I struggle a lot when meeting with parents this time of the year. I always have. I cringe in meetings when parents tell their children from pre-K to 12, “If you keep acting up in school you won’t have a Christmas.” Or it's something like, “Don’t worry about it Ms. Jones, his Christmas is gone.” My favorite one is, “I showed her all of her presents and each time I get a call from y’all, I take one away.” Then we call again in a couple of days and poof, a present is taken from under the tree. I wonder,
How manypresents did that parent buy? And,
Where do the presents of no return go? Hmm… But I have a question, fam—parents and educators alike can answer. Does this type of discipline really work with children and teens? I notice an increase of goodness for goodness' sake in schools from Thanksgiving to Christmas break, but I don't know how much it helps. A question I have for parents is, what happens now that Christmas has passed? Does all hell break loose in your homes? Or are young folks still on a natural high from all their Atari systems, Cabbage Patch Dolls, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Sit-n-Spins and Magnetic Wheel Spinners? A bigger question is, what happens when students return to schools in January? Will it be the coldest winter ever for educators? Here’s the real deal, folks. Typically, parents will tell us that they are taking away their children’s presents at Christmas when they feel they don’t have a voice in school-based discipline practices. This is one way parents assure us educators that they have our backs when we use corrective measures with their children. This is cool, but we must change that narrative. Immediately. Schools function more efficiently and effectively when parents are our partners. The need for this partnership is even greater when schools are executing discipline practices.
Parents, families and communities must be involved in the creation and assessment of school-based discipline policies. Parent involvement has always been a cornerstone of successful schools. However, it is essential that the role of families is not purely a support role, but one of empowerment, with a voice in decisions.
A New Kind of Partnership is Needed
Parents and teachers must find new ways to have clear and consistent communication about behavior outside of the usual means (like back-to-school night, report card conferences, etc.). As our technology improves, we need a host of strategies that keep parents involved in their students’ progress. With more frequent, proactive communication, behaviors can be identified and addressed to minimize significant risks. Removing barriers to student learning is what the culture-and-climate world is all about in schools. The key is empowering parents to have a huge influence in creating, reviewing and supporting the execution of discipline policies and data. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we don’t do this enough. Enough is enough. Let’s talk next steps for our return in January to increase parent involvement in school discipline.
Administrators and teacher-leaders—review your current school discipline policies with a fine-toothed comb and determine what’s working and not working.
Use your data—phone calls home, in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, parent meetings, expulsions, etc.
Disaggregate the data—gender, age, race, socioeconomic breakdown, etc.
Create a plan to increase positive parent engagement—positive phone calls home, home visits, parent nights, parent-discipline committee, etc.
Meet with a variety of parents (involved, at-risk students’ and dissatisfied parents) to be transparent about discipline statistics, both warm and cool, from the first semester.
Give data, rationale and results.
Get feedback from parents.
Ask parents to help with creating and improving methodology.
Create a timeline for executing updates.
Create a parent-and-school culture-and-climate committee.
This will be an oversight committee.
Meet once a month or once a quarter to review data, receive feedback to update enhancements.
The hope is that through this improved transparency from schools, parents will be empowered to be more involved in school discipline policies and procedures. Now, this may not prevent Hakeem from being hit upside the head with a brand new race car track piece in January. However, it is a step in the right direction in destroying the school-to-prison pipeline. Parents as empowered partners are key to student success in all areas and this is our ultimate goal. Now can I get a ho, ho, ho? Praise Santa.
Ashe Jones has worked to build culture-rich schools and organizations for over 20 years. For the past 13 years, she has been a teacher, dean of students and an assistant principal in traditional and charter schools in Philadelphia. In 2016, she was chosen by Educators Rising to help create a national curriculum to cultivate high school students from around the country to become highly qualified ...