By Jason Menard,
In trying to hush the teachers of St. Thomas Aquinas, the London District Catholic School Board may have inadvertently drawing much-needed attention to a long-running story.
Administrators across the city should be quaking in their boots as it’s not just at the Catholic high school where the student inmates are running the asylum. And it’s time for school boards to support their front-line workers – the teachers who are increasingly fighting a battle against their students with their hands bound by administrative lunacy.
According to an item posted on the London Free Press Web site, the petition indicates St. Thomas Aquinas school staff didn’t feel safe as students displaying violent or threatening behaviour weren’t being punished. Odd, I believe we’ve heard this one before.
Actually, we have – in a Vox Pop article I had published in the March 12, 2011 edition of the Free Press, which I followed up on my own site a week later and alluded to some of the horror stories we’ve heard from teachers within Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School’s own walls.
Teachers are being handcuffed by an administration that’s more concerned with appearances than impact. The students know they can get away with anything and do. For example:
- One teacher reported a student who had bragged about having a weapon in his locker. That locker was searched and the student returned to the class, where he said to the teacher, in front of all other students, “If you ever f*n do that again, I’ll punch you in the face.”
- After reporting that response, the admin replied with “Oh, you know kids say things. Only after persistence and threats of moving up the chain did the student receive a three-day, in-office suspension.
- Our own son, he of the now 91 reported lates/absences, was finally forced to attend detention after our repeated demands for supplemental discipline. That was back in April. Since then, he’s gone back to his old ways – racking up now frequently late for period five. Why? Because he knows the school’s just riding out the semester.
Students can’t be barred from showing up repeatedly late to class because teachers are “robbing them of an educational opportunity,” despite the fact that these students are robbing other classmates of the very same thing.
It’s time to get tough. I’m not advocating a return to corporal punishment, but it’s time to make students accountable for their actions. At Laurier, the desire is to artificially increase the pass/fail rate – regardless of whether it’s earned or not. So students can still not hand in assignments on time with no penalty. They can still attend or not attend with impunity (at least on the school side).
And parents and teachers? We’re at a loss. After all, both of us try to instill the idea that actions have real-world consequences, but high schools are neutering that message.
So what’s it going to take? Unfortunately, it looks like the only way London’s secondary school system will take action will be when a teacher gets killed by a student. And that’s too late.
There are very simple things they can do now to rectify the problem:
- Threats of violence results in immediate suspension and police involvement;
- Subsequent threats result in expulsion and full prosecution under the law;
- Tardiness equals detention; missed detention equals escalating consequences up to and including expulsion;
- Assignments must be handed in on time to be graded fully. After that, you lose marks. You don’t hand it in for a week, you get a zero.
- And those zeroes add up to failure – it’s not a bad thing for kids to fail a course, or repeat a grade.
It’s not about taking sides teacher versus student. In fact, administrators will be supporting the good students who are being dragged down by these disruptive hooligans. And if parents don’t like it, then tough.
Actions have consequences and if we’re trying to teach our kids how to survive in the real world, it’s time to give them real-world lessons.
As St.Thomas Aquinas and Laurier are showing, it’s getting more dangerous out there – and hopefully no one has to get killed for the message to sink in.