Saturday, June 12, 2010

Reason # 1147 To Enroll Your Kids In Private School

Here's a brief story I'd like to relate while it's still fresh in my mind; typically, my articles are 3-4 pages, and quite frankly, it's far too hot to create such a magnum opus tonight. So, I offer you an ultra-condensed version of a disturbing event which took place this past Friday.

Actually, to set the stage, we have to go back to the previous Friday, when the Superintendent of our District happened to be visiting our school. To explain why he was there, I'd have to go over the one-page cap I've set for myself for this article, so suffice it to say that he was trying to do in late May what he should have been doing all year long – namely, his job.

While he is visiting, a student decides it would be a real hoot to throw a glass bottle out of a third-floor classroom window. And since the universe is not without a sense of humor, the bottle travels along a trajectory which terminates at the windshield of a brand-new car parked on the street outside. A car that just happens to be owned by the Superintendent. Personally, I love when things like this happen.

Soon, there is a flurry of activity. The student, a girl, (only by the most technical definition of the word, however) is quickly identified and pulled into the main office for questioning. The Superintendent calls the police. The Principal calls the girl's parents. Statements are given and recorded, the police pack up their fingerprint kit (yes, they really used a fingerprint kit), and the Superintendent limps his car into the nearest Safelite repair facility. His last words before leaving? "I want that girl suspended!" Picture a 5'5" tall balding Jewish man in a $50 suit screaming that line in a hallway while sweat streams down his face, and you will have perfectly captured the essence of what it is like to experience working for the DOE on a daily basis: Anger, frustration, short, loud idiots.

Ok, now stay with me on this one. There are two types of suspensions within the NYC DOE: A Principal's suspension, also known as "In House" in which the student is removed from class and must spend up to five days in a separate classroom, (staffed by a teacher) isolated from the other students. Usually this type of suspension is perused for garden-variety infractions – cursing, cutting, interrupting the "educational process," etc. The other type of suspension, for more serious infractions, is known as a Superintendent's Suspension, wherein the student is removed from the school and must attend classes at something known as an Alternative Instruction Site for up to 90 days. Students who have received a Superintendent's Suspension have been found guilty (via a disciplinary hearing) of crimes ranging from destruction of school property to arson. In order to attend that hearing, the dean, or a member of the administration, must enter the occurrence into the DOE's discipline computer database and wait for approval. What am I getting at here?

The Superintendent of the District, the man who is in charge of 15 schools, 50+ administrators and thousands of students, did not even have the power to suspend a student who completely and fully admitted to throwing a bottle which caused massive damage to a brand new automobile. A week later, and the girl is still at school, attending classes, and basically mocking the disciplinary procedures of the Department of Education to anyone who will listen.

Oh, but it gets better. The Superintendent, in his blind rage, demanded that the Principal investigate the teacher who was in charge of the class during the incident in question. Since he's the boss, she had no choice but to acquiesce to his demand. So, that's why this past Thursday, the teacher in question, the Principal, and I sat in her office and discussed the incident. Remember, I am the teachers' representative and am to be present at all proceedings, meetings, or discussions which may negatively impact their careers. The teacher, a 17-year Veteran, calmly recounted the incident, which went a little something like this.

Teacher notices that the student has a glass bottle in her possession (something that is banned by the DOE). Teacher tells the student six times (yes, six) to put it away or throw it out. The student ignores him, and five minutes later, throws the bottle out of the window.

The Principal listens to his story, nods her head, and tells us both that the entire meeting was just "procedural" and that the teacher shouldn't worry.

The next day, the teacher receives a letter in his permanent personnel file which states that he has been "Found negligent in the incident which led to the destruction of property, as he should have physically removed the bottle from the student's possession." We are told time and again never to physically confiscate any contraband from a student, as that student could turn around and claim that he was "injured" during the removal, and sue the school and the teacher.

So, to recap: Student destroys the windshield of a brand new car belonging to the Superintendent of Schools. Superintendent is powerless to suspend said student, and she remains on school grounds. Instead, Principal places a disciplinary letter into the file of the classroom teacher for not engaging in a disciplinary action that he has been told not to take against students.

And you thought it was just the school budgets that are fucked?