In this release of the scenario-cast, a high school principal reaches out to members of his virtual #PLN to get feedback on how he should proceed with a recent event in his school community. A few students participate in, video, and post the video of them playing the choking game. The principal is now seeking input to make the best decision possible for the students and the school community.
He wants to make sure the school addresses the following:
- Deter these types of games and other unwanted behaviors.
- A meeting with the families.
- Have the students learn from the experience.
- Have all students understand how incidents like this reflect on the school and community.
- Ready to communicate with local news outlets if the occasion arises.
- Have all students understand the potential harm that can occur from these types of games.
When faced with these scenarios, it is wise for school leaders to have a clear understanding of what their purpose for school discipline is. For me, the purpose is to help students correct unwanted behavior. If a student requires a punishment in order to modify behavior, then one will be issued. However, I know from experience that I do not always need to be punished to change my negative ways.
During the scenario-cast, this principal spoke of feeling the need to suspend for the incident. I would not judge any administrator that felt this was the correct course of action. However, if asked for input I would ask the principal:
Is suspension the most impactful way to change the behavior? Does it help the school community fully understand and repair the harm created by the instance?
In the group Voxer conversation, Jimmy Casas correctly reminded us that these situations are complex and we must have a sense of our community, school, and individual students in order to effectively lead through these events. He also shared the importance of building relationships with the entire community before unwanted behaviors manifest. Reminding me of the following tweet
A6: If we create a culture where everyone feels comfortable in their successes & failures, we embrace our vulnerability together #IAedchat
— Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) September 28, 2015
Given the desire to have students correct unwanted behavior and the potential for students to die from these types of games, I would not suspend the students in this scenario. Instead I would enlist them to help educate the school and community about the dangers of the choking game. These students are probably not the only ones playing this game. Furthermore, I do not believe that suspending them alone will prevent others from continuing to participate in the game.
As an educator, I aspire for our students, staff, and community to embrace our vulnerability together. By empowering students to find a solution to a relevant problem which they find themselves in the midst of, we are not only helping them learn from it, but we are equipping them to see opportunity where only concern thrived previously.
Are you having students turn their screw-ups into PBL opportunities?
What alternatives to suspension have you tried?
Which ones have you only dreamed of?