Schools and Student Discipline

by beagooddad on February 8, 2008

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Gym Class!

The last refuge of the rowdy. The class that almost every single grade school teacher will tell you is the most important part of the day because it helps their high energy kids burn off some steam. The one class where you really have to go out of your way to get in trouble.

Gunnar Moody found a way to push all of the right buttons. He’s sitting in gym class doing some situps. Everyone is running around yelling and talking and laughing and having a good time.

Then, Gunnar Moody had the audacity to start singing. Crazy trouble maker.

The gym teacher tells him to stop singing. Gunnar points out that he is not the only kid making noise in the class. Things escalate and the authorities rush to bring things under control.

Photo by theotherway


That’s right kids. We don’t put up with singing and questioning authority in this town. We’ll break out the handcuffs.

Now, let’s bring a few more details into the story.

As you can tell by the headline in the link to the news story, Gunnar Moody is autistic. I’m all about talking about autism but does this story make any more or less sense because of the autism angle?

Should any students at Bret Harte Middle School in San Jose, California be handcuffed during gym class?

Let’s take a look at their PE Handbook.

Here are the Student Expectations:

As a part of our efforts to build self-esteem and responsibility it young adults, each student is expected to:

  • Perform all activities to his/her maximum ability.
  • Show a desire to improve his/her performance.
  • Demonstrate the positive qualities of a leader (responsibility, drive, enthusiasm) as well as a follower (adhering to directions given by student leaders/teachers).
  • Exhibit good sportsperson-ship during all activities, win or lose.

Okay, it does mention adhering to directions but nowhere does it mention anything about not being able to sing. If the rest of the class is loud, targeting one student is unfair unless he appears to be some kind of noise ring leader.

For the record, that quoted part was all cut-and-pasted so any typos are their own fault for over relying on their Microsoft Word Spell Checker. I do, however, accept the responsibility for the rest of the typos in this post.

Hey, they have a PE Department Discipline Plan right there, too.

If a student chooses to break any rules or procedures in the Physical Education Handbook, Bret Harte School Handbook, or the SJUSD Handbook, appropriate consequences will result. Consequences are dependent upon the frequency and severity of the rule(s) violated and are ultimately decided upon by the teacher, and if needed, the administration. Consequences may include, but are not limited to:

  • A verbal warning
  • A phone call to the parent/guardian.
  • Detention.
  • A referral to administration or to the Responsibility Center.
  • Suspension from class/school.
  • Other teacher-directed consequences.

Wow. That last bullet point pretty much opens up any kind of discipline they want but nowhere does it explicitly say that singing and then back talking when asked to stop will result in handcuffing. And nowhere does it mention that any physical restraint is an option.

Perhaps next time the gym teacher should just make problem kids climb the rope in front of everyone. Public embarrassment always worked well when I was a kid.

For the record, if Pookie is ever handcuffed for annoying teachers, I’m going to be all over the school board. Not because Pookie has autism but because handcuffs are not an acceptable discipline device for children in school that are not causing physical harm to anybody. I would have the exact same conversation if Giggles or Geetle are ever handcuffed at school.

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