It seems there’s a never-ending spate of incidents to worry about when it comes to our public schools. The latest happened in Fairfax County. That is where 15-year-old Nick Stuban committed suicide after being suspended from W.T. Woodson High School.
According to this Washington Post article, some, like Nick’s dad Steve, think reform is necessary in light of what happened with Nick. They think the school system’s “discipline system is too punitive, with harsh hearings, long suspensions and destabilizing school transfers.”
This article tells the story of Caroline Hemenway. She has wanted changes to the school system’s policies for years. Her son was a sophomore at a Fairfax County high school when he was busted with pot. He was out of school for the fourth quarter of the year, and he was then expelled and transferred to another high school. He is now an honor student in college, but Hemenway thinks the way the school system handled her son was reactionary and wrong.
Fortunately, Fairfax County is listening to parents’ concerns. The school board is beginning a review of the disciplinary policies. See the article on the latest update from Superintendent, Jack D. Dale. It is unfortunate, however, that it took a suicide to get the school board to take action. Apparently, six school board members tried to get a review of disciplinary procedures last fall. They were rebuffed.
To look at a comprehensive critique of the situation, go here.
Whatever the view, whatever the circumstance, it cannot hurt a school to periodically look over all of its procedures — disciplinary and otherwise. A school’s primary focus is education. When student misbehavior gets in the way of that, appropriate action must be taken. But what if the discipline itself stands in the way of education?
In Fairfax County, we have a school board that is serious about looking into whether a new direction is necessary. As the Washington Post editorial said, school system policies cannot be blamed for the suicide of Stuban. However, if ever there were a time to re-evaluate them, this is it.