Among the many “reforms” championed by teachers’ unions around the country and implemented in many urban school districts was a move to vastly reduce suspensions for disruptive students. The reason cited in numerous studies was the “disproportionate racial bias” in such disciplinary actions, with Black and Latino students being more likely to be suspended than White or Asian children. One school that seemed to aggressively embrace this theory was Marie Curie Middle School (MS 158) in Queens. Frequently cited as being one of the better and more successful schools in the district, suspensions for disruptive or even violent behavior were almost entirely eliminated over the past couple of years.
The result? I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn this, but incidents of dangerous behavior by students immediately began to rise. This year, the parents of the students at Marie Curie clearly reached a breaking point and they packed a parental meeting where the School Chancellor was hounded from the stage. Calls for the firing of the school principal were loudly aired and this week the district bowed to the wishes of the parents and Principal Henry Schandel was removed. (NY Post)
The principal of a Queens middle school that became a flashpoint in a citywide debate over classroom safety and discipline last year has been removed, according to the Department of Education.
Former MS 158 Marie Curie principal Henry Schandel will now serve as an assistant principal at another school and be replaced by interim principal Peter McHugh, officials said…
[Schools Chancellor Richard] Carranza walked off the stage during a raucous January meeting where both teachers and parents complained of deteriorating classroom safety and lax discipline from administrators.
How bad had things gotten at MS 158? In the past year, one teenage girl was beaten to the point of requiring medical attention while other students videotaped the incident and multiple teachers looked on. The students inflicting the beating were not suspended. One of the teachers told reporters that the staff is “hesitant to intervene in fights because they fear administrative backlash or accusations of excessive force.” They added that “the students run the building. The environment gets more chaotic by the day.”
In a separate incident, another teenage girl was sexually assaulted in her classroom. While the perpetrator was eventually arrested, he was never suspended and continued to attend classes while his victim’s family was too frightened to allow her to go to school. In short, Marie Curie had turned into a middle school version of Animal House, or possibly even worse.
So what happens to Principal Schandel now that “justice” is finally being served? I mean, he’s got to be out on his keister after this sort of debacle, right? Not at all. Schandel will “serve as an assistant principal at another school.”
Wait a minute. You mean to say that this guy is so atrociously incompetent at his job that he has to be immediately and unceremoniously removed from his position, but you’re just going to shuffle him off to be the second-in-command at yet another school? This is reminiscent of the infamous “rubber rooms” in the New York City school system that were exposed by the press over a decade ago. It’s virtually impossible to get rid of a dangerously incompetent or even criminally misbehaving teacher in the Big Apple. Even teachers who were accused of sexually assaulting children wound up staying on the payroll and hanging around in these “reassignment centers,” sometimes for years on end.
But the larger problem here is the flawed notion that disciplining aggressive or dangerous students is something to be discouraged if it gives the appearance of being disproportionately applied to minority students. If that’s the reality and there are equally abusive White students who are not being suspended, start enforcing the rules equally or fire the principals and teachers who are demonstrating such biased favoritism. But if not, keep the discipline in place. Sadly, there are too many students who will run completely off the rails without a firm hand to guide them.
This is particularly true if they come from households where discipline is equally lax. And that’s just a reminder that, in the end, the only people truly capable of raising children to be productive citizens are the parents. If the children don’t grow up in a household where that sort of moral guidance is instilled, their odds of success are drastically reduced before they ever leave the nest.