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Reader's View: Misbehaving students prevent learning

A Minnesota Department of Human Rights study reported on in the March 3 News Tribune focused on the disciplinary actions of Minnesota schools and statistical disparities. The report was both interesting and revealing ("Discipline disparities wide...

A Minnesota Department of Human Rights study reported on in the March 3 News Tribune focused on the disciplinary actions of Minnesota schools and statistical disparities. The report was both interesting and revealing ("Discipline disparities widespread in Minn. schools").

The goal of the study seemed to be identifying Minnesota schools allegedly at fault of disciplinary disparities among various groups of students. The study misses the point. The study should have concentrated on student behavior and on what schools are doing to persuade misbehaving students to change their ways. If we subscribe to the maxim that all students are important, identifying the several backgrounds of students in the study (the "wow factor") should have little or no relevance to the matter under review.

I ask researchers at the Department of Human Rights: Do you subscribe to the truism that no student has the right to prevent a teacher from teaching? Further, would you endorse the truism that no student has the right to prevent other students from learning? Assuming an affirmative response to both questions, it becomes clear that if a misbehaving student cannot be persuaded by conversation or consequence to behave the student forfeits the right to be in the classroom.

Teachers must be able to teach, and other students must be able to learn. The key to having more effective schools in Minnesota is to have classrooms where students behave. Changing the behavior of students who misbehave is a very difficult dilemma.

And what about students who refuse to change their behavior? They are important, too.

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The Department of Human Rights would be well-advised to examine the programs in Minnesota that focus on students who have forfeited their right to be in the classroom. How can those programs be improved?

Richard H. Carlson

Duluth

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