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Opinion

The Whiteboard Jungle: New state legislation keeps disruptive students in classrooms

Classroom
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 419, which further undermines the authority of teachers in managing defiant students.
(File photo)

If you have ever thought of becoming a teacher, beware.

No one has your back.

Not administrators, district officials or, more assuredly, the state of California.

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom made sure of that by signing into law SB 419, which further undermines the authority of teachers in managing defiant students.

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After three failed attempts under former Gov. Jerry Brown, state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) succeeded in having the more liberal governor ban “willful defiance” suspensions in all public and charter schools grades K-8 ensuring that unruly students remain in the classroom except for only the most egregious infractions; defying the teacher is not one of them.

Teachers are no longer permitted to send out bad kids even if they continuously disrupt the learning of others, giving them carte blanche to continue interfering with the education of the good kids.

Often cited are statistics showing suspension rates among minority children are disproportionately higher than other groups and, therefore, a violation of their civil rights.

Special-interest groups point out examples of children being suspended for such minor acts as chewing gum in class as proof that the predominately white teacher population is racist.

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However, economic issues may play a larger role in determining child behavior.

Now the anti-suspension needle has moved all the way to the point where the message to teachers is quite clear: keep all students inside your classroom no matter what.

The other message seems to be that teachers are not to be trusted in handling students in a classroom. Politicians in Sacramento know what’s best.

In recent years, anti-suspension programs such as restorative justice and positive behavioral intervention and supports, or PBIS, have infiltrated the agenda at faculty meetings statewide.

Since then, suspension rates have declined, but how does one know if it’s because of these programs or because teachers under intense pressure know that they don’t have the option of removing troublemakers?

Keep in mind that misbehaved students receive a disproportionate amount of attention from teachers who have to spend time reinforcing behavior matrices, scheduling restorative-circle time, documenting everything, contacting parents, etc.

Teacher time is better spent on designing lesson plans and evaluating student work than serving as pseudo-therapists.

Sen. Skinner said in a statement that “ending willful-defiance suspensions will keep kids in school where they belong and where teachers and counselors can help them thrive.”

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However, by keeping these kids in classrooms means that the other kids, those who always behave and obey authority figures, won’t thrive.

Just keeping a misbehaved child in class does not mean that student is listening or learning.

It is the good kids who get trapped in toxic environments with kids who come from unruly households, where there is no discipline. Where is the ACLU’s defense of their civil rights?

The system has to bend over backward to accommodate the hooligans instead of the hooligans having to learn how to modify their behavior.

Gov. Newsom, would you want your children to attend school with these disruptive students? Of course not.

That is why the people who make the laws send their children to private schools that don’t have to abide by the laws they make; his children attend a private Montessori preschool.

The best support for a teacher is to remove the disobedient child so instruction can resume for those who are obedient.

All teachers know this, including the former governor.

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After vetoing a similar bill just last year, Brown said that “teachers and principals are on the front lines of educating our children and are in the best position to make decisions about order and discipline in the classrooms.”

Those who do not work in classrooms should not impose their will on those who do.

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