Tuesday, November 09, 2010

APS anti-bullying effort lacks punch.

APS Supt Winston Brooks enjoyed an opportunity in this morning's Journal, link, to push a one-sided evaluation of APS' anti-bullying effort.

Victims of APS bullies have never had it better. They are being afforded relief from all of the aspects of bullying, except the presence of bullies.

Read Brooks essay. I challenge you to find the mention of even one thing APS will do to make it unpleasant to be a bully.

Admittedly, my experience inside the APS is almost a decade old. At that time, bullies were not punished; instead, they suffered consequences. Usually the "consequence" was the threat of unspecified "consequences" if they did not mend their ways.

The decision to engage, or not, in a behavior is a calculation based on rewards and punishments. If the possibility for reward outweighs the possibility of punishment, the (mis)behavior is encouraged. If the punishments are likely to exceed the rewards, the (mis)behavior is discouraged.

As an illustrative example; I once witnessed a middle school bully throwing rocks at a group of elementary school kids. I filled out a referral and gave it to my Asst Principal, Michael McNamara (he was later promoted to Principal and may still be one).

He handed the referral back to me with a post-it note attached. The note read; "please handle this, and similar situations, yourself."

Not least among the irritating aspects of his response was that, teachers have no authority to "punish" deliberate misconduct by students. One of the most effective punishments I had at my disposal at the time, was to require student to write sentences. It worked reasonably well up until the day I received another note from McNamara, informing that sentences were no longer allowed because "it would make students dislike writing". Ironically, a handout from the administration that year, actually including "writing sentences" as an acceptable punishment.

I realize that there is not consensus over the propriety of "punishing" students. But rather than discuss the subject openly and honestly, the administration has taken the tack that punishment is not an acceptable consequence for even deliberate misconduct. I, and many of my colleagues, felt and believed that the administration took this stance, not on a philosophical basis, but simply to avoid making waves. Administrators who make waves are not invited to end their careers in the relative convenience and comfort at 6400 Uptown Blvd.

The leadership of the APS has decided to not survey staff regarding the deteriorating discipline in schools. I believe it is because they don't want to document the collapse. They don't want to document their failure to enforce district and school discipline policies; a responsibility placed on their shoulders contractually.

They have in fact, decided to not survey teachers on any aspect of education for which they bear responsibility, and have failed.

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