Edmond, Oklahoma —
As a group, students who received more severe forms of discipline were less likely to graduate and more likely to be involved in criminal activity.
Michael Thompson, director of The Justice Center at the Council of State Governments, headed the study. In his words, “In the last 20 or 25 years, there have been dramatic increases in the number of suspensions and expulsions.” These findings are not confined to Texas. Professor Russ Skiba of Indiana University, a prominent researcher reviewing the study believes these results, are “very much representative of the nation as a whole.”
Review of these items forces us to ask troubling questions. For example: How likely is it that other schools are plagued by the same corruption infecting the Atlanta system? What do we have to do to find out? If our worst fears are realized, how are we going to fix it?
As for the intensifying levels of discipline being administered by teachers across the country, will we shrug it off as evidence of a new breed of stricter American teachers? Or is there something more sinister occurring in our classrooms? Are American students becoming more defiant and difficult to control?
We can, of course, trivialize the importance of the situation in Atlanta. We may disagree with the implications of the Council of State Government study. And, in the end, we may be right to simply brush all this aside and “let it sort itself out.” But if we’re wrong, future historians will write: “The collapse of the American educational system didn’t occur overnight. There were ample warning signs. But the once vigorous American population, inexplicably, fiddled while their schools burned.”
Mike Hinkle is a columnist for The Edmond (Okla.) Sun.