Seven Richmond City middle school students have been suspended for attacking a school bus driver. While the administration and police are sorting through the allegations, there are perhaps principles to apply to this case…and others like it.
While I don't know the young people, their families or the bus driver, I do know that schools cannot be productive where there is fear.
Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" has taught us that the most fundamental human "need" is physiological…breathing, food, and water. The next is safety! Only having moved through these developmental stages can we experience friendship, family, a sense of belonging, self-esteem, and pride.
If young people and teachers…and bus drivers…don't feel safe, there is little chance for achievement. As a superintendent, three behaviors brought you to see me: possession of a weapon, distributing drugs, and striking a staff member. You were facing expulsion.
Now in Virginia a suspension is temporary…five days, ten days, a year…but expulsion, unlike Federal definitions, is permanent. Only the school board may expel, and it means that the student no longer has a right to attend a school in the division.
Many believe that students should never be expelled because it puts them on the street…in reality it puts them in the hands of their parents. All young people have a right to an education, but those who want an education should be protected from harm.
As for the pressure on families, if we continue to do things for families that they should do for themselves, we will have taught them to abdicate their responsibility. Teaching math may help students stay on the job…but teaching consequences may help them stay alive.