School Talk

Former Camden Supe Adds Nuance and Wisdom to School Discipline, Restorative Justice Debate

As everyone who closely follows education policy knows, discipline is a hot issue and has been for a while. As the data consistently shows, there are concerning disparities in suspensions and overall consequences for black and brown students when compared with white students.  But the conversation, in typical 2018 style, has devolved into an assuming of worst intentions and accusations of racism not only aimed at commentators, researchers, and policymakers but also at teachers. In my own work on this topic of school discipline and the 2014 Obama guidance, I have found educators to be very split on the issue, and that split has broken down more by the age of the students that they teach than the color of their skin.

Needless to say, people are talking past each other and neither side seems to be willing to step back and reflect on how incredibly hard the work on the ground around discipline actually is, no matter how many fights you pick with your ideological opponents on Twitter.

When I saw the following tweet from former Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard, I reached out and asked if he’d write a blog post.

And he also added this in response to a 2016 piece by Rachel Cohen.

We must work harder to capture and elevate voices like that of Paymon Rouhanifard in this overheated discipline debate because he—and others like him— come to the table with first hand knowledge and experience that is far removed from the abstract world in which too many of the loudest voices reside. He has lived the difficulty and the nuance and seen teachers work hard to do the same. It doesn’t mean there aren’t huge problems but it does mean that anyone who implies the answer is simple is adding nothing of value to the conversations or the experiences of students or educators.

While I didn’t get the blog post I had hoped for, this series of 5 Tweets must be part of the conversation.

Thank you Paymon!

What do you think?

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