Lately, as a school leader, I have been considering my school’s discipline policy as something that needs to be addressed. While I believe in the disciplinary model, including the use of suspensions, I have also come to the understanding that some policies may be outdated.
We do have some policies where the consequences do not match the infraction or the consequence for certain infractions are too strict. I believe the discipline of a kindergartener should be different than the discipline of a sixth-grader.
I told myself that I would never call the police at school on a child because of their behavior because I previously taught at a school that would arrest students for fighting or for “disorderly conduct.” The school I worked at was a high school, meaning these students were above the age of fifteen, and it wasn’t right for them, so I could not imagine calling the police on a six-year-old.
Shockingly, that’s exactly what happened at a Florida school last week. A now-viral, disturbing incident at the Florida school saw a six-year-old girl arrested and committed to a mental health facility without parental consent. The police were called on the kindergartner. According to reports, the school had the little girl committed for two days in a mental health facility for throwing a temper tantrum.
She threw a damn temper tantrum.
I have a daughter, so this really broke my heart. I also lead a school with kindergarteners, who sometimes act out, so this was also heartbreaking from a school leader perspective. I simply cannot understand how a school could call the police on a six-year-old. Let alone call the police on a six-year-old and have her committed without the consent of a parent.
In Florida, there is a law called the Baker Act, which gives schools and the social workers the power to initiate involuntary holds on children. Apparently the little girl suffers from ADHD, but committing her without the consent of her parent is not the answer. This tells me the relationship between parents and school staff is broken.
Kindergarteners throw temper tantrums. That is what little people do at times. For some children, during their temper tantrums, they will throw things or become unsafe. Despite this, committing the child is not the answer.
Something is happening in our schools and a shocking number of our black girls are criminalized. It is time we have the conversation, and it is time we take action.
An earlier version of this post originally ran on the Indy K12 Education blog here: