I am writing in response to “Black students suspended at a higher rate in D91” and “Appropriate discipline?” [News, Forest Park Review, May 6]. I have lived in Forest Park for 22 years, and all three of my children have gone through District 91 schools. Two are now in college, and the youngest is a high school freshman. Two years ago, I retired after 25 years working as a U.S. probation officer. Since my retirement, I have had the privilege of working as a substitute teacher in the five schools that make up D91.
I was taken aback by the sensationalism of these articles. As many people are aware, when statistics are provided, they can be skewed in any fashion to support the author’s argument. The bottom line is that D91 is proportionally composed of more black students; therefore, more black students will be suspended. The issue that strikes me the most in these articles are the responses of the parents, the reporter, and the lawyer, to the second-grader’s misconduct. It is absurd for any of these parties to think, “She doesn’t understand what happened.” A 7-year-old is very capable of understanding her own misconduct and to say she doesn’t understand is to undermine her, and her ability to gain self-confidence.
It is clear from the articles that the reporter, the parents, and the lawyer must not have much experience working in a classroom of young children. I have observed a great deal of bad behavior that needs to be corrected, some with children even younger than second-graders. During the last 18 months, I have been amazed at how many times the children in D91 have been given the benefit of the doubt when discipline issues arise. I have the utmost respect for the teachers and administrators in D91, particularly with the tolerance I see them demonstrate on a daily basis. I have never observed any of the racism that the articles suggest.
In my past role as a probation officer, in which the mission is to help people change their negative behaviors into positive behaviors, I am surprised that the focus in these articles is on the racial percentages in D91, rather than holding the child accountable for her bad behavior. It is my experience that when bad behavior is not addressed with consequences from the very beginning, future behavior escalates into more serious misconduct. I have learned that it is indeed a disservice to children when parents, schools, and other authorities do not address noncompliance.
Children need consequences for bad behavior to deter them from being involved in bigger problems in the future. As a result, I am at a loss to understand why the child’s parents, as well as this newspaper, believe the child is better served by creating a media spectacle than holding the child accountable for her misconduct. The editorial was correct when it stated that this event is, in fact, a teachable moment.
Lastly, I have always experienced D91 to be a district that not only embraces diversity, but celebrates it. I am disappointed that the Review would publish such an untrue and inflammatory story.
Therese M. Fitzpatrick