In the last few days, I have seen two stories that disturbed the hell out of me. We need to talk about them.
The first came from Iowa, where some schools have a practice of putting students in a plywood box that only opens from the outside as a form of punishment.
This picture haunts me. I’m imagining what this classroom must sound like, from outside the box, while a truly out-of-control child thrashes around inside. How that box must traumatize ALL students, even those who have never been placed inside it.
The other one is a 2015 story from Kentucky, where an 8-year-old boy was handcuffed for 15 minutes, above the elbows, by his school resource officer. If you’re able to watch this whole video, you have a stronger constitution than I do. I had to stop after 15 seconds.
This story reminded me of this other one, from South Carolina, when a student was flipped onto the ground and dragged out of class by her school’s resource officer after she refused to leave class with him:
If a school has resorted to these kinds of techniques for controlling student behavior, those in charge have lost the right to call themselves professionals.
We’re supposed to be the trained ones, the ones with expertise in child development, the ones who know how to de-escalate a conflict or pick up on early signs that a child is having a bad day and nip things in the bud proactively.
Even if a child is in danger of harming him/herself or others, there are more humane environments, more SOOTHING ways to calm them down. Because isn’t that our goal with a child who is actually physically out of control? To calm them down?
I can appreciate the desperation some educators must feel if they see an uptick in overwhelming, out-of-control behavior, and I am not suggesting we let kids remain in a classroom when their behavior has gotten violent or destructive, but this is not the way professionals handle things.
I am not saying we need to ignore misbehavior. I am not advocating for a lack of accountability. But this is not the way professionals handle things.
This is not the way.
Rather than just leave this here, feel disgusted, then move on, I have two calls to action for educators, administrators, and parents.
Call-to-Action #1: Say Something
This is not just about Iowa and Kentucky. It’s not just about South Carolina. I’m guessing plenty of other districts have their own “methods” they might not want spread all over the Internet.
If you are reading this and nodding your head, make this the week you go to your administration, to your school board, and say SOMETHING that will start the process of dismantling these practices.
Call-to-Action #2: Crowdsource a Better Way
These schools will not change unless they are shown a better way. Please share what you know about more humane, more effective approaches to managing behavior in schools. I’ll keep an eye on the comments and add good resources as they appear. Provide links if you can.
I’ll get us started:
Alternatives to Seclusion and Restraint
This is So Great, it is Painful
A post about an alternative school in the same district as the one in the plywood box photo where students are offered a calming, spacious room to calm down.
Proactive Behavior Management