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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Let's Talk: Discipline dilemma



The Enquirer's "Discipline dilemma" series elicited many responses from readers.

Too many parents don't do their jobs

In the The Enquirer's "Discipline dilemma" series (Feb. 22), I have an issue with the mother who is against kindergartners being suspended. She says, "Kindergartners are too young to have vicious intent," and "He doesn't know any better."

My children learned this at home. When you become a parent, this is the responsibility you take on, not the school. Too many parents think schools, police and the judicial system should be doing what they should have started at home when their children were tots.

Jayne Balbach, Loveland

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Manners taught, discipline enforced

Teachers should not teach discipline. They should enforce it. Discipline, along with courtesy, respect and good manners, should be taught in the home - by parents.

David Collar, Batesville, Ind.

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Change procedures that aren't working

Give Cincinnati Public Schools a break. If the discipline procedure isn't working, then change it. Don't fault the teachers for following the approved plan. A child who is kicking and stabbing others with pencils failed to learn the meaning of "no" long before they entered kindergarten. Now we expect the schools to either tolerate or fix exceptionally bad and even dangerous behaviors.

Before you criticize, see for yourself what teachers cope with daily and offer to help. Managing a classroom of 25 to 30 kids in a converted auditorium, or anywhere, requires awesome skills. If you don't want to or can't volunteer, I'm sure any of the city schools would gladly take a monetary donation to buy supplies or books, or to sponsor a center and program where young offenders can get the help they need.

Jody Howells, Loveland

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Underlying factors must be considered

Upon reading The Enquirer's series on discipline in the public school system, in particular Cincinnati, I was beginning to have some concerns about whether or not this was going to be a one-sided view of what is happening in the schools. I was pleased to see, however, that John Gilligan, Cincinnati Public Schools board member and former Ohio governor, was quick to point out that there may be underlying factors that are not presented and other things that may need to be looked at in truly determining the causes of the disproportionate amount of expulsions ("Schools lead in tough discipline," Feb. 23).

As a CPS parent and a representative on school discipline and instructional committees, I am privy to some of the things that occur. There are teachers, staff and administrators who yell at and curse students, who shove students, who make snide, critical remarks to students. When the child responds negatively, they are expelled. What happens to the teachers, staff members or administrators? They are in the classroom and schools the next day picking up where they left off. Why? Because it's easier to get rid of the child than it is the others, and they know this.

Dora Dority, Evanston

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Misbehaving kids may be too young

Kindergartners who can't stay in their seats or who act out might have problems caused by dysfunction in the home, or they may be dealing with mental or physical issues that prevent them from handling the school environment. But there may be a more fundamental reason they're not coping with school. Maybe they shouldn't be there in the first place.

In his book Better Late Than Early, Raymond Moore cites research supporting the idea that many children are not psychologically ready for formal learning until age 8 or 10. Moore suggests that waiting to send the child to school allows him to gain the maturity and logical skills necessary for formal work, and it prevents the child from becoming frustrated and discouraged by attempts to handle material they are simply not yet ready to understand. There are obviously many children who handle the rigors of early schooling just fine. For those who are not ready, home schooling is one avenue - it prevents the need to fit a mold and behave as an adult before they're physically and emotionally capable of doing so.

Rita Wetterhan, Wilmington

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Misbehavior often a cry for help

When kindergartners kick, strike or stab teachers or other children, they are telling us their world is in chaos and are asking for help.

Sue Taylor, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, cites research that our schools' most troubled children require "intensive and individualized interventions that are typically family focused and involve social service agencies." ("Whip our policies, not our children, into better shape," Feb. 22). But by shifting the burden without allocating public resources to social service agencies, we will miss the opportunity to provide the cost-effective prevention/early intervention services to the number of children in need. Without early intervention, we will require taxpayers to pay for more expensive services later - when young children, who don't receive proper interventions, end up in juvenile justice facilities or residential treatment. By funding prevention services, we can save taxpayers money, reduce crime and offer hope to our most troubled children.

Arlene T. Herman, president, Family Service of Cincinnati




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