18 December 2008

Rethink Our Schools

...a website I've discovered lately that criticises the now-widespread use of BIST and "zero-tolerance" in public schools. A sample story snippet concerning a recent transfer student asking a math question:

"... but the teacher had said 'no questions now.' The child raised his hand again and the teacher then sent him to the safe seat for 'being disruptive.' When he got sat down in the safe seat he asked if she would answer his question now. This got him sent straight to the “Buddy Room” where he was told to sit down and do his work, but he said he couldn’t do the work because he still had that question about it, whereupon he was sent to the “Recovery Room” (my note: read this as "closet") where he said he didn’t even know why he was there since he didn’t do anything (of course by this time he is indignant since all he had done was try to ask a legitimate question about his math lesson)."

(OK, this kid was transferred from another school and didn't realize that he needed to just shut up and show "respect" to get by. He had no clue and the escalation by this point probably has him more than a *little* angry, scared and traumatized!)

"So he got sent to the vice principal for being a wise guy. The principal ended up calling in the parents and sending the kid home. So in this case the poor kid gets put through the entire discipline system and the parents get called in just because the teacher wouldn’t answer his question and refused to simply ignore his raised hand until the appropriate time for questions."

Yeah, well, as long as the kid learned to show respect for the teacher, eh? At least that day, I suppose she reigned supreme. It's entirely possible the kid was sassy during math class, but does he need to get locked into a closet as a result?? One aspect of the BIST program that really bothers me is that they literally go through all the steps in reverse until your child can go back to class. So from the "recovery room" (closet), he'd go to the "Buddy room," which is another class, where your child would work on a "Think sheet" (coerced confession... sometimes your kid is guilty and sometimes he's not, but he WILL confess!). Then he will speak with and apologize to the teacher and talk about how things will "look next time." That is, how HE is responsible for the problem, takes ownership and responsibility, and makes positive changes the next time the problem comes up before it escalates.

Yeah. Sounds like a program you want for YOUR local public school, eh?


  1. Ugh, behavior modification with the goal of 100% compliance is one of the reason we are no longer in public school. I got all riled up just reading some of the information on BIST. I followed links from the Rethink Our Schools site and found a BIST Education Consultant who teaches full compliance within two seconds. Marissa's brain doesn't even begin to process a command in that amount of time and it has nothing to do with defiance. It takes time for her to know what is being said and how she is supposed to respond. Perfection is never, ever our goal. Improvement is.

    The issue of how schools respond to discipline problems in special education students has been kind of a buzz topic in my FASD world. This recent story lit up the boards when a reporter asked, "What kind of special training do school resource officers have to go through to handle kids with special needs?" The answer given by the Minnesota Center for School Safety Director: "None."

    This weeks CNN coverage aboutthe boy who hung himself in the "time out" room which looked like a cell in an antiquated psych unit also demonstrates how ill prepared schools are to manage some children.

    And, I wonder how in the world anyone thinks these standards and methods are appropriate. If a parent tried any of those things at home, the parents would likely lose custody of the child. In fact, every child in the home would be identified as a child in need of protection and put in state care.

  2. That's awful. I hope that doesn't happen at my kids' school.

  3. Julie, I hate to say it, but welcome to Missouri, too. I think things need to change but it will take (unfortunately) a series of very bad events to get there. People just don't "get it."

    DF, LOOK in your child's "student handbook" in the discipline procedures section. You're on the West Coast so probably not a problem, but check out for words like 'recovery room' or 'safe room' or 'time out room.' Things like that. Usually it's after two or three "chances" to correct behaviour. Which my older son Patrick never got to, but then again, he is neurotypical and can FIGURE OUT when to just be quiet, even when he is in the right.

  4. The schools in my town are just horrible. Both my kids ended up going to night school with great grades. My youngest has ADD and they didn't wan to know. Children are not being left behind, their being pushed aside. The public education systen has lots to learn.

  5. If there had been anything like this in my high school, I would have been sent home often [laughing]. Once in band we had a completely incompetent substitute. Some of the students acted up, and so we had to write up an apology for our bad behavior.

    I was incensed and wrote a brilliant--albeit snarky and not very nice--two page rebuttal to the idea.

    And I was one of the good kids [smile].


  6. David would have spent more time out of the classroom. Some children in homes with intact families with no history of drugs, alcohol abuse, or physical violence simply have a mischievous streak. My neurotypical son is one of them and these strong-arm tactics only make things worse. Zero-tolerance means you get to check your brain and heart at the door as a teacher!

    David got his impishness from my dad who quit high school without earning one credit because he thought it was a waste of time. He ended up serving in the Navy for twenty-three years as well as the civil service and was a model citizen most of his life. Not bad for a guy with an eighth-grade education (well, he did get his GED and earn an associate's degree in business).


Non-troll comments always welcome! :)