Schools that punish boys for doing the right thing

What does the concept of discipline mean to you? Better yet, what does it mean to be a disciplined person? I’ll offer a rough description.

A self-disciplined person is often one who self-regulates their behavior in the pursuit of a balanced and civilized life for themselves and others. When someone in authority disciplines someone, the theory is that the punishment will teach them to self-regulate their behavior and set up a pattern of “doing the right thing” of their own accord.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that this is common-sense. Apparently some people have forgotten this concept, however. Even worse, they are in charge of our children.

There appears to be a perverse and disturbing trend among some schools to punish students – mostly boys, apparently – for doing what most of us would consider the right course of action. Sometimes the punishments are quite severe. While teachers and administrators do this in the name of “discipline,” what they are really doing is teaching students to distrust and fear those in authority, which actually works against the goals of discipline.

I have two stories for readers today. The first concerns an 11 year-old boy in Chicago. From an article at Opposing Views (my comments are interspersed):

An 11-year-old boy, Caden Cook, was suspended from school for voluntarily turning in a non-firing plastic toy gun to school personnel.

And let’s be clear about this: he didn’t give up the toy gun because he was asked to. He wasn’t even asked. He gave it to school personnel before they even knew he had it.


Frederick Funston Elementary School in Chicago instituted a random pat-down screening procedure as part of its security at the beginning of the school year, reports The Rutherford Institute, which has come to Cook’s defense in the matter.

Something about the idea of security officers ritually performing a pat-down of 11 year-olds seems out of place. Is aggravated assault really that much of a problem among prepubescent/borderline pubescent children? Are schools now like prisons, where we have to constantly search their persons and property for fear that kids might bring in a shiv or something?

Something just tells me that this is extremely disrespectful of the kids.

All students are physically separated from their bags and randomly chosen for pat-downs before going through metal detectors. Bags are also searched at random.

Caden Cook, a sixth-grader, had forgotten he held a plastic toy gun he had played with the previous night in his sweater pocket while waiting in line at school security. He alerted school security personnel, explained he accidentally brought the toy gun to school and relinquished it to security.

This is what zero-tolerance policies look like in practice, folks.

“This case speaks volumes about what’s wrong with our public schools and public officials: Rather than school officials showing they are capable of exercising good judgment, distinguishing between what is and is not a true threat, and preserving safety while steering clear of a lockdown mindset better suited to a prison environment, they instead opted to exhibit poor judgment, embrace heavy-handed tactics, and treat a toy gun like a dangerous weapon,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute.

Caden Cook was also forced to undergo counseling by the school. But that begs the question: exactly how is counseling supposed to help Caden modify his behavior, other than teaching him to walk on eggshells in fear of suspension for what he may have forgotten this or that day? Is the counseling intended to help him come to terms with his punishment, so that he can somehow come around to the idea that administrators “did the right thing”?

I have no doubt Caden needs counseling, but not because he needs to learn how to respect authority. Rather, he needs to be counseled that far too often those in authority simply lose their minds and act without discretion, sometimes at the same time that children like himself take responsibility and initiative and act like adults.

He also needs to be told that this entire ordeal is not his fault. Accidents happen, and he’s just a kid.

I am ashamed to say that this next comes from my home state of Texas. This boy was suspended and sent to alternative school for two months for telling a teacher he accidentally packed a beer for lunch. From an article from ABC News:

Christi Seale says her 17-year-old son Chaz accidentally confused a beer can for a soda can and packed it in his lunch.

“He was in a hurry, running late. We were talking about school and he put it all together and took off for school,” she said.

When he realized his mistake at school, Chaz gave the unopened beer to his teacher. But that teacher then reported it to the principal at Livingston High School, who suspended the boy for three days and then sent him to an alternative school for two months.

A lot can be said about this next statement:

Chaz said, “I gave it to the teacher, thinking I wouldn’t get in trouble, and I got in trouble.”

And he learned from his mistake.

Chaz didn’t just “get in trouble,” however. He didn’t just get a “stern talking to.” He got two months of alternative school for not drinking a beer he accidentally brought to school, and instead reporting his accident to the teacher.

Welcome to modern education, where a 9 year-old boy can be suspended for calling a teacher “cute,” a student can be suspended for sexual harassment for hugging a teacher out of gratitude for breaking up a fight, and other students can be suspended and placed in alternative school for acting like responsible adults and informing education personnel of the relatively harmless property they accidentally brought to class.

That’s insane. It’s also unacceptable.

And we wonder why kids are being alienated from our school system.

Editorial note: this item originally appeared on A Voice for Male Students. –DE

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