Response to article on Mollycoddling Students in St. Paul

In Sunday’s Star and Tribune (3/20/16), Katherine Kersten writes an article about how the St. Paul School District administration has “increasingly removed consequences for misbehavior, and has led kids to believe they can wreak havoc with impunity.”

Ms. Kersten makes some compelling points. All students should be held to high expectations, both academically and behaviorally. And yes, students should also be held accountable for their behavior. However, the problem of school discipline and creating a safe environment for students to learn is much more complex than Ms. Kersten communicates. While holding students accountable for their behavior is a significant component of the discipline problems in the district, it is only part of the solution.

There are several other factors that contribute to a safe environment that is conducive to learning.

  • Universities need to adequately prepare teachers for instructing and managing behavior in today’s classrooms.
  • School administrators need to support teachers in maintaining optimal teaching environments in their classrooms.
  • Teachers need more support and expertise in how to manage challenging classrooms and how to respond to behavior.
  • Teachers and administration need to grow in their abilities to build relationships with parents who have become disconnected with school systems.
  • Teachers have to face the biases they possess.
  • Schools have to look at biases inherent in their institutions.

To address the above issues we suggest the following:

  • All teachers should receive professional development EACH year in classroom management and how to appropriately respond to student behavior.
  • School administrators need to collaborate effectively with parents and teachers to create clear and enforceable policies that describe responses to disruptive classroom behaviors.
  • All school personnel should continue their professional development training and receive feedback in the area of cultural competency and its impact on classroom interactions and instruction.
  • School districts would benefit from hiring more personnel:
    • Coaches to mentor teachers to help with classroom management
    • Social workers for parents to make connections with the school
    • Counselors to support students with issues of mental health
  • Student accountability options:
    • Intervention spaces in each school designed to:
      • help students who are struggling with their behavior
      • preserve and restore the effectiveness of the classroom learning environment
    • Suspension practices that are fair and enforceable
    • Restitution opportunities
    • Contact and collaboration with parents to design action plans

It’s not enough to simply blame parents for their child’s behavior or teachers for their inability to manage classrooms effectively. Preserving effective learning environments in today’s classrooms involves administrators, teachers, parents and students working together. Through these kinds of collaborative efforts instead of simplistic blaming, we are confident that schools can create safe environments that allow the learning all students deserve.


March 23, 2016. Uncategorized.

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