How should school districts deal with fights?
Instead of worry about the potential of racial disparity with a school district's new policy addressing fighting, we should find solutions to the underlying problem.
Jason Clayworth, in the Axios Des Moines newsletter on Monday, reported about concerns with Des Moines Public Schools' policy of having students who fight shift to virtual learning.
Outgoing (Yay! I'm not a fan.) Superintendent Tom Ahart announced the new policy in December.
"There has been a steady decline in civil discourse in recent years which has intensified with the pandemic. Adults across the nation are sometimes modeling poor behavior everywhere from neighborhood grocery stores and restaurants and airplanes to school board meetings and state and national political arenas. Tempers are short, divides seem deep, social media has been weaponized, our collective emotional resilience is waning, and this sadly influences student behavior in schools and in the community," he said.
I agree that there has been a steady decline in civil discourse. It has happened on the left and right, unlike what his statement suggests.
That could be a completely separate newsletter article, but I'm not going to defend bad behavior on the right, just like Ahart shouldn't ignore it on the left.
What's the policy?
The policy states that the first time a student participates in a physical fight, not a verbal argument, but actual physical violence, they will be placed on a behavior contract to attempt to resolve "any issues that led to their unsafe and inappropriate behavior."
Ok, fine. Upon the second offense, the DMPS policy states, "should a second physical fight occur, the student will be referred to a virtual alternative placement for a period of 30 school days."
If that happens, "the district will provide the student and family supports to address the root causes of the persistent, unsafe behaviors and build a transition plan clearly outlining criteria before they return to in-person learning."
If there is a third fight, the student will be placed in a virtual alternative placement for 60 school days.
It's also important to note that this placement is with a third-party vendor, not the DMPS virtual campus.
So the controversy is that the four-month-old policy could possibly impact students of color disproportionately.