Success of In-school suspension program questioned

Jasmine Santos, Editor-in-Chief & News Editor

With fewer than five students in the in-school suspension room on average, there are some doubts about whether the new program is the best use of public educational funds. The additional expenses to run the program, including work packets designed for every offense committed, lead students to question the actual benefit of the program.

Beginning this school year, a full-time certificated teacher Daniel Romero was hired to lead the in-school suspension program.  Based on the LUSD certificated teachers salary schedule for 2013-2014, Romero—a first year teacher in the district—would presumably be paid at least $39,000 a year.

Some have questioned the logic of having a full-time teacher work in a classroom that seldom has more than a handful of students. According to records kept in the attendance office, the average is four to six students per day.

The program was established on the premise that intervention would help create empathy in the student that commits an offense. The class also provides a place for the students to reflect on their actions and finish school work that teachers are required to provide.

Students sent to in-school suspension, where they are basically on social probation for the entire school day, receive work packets, in addition to their school work, that correspond to their offenses.  These packets detail various scenarios in which fictional students are depicted making similar mistakes.  At the end of each packet, students are asked to reflect on their responses.

“The packets are hecka boring,” freshman Emoni Thurmond said. “I don’t ever want to go back there.”

The stories have catchy names that apply to the offense committed: “Ten o’clock Tommy,” “Absent-minded Annie,” “Bad Bobby,” “Timeless Theresa,” and “Parking-ticket Pete,” are among the titles.

Other than the evident simplification of the packet, some wordings may offend students.  All of the packets immediately chastise the students by explaining “WHAT’S WRONG WITH WHAT [THEY] DID” (yes, in all capital letters).

“I think it is demeaning,” senior Mahalia Barrow said. “These packets were made for high school students, but the morals the pictures kind of undermine the students’ intellect.”

After the scenarios, the packet offers ways to prevent the student from repeating the same offense twice.  One piece of advice for students who display uncooperative behavior reads: “Instead of usually thinking about myself, I’ll try to think about the group and stop being so ‘me-centered.’”  The other suggestions are similar in wording and tone and are supposedly reflections made by other high school students who committed the same misconduct.

These packets are a part of a high school detention learning program that the school purchased for $787.09, including CDs and other tools that are intended to help the student realize what harm they caused by their behavior.

The expenditure on the entire program raises many questions.  Are the packets working?  Do the students really need this dumbed-down written version of reprimanding?  Is the program worth the cost to implement it?

Perhaps one reason for the lack of noticeable improvement is due to Romero missing nearly eight weeks of school because he was assigned jury duty at the beginning of the semester.  In his absence, substitute teachers were rotated daily to monitor the room.

Now that Romero is back, he says the program will run more smoothly.

“We’re still working out the kinks,” Romero said. “I’m not trying to use the jury duty as an excuse, but because I was gone, I wasn’t able to do what I would have wanted to.”

Romero intends to make full use of the packets and other methods that were also purchased with the package–including CDs that have scenarios in video form. To track the students’ progress, Romero has access to students’ Home Access usernames and passwords.

The in-school suspension reports and data from the district that Principal Bill Atterberry says he needs to determine the effectiveness of the program so far have not come in yet.

“I need a report, otherwise I’m driving blind right now,” Atterberry said.