By Sharmon Carrington
Pride Guest Columnist
Addressing discipline administered to your child: Many parents do not address the school’s discipline imposed on their children, either because they are afraid to do so, or because they are ignorant of the steps thy can take in addressing it. Sometimes, children are disciplined unnecessarily, or the extent of the discipline is too severe, especially for first time offenders. Children who feel that they are treated unfairly do not excel, as they hold on to the unfair treatment which hinders their progress, and ultimately has a negative impact on their self-esteem. It is important for parents and children to know the school’s rules and code of conduct, as well as to have some idea of what constitutes an appropriate punishment base on the child’s actions.
The why; what; how and where of discipline: Should your child be disciplined at school, find out from him/her the reason for the discipline and discuss the infraction with your child in detail, before contacting the school officials. Obtain the names of any witnesses, if applicable. Inform your child that he/she must take responsibility for his/her actions. Ensure that you find out why the discipline was necessary; what it would be and where and how it would be administered.
Does the discipline fit the infraction: When you contact the school officials, ensure that the discipline fits the infraction, and that it is not excessive. If you feel that it is excessive, speak with the teacher first, then the Vice-Principal and/or the Principal. If you receive no satisfaction and you still feel that it was excessive, then consult with the Superintendent of Schools, voice your concerns and request an investigation. Principals and Vice-Principals prefer not to have you consult with The Superintendent. While you are consulting with The School Board’s Officials, there is no need to discuss your consultations with your child. Do not allow your child to take his/her attention from the school work to get in involved in your consultations. After you have obtained a resolution you may then discuss this with your child.
In-school suspensions: If your child is suspended, be sure to negotiate for an in-school suspension. Usually, schools do not advise parents of in-school suspensions. Parents have to ask for them. The child’s safety while being alone at home could be used as a negotiating tool, especially in the case of a single parent. These are suspensions which the child could serve in school in isolation (in a room by himself/herself), and would be given school work assignments, essay or report writing pertaining to the infraction. This would allow your child to serve his/her punishment without missing out on work which is imperative to his/her academic standing. After the suspension has been served, ensure that your child writes an apology for the infraction as well as understands the results of his/her actions.
Your child’s personal file: The school maintains a personal file of your child but, many parents are not aware of this. Everything pertaining to your child’s time at school is placed in this file, and this includes discipline. Perhaps once a year you should ask the school authorities to allow you to view the contents of your child’s file. This would not only allow you to review your child’s academic standing, but also allow you to see if there are any documents or comments of which you were not aware but were placed in the file, and which would/could be detrimental to your child’s future. Remember that no disciplinary document should be placed on your child’s file without your knowledge. You have a right to know, so exercise your right.
Empower a substitute: If you are a single parent and are not able to represent your child in a disciplinary situation, due to work or illness, ask a reputable relative, friend or parent to represent you, and advise the school of this representative. Do not be afraid to seek assistance. Your child will know that he/she is not left alone to deal with the situation, and will know that you and someone else certainly care. This eliminates stress and silent suffering within the child and ultimately sets the stage for success in all aspects of his/her life.
Parents must remember that Children are people too, and much like adults they may be struggling with an issue, but feel shy about seeking help. Parents should therefore engage in after school discussions with their children daily. This would not only strengthen the parent/child bond, but it will allow them to notice any signs of problems which may be resolved before they escalate.
Sharmon Carrington was a former certified school teacher in Guyana for six years. She previously worked at Health Canada as a Senior Advisor. She is now retired after 34 years of Federal public service, serving in several departments. She is married, has two adult children and was very involved in their education. Sharmon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.