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School CP - March 1998

The State, Columbia, S. Carolina, 9 March 1998

State readers say trouble starts with parents


By Lezlie Patterson
Staff Writer

Parents, take note.

Students arrive at school as unruly, disruptive, disrespectful malcontents. And it's your fault, according to dozens of folks who responded to The State's request for suggestions about how to deal with discipline problems in public schools.

On Feb. 22, The State published a package of articles about discipline problems and how they affect the learning process. Poor discipline ranges from the rare, dramatic physical violence to the subtler rebellions seen every day in classrooms and hallways.

But no matter the kind of offense, misbehavior affects how teachers teach, how students learn and how parents and community members perceive their schools.

More than 60 readers offered suggestions on how to eliminate discipline problems.

Many proposed ways to make the parents more accountable for their children's actions. Those ranged from offering "conduct training" classes in the evenings for parents and students, to fining parents, to making them spend three days with the child at school.

Readers' responses mirrored findings in a Public Agenda Survey on education in South Carolina. The survey found 88 percent of respondents blame parents for students' behavior problems. Some cited lack of parental responsibility. Others pointed to single-parent or two-income families.

Many readers bemoaned the lack of corporal punishment in today's schools. Again, that mirrors the Public Agenda survey's findings. Nine out of 10 respondents said "kids have too many rights these days." Many cited corporal punishment as an example.

Here are some of the responses we received about school discipline. Some were edited for space reasons, and some others weren't used because the writers either didn't include their names or requested anonymity:

"Disruptive, belligerent students -- kick 'em out! Or (send them to a) special school."

--Robert E. Siebee, 76, Columbia

"Pay supplements (same as coaches) and mileage for teachers, counselors and school officials to visit homes. Educate parents (of K-12 children) as to how they can help their children."

--Johnny H. Lee, Columbia

"Teachers are not a threat to students because their threats are just that. Teachers need to follow through with their threats of punishments, and the punishment needs to be more than calling the students' parents.

"To me, that is worse than anything the school could do, but a lot of kids' parents do not care. Corporal punishment, community service, or just plain getting them out of the classroom would help the problem.

"It is not the school's job to 'baby-sit' these children who don't care about their future and choose to interrupt their classmates' learning environment. Rules need to be tighter and punishments more severe. If it takes a law protecting teachers from lawsuits, then what are we waiting for?"

--Mary Graham McCullough, 18, Cameron

"All in all, discipline begins at home! Until more families decide to demand respect and obedience from their children, schools will continue to have problems. It is a parent's responsibility, not a teacher's, to teach moral values!"

--Randa Mann, 31, Blythewood

"First, you must pass legislation to empower the public schools to be able to control the students within reason without constant fear of lawsuits for simply disciplining children who deserve discipline.

"Put the power in the hands of the principals and teachers of the individual schools to control the children while they are under their roof. Hold the students accountable for their actions, and hold them back if they fail to meet the minimum requirements. ... Tie performance to other privileges, like getting a driving license, and even going to school. .. Enact the PASS legislation, or some form of it, that holds the schools accountable. .. Have uniforms be a requirement of all schools. ... Make a real commitment to smaller classrooms. These are just a few ideas."

--Chris Carey, Irmo

"Proper conduct should have been learned at home as taught by their parent(s) before a student attends school and is reinforced at school. ... Those students who don't respond to simple discipline will be those students who haven't had the good parental training or, perhaps, the student who has now rebelled against that training. . . . The school should hold proper- conduct training for the student and parent(s) in the evenings. . . . Discipline has to come from the parent for a school to have a chance at administering it at the school."

--H. Stewart Aleshire, Columbia

"Either after-school detention ... extra homework, school chores. Suspending is definitely not the answer ... A child acting up in school doesn't want to be there in the first place, so going home is his answer."

--Barbara Parnell, 56, Columbia

"Draw up a list of infractions and assign each one a penalty, and do it statewide. Inform each and every parent of what the rules are. Print it on the report cards, put it in the newspapers, put it on the radio, put it on the television. ... Get the parents involved.

"If you don't convince the parents that they must get involved, you should change the motto on the license plates to 'Thank God for Alabama and Mississippi,' as somebody suggested in one of your surveys."

--Edward Schell, 56, Sumter

"....Educators must be afforded some type of protection if there is a need to use corporal punishment. Back in the late '70s when I lived in Altus, Okla., I got a couple of "licks" for horseplaying in music class . . . Do I think that corporal punishment was warranted? No, but I was a kid and that form of discipline worked. When I came back into class, the class was quiet and nobody was playing around.... Maybe I do have an answer. Teachers and teaching has never changed, only the students. In my opinion it (improving school discipline) has got to start at home.

--Sheldon Rice, 36, Richland County

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