A Parent’s Mini-Guide to School Discipline

A child who is facing disciplinary actions still has rights in the school environment. It is important that you, as a parent, understand those rights.  In the time of COVID-19, whether virtual or in person learning, information surrounding the rules of discipline can be powerful in a parent’s hand. If your child attends a public school in New York City[NYC], for example [not a charter school], here is a guide to the standard school discipline protocols. If your child attends a public school in any part of the United States, expect similar guidelines.There will be written rules and regulations that guide disciplinary practices.  

When removed from class or suspended from school, your child must still be given academic instruction. In NYC, only 3 types of removals from class or school are allowed.

  1. TEACHER CLASSROOM REMOVALS                                                                                   A student who is ‘very disruptive’ or interfering a lot in the classroom may be removed from class by the teacher. The student may be removed for 1 to 4 school days. The teacher is required to tell the principal of the removal that same day. The principal must make every effort to call or tell the parent of the removal also that same day, but no later than the next day. This gives you, the parent, a chance to meet and discuss the removal.
  2. PRINCIPAL’S SUSPENSIONS                                                                                                 The principal may suspend a student from school for dangerous or disruptive behavior for 1 to 5 school days. He or she must give the parent written notice of the suspension before the student is removed from class. The principal must also hold a conference with you before your child is suspended. However, a student may be suspended before that conference, if considered a continuing danger to other students, staff, property or an ongoing threat of disruption to the learning process.

NOTE> Due to COVID-19, principal’s suspension conferences may be held remotely unless you ask yours to be held in person. If you do prefer an in-person meeting, the principal must then consult with the borough director of suspension to consider your request.

3. SUPERINTENDENT’S SUSPENSIONS                                                                                            For more serious behavior, the principal may ask the superintendent to                        suspend your child for 6 to 29 school days. In limited situations, the principal              may ask to suspend the student for more than 20 school days. Written notice                must be given to the parent. A hearing will be held within 5 to 10 days of the                suspension at a hearing office.

All other removals from class or school, or threats of removals, are not allowed. The school should not:

  • call you repeatedly to pick your child up early from school
  • tell you to be in school so your child can go to school
  • tell you to find a new school for your child
  • call or threaten to call Child Protective Services on you
  • call the police to handle your child’s behavior unless there is a real emergency
  • send your child to the emergency room unless your child is in immediate danger to themselves or others and only after the school takes the proper steps
  • tell you your child must transfer to another school, unless he or she does not have an IEP[Individualized Education Program] and the school follows certain procedures.

Instead, the school should work with you to address the problems your child is having. Before removing or suspending your child, the school must follow the procedures in the Discipline Code and Chancellor’s Regulations:

The NYC Department of Education Discipline Code
This document lists all the reasons and ways that your child may be disciplined by
their school. You can find the Discipline Codes for Grades K-5 and 6-12 at: https://
www.schools.nyc.gov/school-life/rules-for-students/discipline-code

The NYC Department of Education Chancellor’s Regulations
Section A-443 of the Chancellor’s Regulations describes your child’s rights related to school discipline. It also describes special education protections related to discipline.
Section A-411 of the Chancellor’s Regulations describes the NYC Department
of Education’s policy and procedures that schools must follow when a student is in
a behavioral crisis. It discusses intervention, de-escalation, and 911 calls.
Section A-450 of the Chancellor’s Regulations describes the NYC Department of
Education’s policy and procedures that schools must follow when a student is told
they must transfer to another school.

two girls doing school worksDuring a classroom removal or suspension, your child must be given alternate education that meets their individual needs. He or she cannot be punished academically for a removal or suspension and must continue to earn academic credits.

Alternative instruction includes:

  • direct instruction
  • class work
  • homework
  • tests, including citywide and state tests such as Regents exams.

Giving you child worksheets only is not enough. If your child has a disability, they must get education appropriate for their special education needs while suspended, such as services on their IEP or 504 plan, related services or a paraprofessional.

Alternative instruction can take place at your child’s school, a different school or at an Alternative Learning Center[ALC]. If your child does not attend the school assigned for alternative instruction, your child will be marked absent. If you have travel or other concerns, contact the Borough Suspension Director or Principal of the ALC.

spoiled bratFor classroom removals, ask your child’s teacher where your child is getting alternative education and who is giving it to him or her during the removal. If you have any other concerns, talk to the principal. For suspensions, information about the location and hours of instruction should be on your child’s suspension notice.

If your child gets a principal’s suspension, grades K-8 students must get full-time instruction in a room in their school. High school students must get at least 2 hours a day of instruction in a room in their school.

If your child gets a superintendent’s suspension, grades K-5 students must get full-time instruction. Usually, they go to a ‘buddy school’ for alternative instruction.Grades 6-8 must get full-time instruction at an ALC. High school students must get at least 2 hours a day of instruction before the superintendent’s suspension hearing. If still suspended after the hearing, they get full-time instruction at an ALC.

If your child is sent to an ALC, the home school should send all classwork and assignments there. Both work together to make sure your child makes academic progress and smooth transitions from school to school. Both make sure your child gets needed supports.

Last, if the ALC is too far from home or your child feels unsafe, call the Principal at the ALC and the Director of the Borough Suspension Hearing Office. You can ask them to move your child to a different ALC, calling that center to see if they can admit your child. You can also ask that your child is given ample travel time to arrive at the ALC, or that they may return your child to his or her home school. If your child gets busing on the IEP, they must also get busing to the ALC. The home school must ensure that it is in place during the suspension. If not available, he or she returns to the home school until busing is in place.

Ultimately, the students most likely to face discipline at school are black and brown students, in urban or rural settings. The forms of discipline they receive are more harsh in comparison to students in other groups accused of the same or similar infractions. Therefore, it is important that parents know your child’s rights as student, and your rights as parent.women s white dress shirt

Whether in New York City public schools, private or charter school settings, parents must understand the school-specific discipline codes. Always ask questions of the school staff, seeking justification for the consequences imposed on your child. We all want children on their best behaviors, but we want compassion, equity and alternatives to removal. Ask the school to outline all interventions and positive behavioral support strategies utilized- before removal or suspension was considered.

When or if you are called to appear at your child’s school because of a behavior concern, put on your best face-firm but still approachable. Even when you feel anger and frustration, the moment you enter the building or turn on the video for a Zoom conference, contain it. The goal is to get answers, ask questions, listen and spark some form of compromise. The last thing you want is your child’s removal from his classroom or school.

Demonstrating your concern for your child, you want to be given a fully comprehensible and detailed explanation of the situation. If you can provide some insight into your child’s behaviors, do so. Children use behaviors as a means of communication. What is your child communicating? You will want to know what your child needs, feels and what he or she may be experiencing[at home, at school] This could be an attempt to process internally and instead is externalizing. This is particularly true if your child has no history of disruptive behaviors in school. If this is indeed a first time situation, the time is perfect for compromises. Reassure the teacher and/or principal that you will resolve issues at home, and ask that they monitor his or her future behaviors, in partnership with you.

As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. Defend your child and his or her rights at all times, but…..however you discipline your child, and communicate your disappointment, hold it until you are in private. The situation is already embarrassing enough for you both. Wait until you get home. Always, always frame your parent-child conversations in love. Highlight positive traits and qualities.  Education holds the key to your child’s future! What is done today may follow your child into adulthood. The problem is the behavior, not the child. Never let your child forget it! 

 

Internet Resources to Help Parents Support Their Child’s Learning At Home

Every parent wants their child to succeed in school and in life beyond. That is a fact. There are parents who don’t ‘feel’ competent enough to take on a more direct role in helping their child achieve academic success. During this pandemic, in particular, parents need to know where to look and find readily accessible resources to help them as they help their child learn from home.

 

Parents and caregivers of school children everywhere are still in an adjustment period where there has been a shift from teachers in the classroom to parents and caregivers at home. The physical learning environment is not the same. Physically present are parents who have an added responsibility to be more active in the teaching and learning process of their children-from home. Parents of school-aged children are not expected to teach core academic content from the school’s curriculum. Parents must know that their role is to actively support learning and to structure the home environment in ways conducive to learning, free from distractions. At the very least, parents are to try their best to create such an environment for learning.

Parental involvement is not novel. It was always a ‘thing’, even before this public health crisis. Expected levels and degrees of involvement at this time, however, are somewhat more advanced- more direct. In order to help parents meet these demands with success, many online educational resources are available to help them help their child.

you are not alone quote board on brown wooden frame

Here are some of those online resources designed to help parents and teachers to help maintain students’  learning continuity, and reinforce and supplement instruction:

  • Parent Portal and App                                                                                              The App gives parents a way to play their assessment games with their children. The data becomes available to their school, daycare or early learning program for continuing to monitor the student’s progress on a number of learning objectives.                                                                                                                                                                   VISIT RESOURCE
  • Daily Family Activities                                                                                            Free educational standards-aligned activities that give families a way to keep kids busy at home.                                                                                                                                                                              VISIT RESOURCE
  • Capti Voice                                                                                                                    Text-to speech reading platform that provides accommodations and assessment.                                                                                                                                                                                                      VISIT RESOURCE
  • ParentVault.com                                                                                                          Free, fun-themed lesson plans daily that includes printable worksheets for math, reading, writing, STEM science experiments, DIY art projects and even music. They aggregate a huge list of free virtual classes from around the country.                                                                                                                                                                                          VISIT RESOURCE
  • AllPlay Learn Deakin University                                                                        AllPlay Learn helps to create inclusive education environments for children and young people with developmental challenges and disabilities through practical online instruction, courses and resources for teachers, as well as information and resources for parents, children and the community.                                                                                                                                                                                                       VISIT RESOURCE
  • ScreenBinge                                                                                                                 List of 250+ educational content to watch on Netflix.                                                                                                                             VISIT RESOURCE
  • Clearing the Air: A ‘Be Vape Free’ Virtual Field Trip                                     Discovery Education and CVS Health Foundation are providing a free online virtual field trip for students and families to learn lifesaving facts about the vaping epidemic.                                                                                                                                                                             VISIT RESOURCE
  • YourFreeCareerTest.com                                                                                       A student-friendly free career test that requires no  registration, email, or payment to access results. Results are printable and can be accessed via a unique code or link for future access.                                                                                                                                                          VISIT RESOURCE
  • Take Us Higher Learning                                                                                         Study skills resources for middle school and high school students, as well as blog posts with tips and best practices for parents and adolescents. Online study skills courses and virtual study skills with live instructor. Course title  examples include: Improving Study Habits, Organization and Time Management, and Test-Taking Strategies.                                                                                                                                            VISIT RESOURCE
  • Information From A Librarian                                                                              Resources for children, parents and teachers/educators.                                                                                                                         VISIT RESOURCE
  • MathScore.com                                                                                                          Developed by MIT graduates, provides adaptive math practice for grades K-9. It is especially effective with helping students with math facts.                                                                                                      VISIT RESOURCE
  • TalkingPoints                                                                                                              Enables family engagement and communication regardless of language. Toll allows teachers to communicate with families using the app in English, which then translates messages into 100+ languages. All parents need is a mobile device.                                                                                                                                                                                    VISIT RESOURCE 
  • Quiziz                                                                                                                              Quiziz is a learning platform that uses gamified quizzes to help people learn or teach anything, on any device, in-person or remotely. Use in schools, homes and offices.                                                                                                                                                                                VISIT RESOURCE
  • Springboard Collaborative                                                                                     Virtual/distance learning and family engagement resources, focused on Literacy for Pre-K through 4th grade students in English and Spanish.                                                                                                  VISIT RESOURCE   
  • Mensa For Kids                                                                                                           Website with free resources for all.                                                                                                                                                                VISIT RESOURCE
  • Parenting Through the Pandemic                                                                         This site was designed in response to school closings. The 8 Elements of Home-Based Learning environments are discussed as essential .                                                                                                         VISIT RESOURCE

do something creative everyday text

It’s important to remember, parents, that you are not homeschooling your children in the traditional sense. The teachers in your child’s school are providing the instruction; you are managing a home-based learning environment and supporting your child’s learning within that environment. Structure your environment and set your children up for success.

Remember, learning should be a joyous endeavor. Look at the gleam in the eyes of babies and toddlers as they learn while playing. It is exciting for them. So show your excitement to them as they engage with you and the world, and as they learn new things every day, make it engaging.  Don’t forget that there are lots of ‘unofficial’ learning opportunities, teachable moments, and do take advantage of them all. Many of these moments can occur while engaging in good old fashioned family fun! Don’t worry; you’ve got this! Be safe! 

Your Children Must Understand 4 Basic Concepts To Experience Grief in Healthy Ways

It is said that: ‘on the day we are born, we begin to die’. Take that as you wish, but death is a tragic event nonetheless.

What do we say to a child when a parent dies? As adult children when a parent passes away, it is life-altering. For growing children, the impact will vary. Grief is what is typically experienced after a loved one dies. Grief is a process, and the grieving process for children must be closely monitored, beginning with that first discussion.

When a parent dies, the surviving parent faces many new responsibilities of caring for the children alone. Coping with your own grief and feelings of loss, you must now help your children do the same in healthy ways.

Because children and teens understand death differently from adults, their reactions may be different. They may say or do things that are puzzling to you. Whatever their reaction, you don’t want to rush them through their grief, or expect adult reactions before they are capable of thinking as adults.

Talking with your children about a death is particularly difficult when you are dealing with your own grief. Children will often ask the same questions as an adult will: “How could something this unfair happen?”

Your love and support are critical at this time. They learn how to deal with grief by watching you. It is important to know that if you are feeling too overwhelmed to speak with your child at this time, have someone else explain it to them and/or help you with the discussion.

When you are ready, you can still have these same conversations with your child. They probably will need to have the discussion more than once, anyway, and it will matter to them because it comes from you.

Everyone must understand four basic concepts of death in order to fully grieve and come to terms with what has happened. This is not to be confused with the six stages of grief. As adults, we struggle with death. Don’t assume what your child already knows based on their age alone. Instead, ask them what they understand about death, and then you’ll know what they need to learn.

  1. Death is irreversible. It isn’t like the cartoons when characters die and then come back. Children who don’t understand this may believe it is temporary. If children don’t understand the permanency of death, they won’t be able to mourn. Mourning is painful and requires people t adjust their connections to the person who has died. The essential first step is that your child understands that death is permanent.
  2. All life functions end at the time of death. Very young children view all things as live, like that mean old rock that ‘tripped’ them. We tend to reinforce this when we say to them that their doll is ‘hungry’ or has to go ‘pee-pee’.Or, we use the expression that the car ‘died’ as an explanation for coming home late.                       Sometimes, we tell children that their loved one will be ‘watching over them’. That is confusing to children who don’t totally understand death. It may be frightening to young children. A child may know that a person can’t move after they die, but think that’s because the coffin is too small. They may know that people can’t see after they have died. Your child might believe that is because it’s dark underground.                                                             When children understand what life functions are, they can also understand they end at death. Only living things have a beating heart or need to breathe or feel pain.
  3.    Everything that is alive eventually dies. Children may believe that nothing ever dies. We often reassure them that we will always be there to take care of them. We tell them not to worry about them dying, wanting to shield them from the grief. Children may think that everyone close to them may leave them and die, too, when someone close to them dies.                        Children struggle to make sense of death. They may assume that a parent has died because of something bad they did or didn’t do or bad thoughts they may have had. This leads to feelings of shame and guilt, and they may not want to talk about death. That would expose their bad feelings, in their mind.                                             When you talk to your children about death, let them know that you are well and are doing everything you can to stay healthy and safe. Tell them that you hope to be around for a long time, until they are adults. This is different from telling children that you or they would never die.
  4. There are physical reasons that people die. This is not to be confused with the cause of death. Children must understand why their loved one has died. If they don’t, they are more likely to come up with explanations that cause guilt or shame.            The overarching goal is to help children  understand what has happened. Offer a brief explanation, using simple and direct language. Take your cues from your children, and allow them to ask for further explanations. You can leave out the graphic details and you should leave them out, especially if the death was violent.

 

 

******Many condolences go out to the family and friends of the globally-beloved Kobe Bryant, a basketball legend, and his lovely daughter, Gianna-both gone too soon.

To the family: Stay strong. You still have a purpose here. God Bless You and God Bless us ALL!

 

The Role Of Parents As ‘Advocate’ For Their Child At School

In the education arena, talk centers around parents as being an advocate for their child at school. What it not spoken about is exactly what being an ‘advocate’ means to parents.

“My son’s teacher is just not listening to me. He needs more individualized attention. He’s not intentionally a bad child. He just needs more help. His I.E.P.[Individualized Education Program(or Plan)] says that he is supposed to receive more one to one time, but his teacher says that she just doesn’t have enough time to provide that, AND that the school won’t hire an Assistant or a Paraprofessional to help in the classroom.” “I am just through with this.”

This parent is angry, disappointed, frustrated and confused. Moreover, this parent feels helpless, misunderstood and ignored at IEP meetings and conferences where her child is the topic of conversations.

Broadly defined, an advocate is someone who publicly supports or defends a particular cause or policy. Advocates essentially plead the case for something or someone. Advocacy is supporting or suggesting an idea or way of doing something. For parents, being an advocate is natural as it goes along with wanting the best for that child in all areas of life. When parents leave another person in charge of their child’s well-being for any amount of time, there are usually tips or suggestions given that will instruct that person on how to best care for that child in the parents’ absence.

When we translate this idea into school environments, being an advocate for a child is essentially the same. The difference is that the primary areas of advocacy pertain to learning, including behaviors as well as mental health well-being. Advocating for your child in the school system is using your knowledge and expertise of your child to exercise your voice. Advocating for a child in special education programs at school is vital to your child’s overall success in that environment. To ensure best outcomes for your child, and optimize the total learning process, parents are critical.

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Trying to manage a challenging or troubled child, can be challenging and parents can’t nor should they try to do it alone. Yet, parents are also expected to understand how to navigate the complicated legal and social systems that could offer help. Unless you are a ‘seasoned’ parent in the school system or special needs children, you’re gonna need help from others. They are usually teachers.

It is very often in school where and when we are introduced to those sources of extra help we may need for our children. That introduction is not easy  and often very contentious. When parents enter the schools, they are almost exclusively novices, beginners, and it is the staff and teachers, particularly, who possess the information and knowledge parents need to effectively and efficiently navigate the system and advocate for their child. Yet, even when everyone has good intentions, it is often very messy from the start. Below, you’ll find a few advocacy tips.

To be a successful advocate:

  • Try a little understanding. Schools always struggle with budget restraints. However, when it comes to your child, you don’t want him or her to suffer because of a budget issue. It certainly difficult to be compassionate. A parent was told by a special education teacher that” If we send your child to a special school, we would have to fire a kindergarten teacher next year.” That was not legal or helpful for the teacher to say that, but it was not a lie either. Students with big needs cost the community big bucks. Services for one child could mean that 25 other children will be left in overcrowded classrooms. Nonetheless, it is still best to advocate well for your children. Try to be collaborative in mindset while understanding the positions school officials are in.
  • Get support for yourself. Join a parent support group or just talk to other parents with kids with special needs. They may offer relief and help. Many of them have gone through your current challenge, and already know the ropes. Most schools have parent advocates who can explain the laws to you, go with you to meetings, and make sure you are heard and receive appropriate responses to your concerns. Their services will cost you nothing. If you go to a paid advocacy service, determine whether paying a cost now will prevent higher costs later.
  • Get to know your child’s rights. Be conversant with your state’s education  laws and policies of your local school system and district. It helps save time in asking for things that you aren’t entitled to, and you will be taken more seriously by administrators when you have taken the time to learn and understand what you’re working with.
  • Prepare for meetings-ALWAYS. Make a list of talking points and questions to ask. Your time is too valuable to spend covering issues you already know about. Determine your agenda and address the concerns to use that allotted time as best you can.
  • Have a friend or partner with you at meetings. The usual scenario is that there will be six or more professionals present in the room and it can be intimidating. Taking your own support person with you may mean that you are more relaxed and can take in all that’s being said. These discussions can seem overwhelming and the person there with you may also remember things said. Having an ally helps you stay focused and make sure you cover all that you set out to.
  • Try to leave your younger children at home. First, it can be too distracting when you need to be focused. If you can’t afford a babysitter, look to a friend or relative for help. If you can’t find someone to care for your child, make sure you bring snacks and something to keep your child’s attention while you talk.
  • Keep your cool. It is never very helpful to approach discussions with anger and threats. It makes others defensive and resistant to cooperation. If you find yourself about to boil over in anger, end the meeting or phone call before you say something you’ll regret that may impact your child. You also don’t want to have school staff avoiding or running away from you when they see you coming. It’s best to have their willing participation in helping resolve issues about your child.Work with school personnel, not against them.
  • Do not wear out your welcome. You absolutely want to follow up and stay on track with your child’s progress and ensure all supports and services are in place. But micro-managing, to school staff, will fall on deaf ears. You do not want that. Keep calls to a minimum, and when you do call the school, know what you want to accomplish first or request a meeting. Staff are actually very busy with a myriad of other student and administrative issues and they are more likely to be busy helping a dozen or more other parents with pressing concerns about their child.pexels-photo-509004

As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. You know both strengths and needs. Most often, you can predict your child’s responses and behaviors under certain circumstances. If you find something that your child needs that’s different than he or she gets at school, your first point of contact is the school and the child’s teacher. As you are your child’s best, most important advocate, it can be rather intimidating to approach these ‘professionals’ with your concerns.

You may feel like,”Who am I to question these people?” Don’t feel that way. You are that child’s parent and it is in your job description to be totally concerned and involved in your child’s development, health and safety. Children don’t develop in a vacuum. It happens at home and in school, and naturally you have an influence on what happens in both environments. Own that truth. Use it. Use your voice, rationally and informed, feeling self-assured that there are always answers to questions and concerns. There’s no such thing as a dumb or stupid question, especially when it concerns you or your child’s well-being.

Ask your child every single day, “How was school? and “What did you learn in school?” or “What happened in school today?” If you do not like or understand what you hear, contact the school. Advocacy is also about your child’s academic performance, and as in other aspects of your child’s development, ask teachers and staff for tips and strategies that you can employ at home to help your child.

Stay informed. Advocate.