Having high standards and expectations for students is one thing; punishing them with suspension for fidgeting is something entirely else.
The question “Should kindergartners get suspended?” appears ludicrous on its face. Kindergartners are 5 & 6 years old. What on earth could a kindergartner do that would warrant suspension?
Surely I’m not alone, and so listening to the story of Malik Cross, a kindergarten student in Boston, was puzzling… and sobering. Malik was suspended from UP Academy (Unlock Potential) not once, not twice, but a whopping fourteen times.
I still can’t quite wrap my mind around that number. There were certainly times in my seven years teaching that involved overly harsh disciplinary procedures. The “No Tolerance” policy for bullying, for instance, often had unintended consequences. Students could find themselves in serious trouble, just for joking with their friends in a way that an outsider might deem “bullying.”
But I’ve honestly never heard of kindergarten suspensions.
On a sad but unsurprising note, Malik is a boy. And one of the ways highly structured environments sometimes fail male students is in their no-tolerance policy for very normal behavior. As Malik’s mother makes clear in the podcast, her son did not have any physiological problems. His doctor found absolutely nothing wrong with him, other than a highly normal urge to fidget.
Which, believe it or not, was the catalyst for suspension.
Brought to you by Jennifer Berkshire at the new podcast Have You Heard, I’d encourage everyone to take ten minutes and hear the story of Malik Cross. It is imperative that schools have order, but it is also crucial that we keep in mind the fact that students are… children.
Photo: Flickr/Eden, Janine, and Jim