Friday, May 13, 2011

A deserving suspension courtesy of the Eye in the Sky

On principle, I am opposed to laws such as those that ban smoking in private establishments... even though I love frequenting a restaurant or bar without coming home smelling like an ashtray.

I am also opposed to the idea of cameras watching us all hours of the day, everywhere we go. I don't like how our younger generation, especially, is growing up in a world where they are accustomed to accepting this situation as normal.

On the other hand, when behavior in our society takes a sharp turn downward, as it has done in the last several decades, measures must be taken. It comes back to the old adage that when we can't control ourselves, others must do it for us. When this happens, I am glad there was a camera in our school hallway to back me up when I caught a student doing something she should not have, and she probably would have gotten away with it were it not for the fact that we got it on video.

First of all, important to this story is the fact that my classroom door has a narrow window in it that is about 8 inches wide and about 2 feet tall. It is situated right above the doorknob. Because students passing in the hallway can look right in to my classroom as they walk by, I have blocked off the bottom portion of the window by taping some construction paper over it. The top half of the window is still unobstructed. At 6 feet 2 inches tall, I can look over the construction paper and through the window, but your average middle schooler cannot.

During second period yesterday, I was giving my lesson at the front of the classroom and just happened to look to my right toward the classroom door. I don't know what prompted me to do so; maybe I picked up some of my students subtly looking towards the door? When I looked at the door, I saw an arm visible outside the unobstructed portion of the window, and the hand attached to the arm had its middle finger extended toward the class and me. Whoever this person was, he or she was standing outside my classroom door flipping us all the bird.

As soon as I saw this, I sprinted to my classroom door and flung it open. I quickly looked left; I saw nothing. I quickly looked to the right, and saw something; movement, a shadow. I moved toward the classroom next door to mine to just see a student entering that classroom. The student turned out to be "Mariah," who I have in another period later in the day, and she is often quite disrespectful and disruptive.

I entered the other classroom and told Mariah to come back outside with me. With a sheepish grin on her face, she immediately began saying, "I didn't do anything, oh my Gawwwd!" Once out in the hallway, I asked her what the heck she was thinking, and she again said she didn't do anything. I told her fine, if she didn't do anything, then she had to see who the person was who was standing in my doorway flipping off my class through the window. She said, "I don't know, I didn't do anything."

Fine, whatever. I took Mariah into my classroom, wrote her a pass to the Vice Principal and sent her on her way. As she walked out, she said to herself, "There goes graduation." I then phoned the VP and told him Mariah was on her way to him and why. The VP asked me, "How long ago did this happen." I told him that about two minutes had passed. He then said, "I'll check the hallway cameras and see exactly what happened."

Right after 2nd period ended, I logged onto PowerSchool and checked Mariah's referral log report. The VP had suspended her, and here was the reason why:

Mariah is suspended for violating education code 48900k-Disruption of school activities. As she was sent back to class she walked by a teacher's classroom and flipped him off through window. This was also seen on the school cameras. She will return 5-16-11. Parent was notified.

So, it turns out that she did do something, oh my Gawwwwwd! And the cameras confirmed it. My question is, what if we didn't have cameras? Would she have gotten away with it? Would it have been her word versus a teacher's, even though I am a teacher with an exemplary record and she is a repeat offender? Would I have had to endure a whole bunch of meetings where her parent(s) would have sat across from me and tell me that their daughter would never do such a thing and that I am just a racist teacher who is out to get her?

The camera shut down all those possibilities, and showed that Mariah did exactly what I said she did. And now because of that little stunt, and the two-day (too short in my opinion) suspension from school that goes with it, Mariah is now barred from walking at 8th grade graduation in two weeks. I would like to think she will learn something from this incident, but I have a bad feeling that it will just make her feel like that much more of a victim who has been wronged. Not a productive way to go through life.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson


Anonymous said...

This sure brought back memories. I have been retired from teaching for five years. I taught thirty-three years mostly fourth through sixth with a few years in seventh.

Toward the end of my career discipline became a nightmare. With the new breed of administrators, the teacher's word was put on the same level as the child's. Every discipline situation was treated like a court case. Witnesses became the most important item.

When No Child Left Behind came along, with its paper trail, the administration would do anything to not suspend or discipline, especially with minorities. They didn't want the school to "look bad". The inmates had control of the asylum.

Aus_Autarch said...

Well of course the teacher is lying whenever they identify misbehaving students. Everyone knows that children are innocent souls, and the only bad things they do are caused by the actions of vicious, malicious and evil teachers.

Polski3 said...

Recorded proof that you were not intentionally violating her rights or threatening her or saying something to damage her fragile self-esteem.....

Bravo for technology, at least in this case.

Darren said...

Don't you marvel at how easily lying comes to so many people?

Anonymous said...

This was a beautiful entry WR. Perhaps if these students grow up being held accountable by the cameras they will get the idea that they are accountable in all of life. I wish we'd had these when I taught in Sacramento!

Hube said...

A few years ago our shop teacher had constant problems with a student and the kid's parents refused to believe the teacher. So, eventually, the teacher set up a video camera -- not even clandestinely as he told the kids it was for a project -- and caught the kid acting precisely like he had always told mom and dad.

Mom and dad's reaction? "You entrapped him."

Sometimes you just can't win.