ILNews

From the principal’s office to the courtroom

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

In the heat of a tense moment, without planning, without forethought of any subsequent action, a stressed student might pop off a statement that has the potential to bring harsh consequences. If others perceive the verbal outburst as a threat, the student could be arrested and taken to juvenile court.

Such strong reaction to student misbehavior was born in the 1990s with zero-tolerance policies and a national appetite for getting tough on crime. The result of the harsh measures has helped create a school-to-prison pipeline.

Even students who are not arrested can face life-altering consequences if they are disciplined through suspension and expulsion. They will be removed from the classroom, putting them behind in the coursework and at increased risk for dropping out completely.

“We can’t say this is the Wild Wild West and we can do anything we want to children,” said attorney JauNae Hanger.
 

JaeNue Hanger Hanger

Hanger has spent much of her career working on juvenile issues as well as public policy related to reforming the juvenile justice system and how society treats children. In 2012, she helped found and currently serves as board chair of the Children’s Policy and Law Initiative of Indiana, a nonprofit that educates and advocates for fundamental changes to public policy regarding Hoosier children.

A key issue for the organization is school discipline. During the 2014 session of the Indiana General Assembly, CPLI pushed a bill that would have created a model approach to addressing troublesome students without using extreme measures that can cause long-term harm.

The measure, House Bill 1287, was authored by Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, and based on the work done by CPLI’s Equitable School Discipline Work Group chaired by retired educator Carole Craig. Although the bill failed to get out of committee, members of the initiative said it broadened the discussion of school discipline issues, and they are hopeful it will be on the Legislature’s summer study agenda.

Putting the hammer away

School principals are now joining the conversation. Todd Bess, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Principals, raised concerns that the bill was drafted without input from teachers, counselors and administrators, and it limits the schools’ discretion in maintaining a climate conducive to learning.

“Principals through and through don’t want to just suspend and expel kids,” Bess said. “The times when they do, they feel like it’s a situation that has to occur for the needs of the school and, this sounds strange, but also the needs of the student.”

The misconception, he said, is that principals remove students from the classroom at the first infraction when actually other means of discipline were tried before the harsh method was applied.

However, Craig said on the whole school discipline codes have become punitive. As an alternative, CPLI is promoting methods that prevent students from causing disruptions and keep bad behavior from spiraling out of control.

“We’re not talking about having unsafe schools, that’s absolutely ridiculous,” Craig said. “We’re talking about using proven interventions and helping children rather than going straight to the hammer.”

Some schools in the state are incorporating best practices into their approach to discipline and showing positive results. HB 1287 sought to expand the use of evidenced-based methods by requiring the Indiana Department of Education to develop a model plan for improving behavior and discipline in the classroom.

Bess said schools do need to use best practices when dealing with student discipline, but he cautioned against what he saw as the bill’s blanket approach to addressing the issue of suspension and expulsion. Sometimes an elevated response is necessary, he continued, and HB 1287 would limit a school’s options.

“Whenever we get into a broad approach like that, there probably would be unintended consequences,” Bess said. “We want to avoid that at all costs.”

Disproportional discipline

Other provisions in the CPLI proposal would require schools to report information related to disciplinary actions and would require the DOE to take a look at disproportionality in discipline.

An examination of data from Indiana’s public schools found that over a five-year period, African-American students were being suspended at a higher rate than other ethnic groups.

According to an analysis for CPLI by Brandie Oliver and Nick Abel, both assistant professors in the College of Education at Butler University, in-school and out-of-school suspensions for African-Americans far exceeded expectations based on total school population.

African-American students represented roughly 12 percent of the total school population in Indiana but they accounted for about 26 to 28 percent of the in-school suspensions from school years 2007 through 2012. The rate climbed for out-of-school suspensions, with 37 to 42 percent of this kind of discipline being assigned to African-Americans.

Neither Oliver nor Abel was surprised by the results of their study, saying it confirmed the anecdotal evidence they have encountered. The pair has requested more specific data from the DOE and hope to have a more comprehensive report on school discipline in Indiana by the end of the summer.

Despite its inability to get to the floor of the Indiana House of Representatives, HB 1287 and the testimony it inspired made an impression on House Education Committee Chair Rep. Robert Behning. He included language in his measure, House Enrolled Act 1319, that urged the Legislative Council to assign the topic of school discipline and suspension of students to a summer study committee.


behning-robert Behning

School discipline is a concern of the General Assembly, the Indianapolis Republican said, especially with regard to minorities who represent a higher rate not only for school suspensions but also in prison populations.

“I do believe it’s something we ought to take a look at and figure out a way to reduce,” Behning said.

CPLI maintains the best way to disconnect the school-to-prison pipeline is to keep the students out of the juvenile justice system and keep them engaged in school. It charges expulsion is used too often, too readily and effects the most vulnerable children.

Bess countered the statistics do not give the entire picture. The data does not provide the whole story of what happened and what other disciplinary strategies were tried before the suspension was issued.

Jill Johnson, assistant division chief of juvenile delinquency at the Marion County Public Defender Agency, questioned the practice of kicking kids out of school. She conceded the jobs of teachers and principals are not easy, but time and time again she has seen students banned from the classroom for months. The students are stuck at home instead of being in school where they have the opportunity to learn and participate in pro-social programs.


johnson Johnson

Recently, the Marion County juvenile courts have begun to pay more attention to classroom discipline by considering alternative approaches for students arrested in school, Johnson said. The courts have shown more willingness to make an informal adjustment which would require a student to stay out of trouble and do something like community service or write a letter of apology.

This is seen by Johnson as a positive step since the informal adjustments can prevent the low-risk, non-violent students from going deeper into the justice system and encountering bad influences.

What Johnson would like to see happen next is the juvenile courts and schools to start working together. Too often, the juvenile justice system feels as if the students are being dumped at the backdoor and schools are saying “they’re your problem now,” she said. Moreover, being arrested at school in front of their peers can be especially traumatic for students.

“Is it a deterrent?” Johnson asked of sending troublesome students to juvenile court. “I don’t know because I don’t know if it’s addressing the heart of what the issue is.”•

ADVERTISEMENT

  • very sad
    in reality schools do not care about future of child , feel not responsible. It is because wrong attitude towards public schools , where child's future often getting damaged. Schools can do miracle , if would feel responsible. We have to learn from some other(even much more poor) countries, where children getting great education , and are treated like children , but not like criminals.Human is biggest value , but not money..
  • time for changes
    I lost my daughter after involvement with Juvenile System. She was expelled from school , sent to Girl's school for year for small things , what many teens do. Since then her life and health collapsed, she is lost human. She was 13-14 when she get involved with Juvenile "justice" system.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Unlike the federal judge who refused to protect me, the Virginia State Bar gave me a hearing. After the hearing, the Virginia State Bar refused to discipline me. VSB said that attacking me with the court ADA coordinator had, " all the grace and charm of a drive-by shooting." One does wonder why the VSB was able to have a hearing and come to that conclusion, but the federal judge in Indiana slammed the door of the courthouse in my face.

  2. what a wonderful world we are living, i still doubt this spell caster how he did it!!! i am Shechan Caroline am from Los Angeles I am so happy to let the whole word know how this powerful spell caster saved my marriage.Everything was going down the drain as my husband can not stop cheating on me with other women. It became used to always heating on me. I tried to make him stop, but I couldn't help the situation, the more I tried, the harder it becomes. At times we will fight and go apart for some months and we will come back again just because of our kids. One day a friend told me about this spell caster who helped her too, his name is Dr.oku, she said he uses white magic spells to solve spiritual problems. I decided to give it a try, I contacted him and he told me it will take just 2 to 3 days and I will see great changes in my husband. He actually cast a spell, believe me after 2 to 3 days of the spell, my husband was confessing different names of woman he has slept with. He begged for forgiveness and never to try it again. From that day till now, my mind is at rest. My husband dislike every other women on earth except me. And am so happy to have him for myself alone.The spell caster’s contact is okutemple@gmail.com or add him on whasapp +2347053113465?

  3. I agree. My husband has almost the exact same situation. Age states and all.

  4. Thanks Jim. We surprised ourselves with the first album, so we did a second one. We are releasing it 6/30/17 at the HiFi. The reviews so far are amazing! www.itsjustcraig.com Skope Mag: It’s Just Craig offers a warm intimacy with the tender folk of “Dark Corners”. Rather lovely in execution, It’s Just Craig opts for a full, rich sound. Quite ornate instrumentally, the songs unfurl with such grace and style. Everything about the album feels real and fully lived. By far the highlight of the album are the soft smooth reassuring vocals whose highly articulate lyrics have a dreamy quality to them. Stories emerge out of these small snapshots of reflective moments.... A wide variety of styles are utilized, with folk anchoring it but allowing for chamber pop, soundtrack work, and found electronics filtering their way into the mix. Without a word, It’s Just Craig sets the tone of the album with the warble of “Intro”. From there things get truly started with the hush of “Go”. Building up into a great structure, “Go” has a kindness to it. Organs glisten in the distance on the fragile textures of “Alone” whose light melody adds to the song’s gorgeousness. A wonderful bloom of color defines the spaciousness of “Captain”. Infectious grooves take hold on the otherworldly origins of “Goodnight” with precise drum work giving the song a jazzy feeling. Hazy to its very core is the tragedy of “Leaving Now”. By far the highlight of the album comes with the closing impassioned “Thirty-Nine” where many layers of sound work together possessing a poetic quality.

  5. what a wonderful world we are living, i still doubt this spell caster how he did it!!! i am Tamara Barrow am from USA I am so happy to let the whole word know how this powerful spell caster saved my marriage.Everything was going down the drain as my husband can not stop cheating on me with other women. It became used to always heating on me. I tried to make him stop, but I couldn't help the situation, the more I tried, the harder it becomes. At times we will fight and go apart for some months and we will come back again just because of our kids. One day a friend told me about this spell caster who helped her too, his name is Dr.voodoo, she said he uses white magic spells to solve spiritual problems. I decided to give it a try, I contacted him and he told me it will take just 2 to 3 days and I will see great changes in my husband. He actually cast a spell, believe me after 2 to 3 days of the spell, my husband was confessing different names of woman he has slept with. He begged for forgiveness and never to try it again. From that day till now, my mind is at rest. My husband dislike every other women on earth except me. And am so happy to have him for myself alone.The spell caster’s contact his email at: voodoospelltemple66@gmail.com visit his website on http://drvodoospelltemple.webs.com

ADVERTISEMENT