem, and excessive tardiness. “The biggest problem,” cited Mr. Angelo Teixeria, “is tardiness.” This increases as the semester goes on. He named the second most frequent cause as kids not reporting back to teachers. In this case, the student is automatically given a pink slip and five hours.
To date, the only alternative to sitting in Rm. 230 for an hour after school is collecting trash. This takes place outside during warm weather and in the cafeteria in the winter. Many students take up this opportunity if they have something after school, especially a job. Mrs. Thoma Miller commented, “I don’t want to put them in a situation with only detention.”
The next discipline step is IS. By official definition, IS stands for internal suspension, not immobilized student as one recipient suggested. The location of IS has changed this year from the foreign language book closet to room 230. The procedure is still the same. A student sits with homework and teachers for one day and receives a zero in every subject missed.
IS was instituted to replace external suspension, the severest punishment which is under Supreme Court inquiry.
Yet, there is no substantial program created in place of internal suspension. The alternative still on the books is the Student Advocate Program. A student agrees to talk with a teacher in lieu of a day in IS. This program remains inactive simply because no one takes advantage of it.
The effectiveness and value of detention and internal suspension can be open to debate. Mr. William Kirkpatrick sees two weaknesses in the system. “Sitting in detention is not productive. Also it really has no effect on the behavior of a certain percentage of students. They just have continual detention.”
Mrs. Miller believes that on the whole, the discipline at present does work. She does agree with Mr. Kirkpatrick about the small percent that the punishment doesn’t change, “The same kids get pink slips, the same kids are always going to cut class,” Mrs. Miller noted. Mr. Teixeira summed up this feeling by saying, “There are a certain number who can’t or won’t for some reason work as hard as they can to follow school rules. Discipline problems center around how much of a problem it is to students”
About IS, Mrs. Miller observed, “The most successful rule change is IS. It’s also the most unpopular amongst students.” The last comment is an evident one but how favorable or disfavorable punishment should be remains to be answered.
For the most part, students receiving detention and/or IS tend to share a negative outlook about LHS’s methods of reform, including its effectiveness. Several students had this to say about the subject, “It doesn’t serve a purpose as punishment; It’s boring; A waste of time; It does no good; What does it prove? We’ll only do it again.
Teachers have detention “guard” duty twice per year. One teacher said while doing that, “This is a joke, a farce! There ought to be more effective ways of handling discipline, such as parent conferences for heavy discipline problems.
Are detention and internal suspensions worthwhile? Do they succeed in being threats to keep wayward students in line? Or perhaps they’re just a waste of time in an institution meant for education. Both the administration and students expressed a need for new solutions to the old discipline routine. An idea suggested by both Mr. Kirkpatrick and Mrs. Miller is counseling. As Mr. Kirkpatrick said, “Work should be done at seeing why problems occur.” Instead of dealing with a situation after a rule is broken, this solution might nip it in the bud.
Another suggestion by Mrs. Miller was more vocational programs. If classes were made more relevant to their futures, students might not skip as much. Mr. Teixeira’s proposal was for an alternate service program. Like the trash collecting option, the punishment would involve helping the school. Yet, this requires teacher supervision and students can not be legally forced to do this.
An in-depth examination into our disciplinary system and possible solutions is needed. Until then, students will sit still in room 230, perhaps following one student’s suggestion, “Next time bring a cassette recorder and some earplugs.”