Category Archives: Uncategorized

Books By Women

On International Women’s Day Lee posted a challenge. List 95 books by women and non-binary individuals. 95 books you’ve read.

That seemed intimidating but intriguing. So I started thinking. And it wasn’t as tough as I thought to come up with 95 authors for that list. For some of these women I’ve read multiple books by them. I’ve tried to link to as many as possible (which is why this is showing up so far after International Women’s Day). Making this list was a joy, surprisingly, because I remembered authors I want to read more of now.

  1. Roxane Gay: Bad Feminist
  2. Louise Penny: Inspector Gamache series
  3. Jacqueline Winspear: Maise Dobbs series
  4. Laurie King: Mary Russell series and Kate Martinelli series
  5. Chimimanda Ngozi Adichi: Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists and The Thing Around Your Neck
  6. Caitlin Moran: How to Be a Woman
  7. Jan Burkis & Kim Yaris: Who’s Doing the Work?: How To Say Less So Readers Can Do More
  8. Kate Atkinson: Case Histories
  9. Artis Henderson: Unremarried Widow
  10. Allie Brosh: Hyperbole and a Half
  11. Karin Slaughter: The Kept Woman (I want to read more of these books!)
  12. Helene Wecker: The Golem and the Jinni
  13. Kate Morton: The Secret Keeper
  14. Margaret Atwood: Stone Matress: Nine Wicked Tales
  15. Yaa Gyasi: Homegoing
  16. Kate Schatz: Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide
  17. Carole Boston Weatherford: You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen and Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hammer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement among others
  18. Jacqueline Woodson: Each Kindness and The Other Side among others
  19. Eileen Spinelli: Where I Live and While You Are Away
  20. Kate DiCamillo: Flora and Ulysses and Tale of Desperaux and the Mercy Watson series and the Bink and Gollie series
  21. Blue Balliett: Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3 and Hold Fast among others
  22. Kirby Larson: Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Ever After
  23. Malala Yousafzi: I Am Malala
  24. Laurie Halse Anderson: Fever 1793
  25. Marilyn Nelson: How I Discovered Poetry and My Seneca Village and American Ace
  26. A.S. King: Ask the Passengers
  27. Rachel Hartman: Seraphina
  28. Elizabeth Wein: Code Name Verity
  29. Jessica Day George: Tuesdays at the Castle series
  30. Sharon Creech: Love That Dog and Hate That Cat and Granny Torrelli Makes Soup
  31. Jessica Herthel: I Am Jazz
  32. Tamora Pierce: First Test and the following books in the series
  33. Ann Patchett: State of Wonder – not kids
  34. Monica Brown: Side by Side Lado a Lado and Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People
  35. E.L. Konigsburg: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place and others
  36. Kelly DiPucchio: Grace for President and Zombie in Love
  37. Susan Taylor Brown: Hugging the Rock
  38. Helen Frost: Diamond Willow and Hidden
  39. Thanhha Lai: Inside Out and Back Again
  40. Margi Preus: Heart of the Samurai 
  41. Marjane Satrapi: Persepolis and Persepolis 2
  42. Judith Viorst: So many! But I love Lulu and the Brontosaurus and If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries
  43. Linda Tirado: Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America – not kids
  44. Jennifer Holm: Sunny Side Up and Turtle in Paradise and so many more
  45. Cynthia Rylant: The Relatives Came and God Got a Dog and countless more (truly, I don’t think I could count them all)
  46. J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter series (of course) and The Casual Vacancy and the Cormoran Strike series
  47. Jessica Spotswood: A Tyranny of Petticoats (she actually edited this collection but it’s fabulous and I can’t skip it)
  48. Kekla Magoon: Shadows of Sherwood (and she has a short story in the above collection)
  49. Kathy Collins: I Am Reading: Nurturing Young Children’s Meaning Making and Joyful Engagement with Any Book – not kids
  50. Donalyn Miller: The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child – not kids
  51. Lois Lowry: The Giver and Number the Stars and so mnay more
  52. Lauren Child: The New Small Person
  53. Cornelia Funke: The Thief Lord and the Inkheart trilogy
  54. Shannon Hale: Princess in Black series and The Goose Girl
  55. Eve Bunting: How Many Days to America and The Pirate Captain’s Daughter and many, many more
  56. Pam Munoz Ryan: When Marian Sang and others
  57. Gennifer Choldenko: Al Capone Does My Shirts
  58. Mara Rockliff: Me and Momma and Big John
  59. Katie Kennedy: Learning to Swear in America
  60. Salina Yoon: Penguin books
  61. Kate Hannigan: The Detective’s Assistant
  62. Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility – not kids
  63. Zetta Elliott: Bird
  64. Carrie Fisher: Wishful Drinking
  65. Dana Simpson: Phoebe and Her Unicorn and at least one of the sequels
  66. Nancy Springer: Enola Holmes series
  67. Ursula Vernon: Castle Hangnail
  68. Victoria Jamieson: Roller Girl
  69. Cassie Beasley: Circus Mirandus
  70. Erin Morganstern: The Night Circus – not kidding
  71. Judy Blume: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Are You There God It’s Me Margaret and more and more
  72. Rukhsana Khan: Big Red Lollipop
  73. Natalie Babbitt: Tuck Everlasting
  74. Holly Black: Zombies vs. Unicorns (again, she was an editor as this is a collection of fabulous short stories)
  75. Maryrose Wood: The Incorrigable Children of Ashton Place series
  76. Jennifer Fisher Bryant: Pieces of Georgia
  77. Lindsay Mattick: Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear
  78. Barbara Robinson: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and others
  79. Sarah Miller: The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century
  80. Rachel Renee Russel: at least one of the Dork Diaries books
  81. Ellen Oh: Prophecy
  82. Julia Otsuka: When the Emperor was Divine – not kids
  83. Rainbow Rowell: Eleanor and Park
  84. Maria Semple: Where’d You Go, Bernadette 0 not kids
  85. Lissa Evans: Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, and a Very Strange Adventure
  86. Victoria Thompson: Murder in the Bowery (I need to read more books in the series!) – not kids
  87. Leslea Newman: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard
  88. Lynn Povich: The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace – not kids
  89. Tracey Hecht: The Nocturnals: The Mysterious Abductions
  90. Lauren McLaughlin: Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective in What’s That Smell
  91. Ursula K. LeGuin: The Left-Hand of Darkness and A Wizard of Earthsea
  92. Linda Ashman: Rain! (this is one of my favorite picture books)
  93. Cathy O’Neil: Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy 
  94. Jo Baker: Longbourn
  95. Ann Leckie: Ancillary Mercy

Thoughts on Diversity in Classroom Libraries

For the past few years I’ve become increasingly aware of the lack of diversity in children’s literature. As a straight, white, middle class female who grew up with a mom, a dad, and one sibling (and is now in a family that is exactly the same), I had no trouble seeing myself in literature. I have trouble naming books that showed me people different from me during my childhood. Aside from boys. There were plenty of boys in books I read.

I teach a graduate class in elementary literacy. Tonight, instead of meeting on campus, we met in my classroom. The main goal for class tonight was to spend some time analyzing my classroom library.

We focused on race, gender roles for kids, gender roles for adults, and family structure. There are so many other things we could have examined, but time is finite. Quickly these graduate students noticed how rare it is to see a person of color in children’s literature, how traditional gender roles for both children and adults are pervasive, and how stereotypical family structures are overwhelmingly the norm. They were wise enough to note that this is true in a classroom library they know has had significant effort made to be diverse.

We had some great conversations. My goal was simply to raise their awareness of the lack of diversity in children’s literature and the need to have far more of it. These are students who want to be literacy specialists in schools. They will likely have some say in purchasing decisions when it comes to books for their buildings. I want this to be in their heads.

I shared with them two stories about Rick Riordan. The first was about the cover of the various titles in his Kane Chronicles series. One of the main characters is very clearly Black in the books. Very clearly. And yet, in many editions of the book in other countries, he was being portrayed as white on the covers. To my understanding, authors often have very little control over the art in their books. Riordan has fought and managed to get some covers changed. (The editions of the Kane Chronicles that I have in my classroom have the main characters somewhat in shadow or silhouette, making race hard to determine. That’s certainly one option for publishers. Not a good one, in my mind.)

The second Riordan story is about his new Gods of Asgard series (Norse gods). The title character, Magnus Chase, is rescued (for lack of a better word) by Samirah, a Muslim teenage girl. In the second book, a new character is introduced who is gender fluid. I don’t know that Riordan is doing this perfectly. I’m sure there are ways in which he is screwing up writing about people so different from him. But he appears to be making a darn good effort to get it right. And he’s using his level of fame to make things happen in middle grade novels that might otherwise get squelched.

My one regret about class tonight is that we didn’t talk about diversity in authors. I know if I tallied up the books in my classroom library a significant percentage would be written by white men. Just one more thing I’m working on as I continually expand my collection.

Accountability Excessiveness

I haven’t written in a while because I’m having trouble prioritizing this. I think one of my challenges is that I don’t want to write junk but I know how much time it would take to write what I want to write. So I just put it off.

This isn’t going to be what I want to write. But at least it will be getting some of my thoughts out of my head and here instead.

from Gwydion M Williams’s flickr

I spent an hour and a half yesterday in training for our state standardized tests. I am now aware of how much time my students and I are going to need to spend exploring and understanding how to use the online testing program. There are so many tools and things for them to know before the tests in a month. So instead of spending time exploring books or nature or magnets or building blocks or something else, we’ll spend time exploring an online testing program. A program that likely costs my state a large amount of money.

I spent all day today in training to score binders for a state alternate assessment. In two weeks I’ll spend two days scoring. There were about 100 of us in training today. More folks will be trained tomorrow and Thursday. These alternate assessments are in binders (about 20,000 of them for our district) with many, many pages in each.

The time, energy, and money spent on accountability measures is horrifying to me. I’m not anti-accountability, but I’m anti-the-way-we’re-doing-it-now.

Parent Engagement Isn’t A One-Way Street

from tacit requiem’s flickr      

 

Why is parent engagement always looked at from the lens of wanting parents to come to school so we educators can tell them how to be better parents? The only other option that seems to be common is parents coming in to serve the school by volunteering in different ways. (And just as a slightly-irrelevant aside, why is it parent engagement? Given that we know many children are living with other family members as well as or instead of their parents, why don’t we talk about family engagement?)

An article, Goodbye parent-teacher conferences, hello poetry workshops: How New York City is redefining engagement, is what set off my current rant. It’s about Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTT):

the approach focuses on teaching groups of parents to engage their children academically, and encourages them to talk about how their students are performing as a group — not just individually.

The idea isn’t terrible, but it has some serious flaws. Each of the sessions is designed to teach parents something about what and how their children are learning and how they can help. I have some issues there. But, in addition, during each session parents have time to talk to each other.

Hannah Yeats, a teacher at West Prep who co-facilitated the APTT session, shuttled around the room, occasionally encouraging some of the more timid parents to speak up or exchange phone numbers.

In the past, “parents had each other’s numbers — and that’s kind of faded,” Yeats said. “We need to create community. There aren’t structures in place to encourage that support system to be built.”

I will admit to having very few phone numbers (or email addresses) for any of my daughters’ friends’ families. I do wish our communities were tighter. (Not that I’m doing a dang thing to change that.) Families getting to know each other, if they don’t already, is helpful for their children, I believe. Communities and connections are healthy for us humans.

from Aaron & Jennie’s flickr

But, I think there are issues:

Parents were invited to three separate 75-minute sessions evenly spaced throughout the school year, typically led by one or more of their student’s teachers. They are given a chance to get to know each other, learn specific methods for talking with their children about schoolwork, and review their children’s progress on math and reading tests together.

Between sessions, parents are expected to bring the strategies developed at the APTT meetings home: Something as simple as asking probing questions about what a child is reading, or playing a game that requires using math concepts like factors and products.

So, teachers teach the parents what to do with their children and they review test scores together. Ugh. This is not a partnership in any way. This is the school wanting the parents to ‘partner’ with them in order to increase student achievement. But the view of partnering is that parents should do exactly what the school asks of them exactly as they ask them to do it.

There is no sense in this structure that parents have anything to offer the school or the teachers beyond following their directions. This is absurd. Parents know their children better than anyone else possibly could. We educators could do so much more for children if we viewed their families as true partners. As partners who have something to offer us, to teach us. If we viewed family engagement as a two-way street all groups (teachers, parents, and students) would benefit.

Also, don’t even get me started on this piece from the principal:

“In a school with low-performing students, and students who come in from low-income situations, we don’t get a lot of parent participation,” Washington said, pointing out that many students have parents who work multiple jobs or have been incarcerated.

Apparently this sort of program rather than parent-teacher conferences (although, those are still happening at this school alongside this program) is needed because this school has many low-income students. Blergh.

Parents, overwhelmingly are engaged with their children, whether they are low-income parents or wealthy ones. In general, the great majority of parents are working hard to do the right thing for their children. If we really want to engage families and schools together, one option would be to include the children. Don’t take away the most critical part of the equation. Bring families in together. Allow children to teach their families about what they’re doing in school. And good gracious, keep the test scores out of it!

School Buildings Can Do So Much

ASCD’s Empower17 was an astounding and exhausting few days in Anaheim, CA. I’m full of thoughts about it and what I learned there. While in CA I reflected and wrote for SmartBrief about the sessions I attended. If you’re curious about those, you can find them online. I wrote about the Successful Schools Showcase, a new feature at the conference. I also wrote about a session Robyn Jackson did on meaningful feedback. I was also lucky enough to hear Zuriel Oduwole (she’s a 14 year old filmmaker and awesome) speak and I wrote about that one. (I think I wrote one more piece that should be up soon.) If you’re interested in the conference in general, there are lots of pieces by many folks here.

Discovery Elementary School in Arlington, VA

The final session I attended was Bob Moje, a fellow Virginian. He’s not an educator, in the traditional sense, but is an architect. He and his firm have designed many schools in Virginia, such as Manassas Park Elementary School, Buckingham County Primary and Elementary Schools, and Discovery Elementary School. There are quite a few more listed on Bob’s page, but these are my favorite.

Energy Dashboard from Discovery Elementary School

We do so many things because it’s what we’ve always done or because it’s a habit. For many things that is just fine. We can’t analyze or question everything we do. But sometimes, we really need to take a step back and do some serious thinking. Listening to Bob talk about school design made that very clear to me. He talked about school design the way many educators talk about teaching. The idea that we need to ask what we want, what’s our goal, what do we need to get there, and what are the best options available to us.

The great majority of schools I’ve spent time in (as a student, as a teacher, as a parent, as a visitor) have looked pretty much the same. The shock and excitement at seeing something different, something innovative in a school says something about how rare that is. We know exactly what to expect when we visit a school, no matter where we are in the country. One of the biggest problems with that is that schools last a long time. A school building may be used for fifty years or decades longer. Renovations are expensive and limited. It’s difficult to take a shell and make it into something new. Typically renovations make that shell larger or newer-looking. Not different.

The fact is that the building in which a school, a group of learners, spends its time, makes a huge difference in how that time is spent. Our principal and librarian have been doing an amazing amount of work to renovate our school library. Their greatest challenge? Lack of money – no, although that’s a big one. Lack of ideas – not at all, there are plenty of those. Lack on innovation – no way, they are thinking very creatively. The greatest challenge is that the space is set. They can’t change the rectangle with the few windows very high up. If they want to try something new, they have to make it happen in that space.

There is such potential in school building design. But what we tend to do is what we’ve always done.

Quick Judgments Are Harmful

Yesterday afternoon we went to see Sing! Before the movie began I noticed the young girl sitting in front of me, about five or six years old. She was wearing a winter cap with words around the bottom of it. All I could make out were HERSCARO. I thought there was a break between the S and the C, but that wasn’t completely clear. I tried of lot of different possibilities, trying to figure out what her hat could say. Nothing was truly fitting. Finally, she turned some and I was able to make out that it was CAROLINA PANTHERS. Someone with more interest in sports would likely have been able to figure that out. I couldn’t.

It got me thinking about how often we make judgments based on only some of the information. It’s human nature to do so. But with social media we often make those judgments quite loudly now, rather than just to ourselves. There are positives and negatives to this fact.

This video has been flying around the internet. The first time I watched it was because it had been shared on twitter with the comment, “Frankly women have to do this all the time and we generally don’t get this flustered when it happens.” I watched the video and saw a frustrated dad, hilariously darling children, and a harried mom. I was really bothered by it. I saw the dad shove his daughter away without even looking at her. I saw the mom fly in, completely off balance, grab the kids, and skid out, dragging the door shut as she seems to be falling to the floor. The whole scenario made me uncomfortable.

Watch it now, can you see it through that lens?

I was genuinely worried about the mom because the way I was seeing the dad treat the children seemed so callous that I was afraid he was angry with her as well.

After much discussion on the internet I am seeing this video through a completely different lens. A friend pointed out that he probably can see his daughter on the screen so he’s not randomly just pushing out at her. That hadn’t crossed my mind. His facial expressions don’t look as angry to me now as they did when I first watched it. He does seem flustered, but not upset in the way I had seen before.

Another friend pointed out that the mom seems to be holding her pants up. I wonder if she had tried to take a quick bathroom break and the kids took off. It would also explain the way she is moving. It’s not that she’s scared of him, but that she’s scared of losing her pants as she tries to get her kids back out of the room.

I can watch the video now and be amused by it rather than angered. And feel some sympathy for both parents. But that took seeing it from different perspectives.

My response to the video landed me in hot water on social media as several people I don’t know called me racist. I’ve seen this label being put on many in response to this video because people have assumed the mom is a nanny. I never suggested that because that didn’t even cross my mind. But apparently the way I was seeing the mom made me racist. Now I’m identifying with the dad in this video as I’m feeling people making a quick judgment of me based on very little information, just as I did to him.

I pride myself of giving others the benefit of the doubt. When I am annoyed at another driver or a person in the grocery store, my brain immediately begins to think of reasons I might behave the way they are behaving. I try to understand and, therefore, have some patience. It seems I’m less likely to do that online. I think this is a far greater challenge to our society than I had realized. These quick judgments we make, based on 140 characters, or a brief video, or a FB update, are causing us to be more isolated and more divided than ever.

It’s difficult to have conversations that will move anyone forward if we’re all judging quickly and identifying each other with labels that we find highly offensive (troll, racist, libtard, etc.). Those labels do clearly fit some, without any question at all. But once we’ve slapped those labels on, it is awfully hard to have any kind of conversation. We see ourselves as needing to educate the ‘other’ rather than learning together. Together, in any sense, becomes almost impossible. And I think we need together quite significantly right now.

So, to this working dad, I apologize. I hope you and your lovely family had a good laugh together after this. Your kids seem to own their world and that’s exactly what they should do at their young ages. I also, sincerely hope, you have avoided online attacks and seen only the people who are loving this video. (Although I recognize the futility in that hope.)

Without Women…

On this Day Without A Woman I am feeling cranky. If even half the women in the country stayed home and did nothing today it would shut it all down. But we won’t. Some will and I have so much respect for them. The rest of us…We aren’t willing to do it.

At my school alone, if all the women stayed home, there would be no one to make breakfast or lunch for the kids, no one staffing the office, and fewer than ten men (if we include custodial staff) to take care of our 600+ students. For whatever reasons you want to assign us, the women at my school aren’t willing to force that to happen.

How many subways, trains, and buses would be still today if all women stayed home? Our hospitals would certainly shut down. It would be awfully tough to eat out, stop by the grocery store, or get phone calls answered at just about any business.

One of the reasons we saw an impact, however small it might have been in some areas, from the Day Without Immigrants was because businesses supported their employees. Restaurants closed for the day. Hotels gave people the day off with pay.

That’s not happening today. The expectation that our society continues as normal means that women are working today. For many, taking the day off could have had significant repercussions. (Our district certainly discouraged taking leave for today.)

I’m grateful to the women who have stepped up by stepping back today. Thank you for being willing to let balls drop in your world in order to show how important we all are. I’m sorry I’m not standing with you.

 

(I am quite aware that my crankiness stems from the fact that I wasn’t willing to take this day off. I am at school with my third graders today. I’ll be teaching my grad class tonight. I didn’t feel I could not do those things so I’m doing them. And I know that’s a huge factor in my crankiness. On the plus side, I’m wearing red and intend to spend no money today. Well, other than the parking garage so that I can teach tonight…)

I’ve Got It Easy

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how easy my life is. (This isn’t to say I won’t complain about how challenging things are and how busy we all are and how many balls I’m dropping all the time.) We’re a two-car family which means we have a lot of flexibility in our lives. We are financially able to purchase the things we need when we need them. We have good health care so we’ve been able to see specialists when needed and get prescriptions. We have steady jobs with paid leave. We take a lot of these things for granted. All of them probably. But so many people don’t have these luxuries.

from Anthony Dean’s flickr

Someone on twitter today shared this Atlantic article. It’s a few years old, but no less true now than it was when it was written. Please take a few moments and read it. If you don’t yet understand the realities of living in poverty (and I am sure I don’t fully understand them) this will help give you at least a small window.

Barbara Ehrenreich writes about taking different entry-level jobs that are available to women (hotel housekeeper, waitress).

What I discovered is that in many ways, these jobs are a trap: They pay so little that you cannot accumulate even a couple of hundred dollars to help you make the transition to a better-paying job. They often give you no control over your work schedule, making it impossible to arrange for child care or take a second job. And in many of these jobs, even young women soon begin to experience the physical deterioration—especially knee and back problems—that can bring a painful end to their work life.

She goes on to detail some of the challenges faced by people living in poverty. Problems that are little bumps in the road to those of us in the middle class are often huge obstacles for people in poverty. Recognizing this is one small step toward making a more equitable society.

It’s time to revive the notion of a collective national responsibility to the poorest among us, who are disproportionately women and especially women of color. Until that happens, we need to wake up to the fact that the underpaid women who clean our homes and offices, prepare and serve our meals, and care for our elderly—earning wages that do not provide enough to live on—are the true philanthropists of our society.

See All the Implications

Educators complain frequently about helicopter parents (parents who are always hovering around their children, always stepping in, overly involved). Educators also want parents to be involved and engaged with school and their child’s education. Of course, we only want them to do so in the ways that we want.

from Wesley Fryer’s flickr

I have to wonder how often we’re a part of creating helicopter parents as well as children who are unable to take responsibility or advocate for themselves. I heard a story on NPR last week about school systems texting parents when students grades were dropping or students were missing assignments. It made for an ugly commute home because I was so irritated. Then that story showed up on KQED’s MindShift blog.

Take it away, Peter Bergman and Eric W. Chan of Teachers College, Columbia University:

“In a field experiment across 22 middle and high schools, we [sent] automated text-message alerts to parents about their child’s missed assignments, grades and class absences. The intervention reduces course failures by 39% and increases class attendance by 17%.”

That’s from a draft paper they’ve just released. They say the intervention was especially helpful for students who were struggling academically. The students’ GPAs improved by a quarter of a point on a four-point scale. And students were more likely to stay in school.

That definitely sounds good. Students are getting better grades. Students are staying in school. That’s hard to argue against.

But I’m going to do so anyway. These researchers found these significant results at the high school level, although they tried the same strategy with middle schoolers. It didn’t seem to make the same difference there. Could that be because middle school students have parents who are paying attention already and these texts aren’t telling them anything terribly new?

High school students still need parental support. There is no doubt. However, they are close to heading off to college or to work, to some form of independence. If their parents have been receiving text messages every time they miss an assignment (or maybe only after they’ve missed a few assignments) is this helping them take control of the problem? Why not send the text messages to the students?

What’s our biggest concern as educators? Our students’ grades? Or our students’ ability to be independently responsible? I think both are important, but this strategy of texting parents is only supporting one of those goals. We are, as usual, valuing grades and test scores over everything else. That’s one small piece of a human being.

When we implement strategies like this one, we need to be thoughtful about what it means. Not just what it means for the goal it is addressing, but what it means on a larger scale. I think we quickly move forward with things all the time that help in one area but harm in others. We aren’t paying enough attention to the harm.

 

Seclusion and Restraint Regulations

This week I spent time at the Department of Education for Virginia, attending a Board of Education meeting. If you’ve never attended a board meeting for your district or state, I highly recommend it. This is the second time I’ve attended at this level and I’m learning so much about the political and policy processes involved.

The most interesting topic on this agenda was the regulations on seclusion and restraint. During public comment early in the meeting this was overwhelmingly the most frequent topic. People came from a variety of organizations to speak about concerns on the new regulations. Concerns that the regulations are too harsh or concerns that the regulations are to restrictive for the school personnel. My gut says the regulations need to ensure that students are not treated in harmful ways. But I recognize that there is so much I do not understand about what is needed by administrations and especially at different age levels, so I’m not ready to make a strong statement as I would like.

from leniner’s flickr

I am, however, ready to make a statement on something I think has been missing from the conversation. My concern with many regulations that are designed around punishment or anything that students might see as punishment is that they are often followed in ways that harm students of color. I don’t have the statistics on seclusion or restraint, but I would be willing to bet significant amounts of money that children of color are secluded or restrained at far higher percentages than white children.

Unless we have plans for addressing racial disparities, we are failing at creating useful regulations. Administration groups spoke at this meeting about their need to be able to seclude students in case of suspicion that a student has a weapon or if students need to be interviewed about an altercation. Okay. I get that. But is the suspicion because a student isn’t white? Racism is far too ingrained in our society to believe that it doesn’t play a role in decisions to seclude or restrain students. When this isn’t even a part of the conversation we aren’t serving all of our students.