Because Black Kids Get Suspended for Talking

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.58.44 PMIt’s only fitting that my first post of 2015 is about my 15 year old son…my motivation for equity and advocacy.

The phone rings. It’s his principal…

“I’m calling to inform you that I am putting your son in ISS because he was talking in geometry and his teacher said that she asked him to stop talking twice. I really don’t know what happened. I have to check but he’s going to ISS. He also has some work that he hasn’t done so I’ll get her to send it there.”

My reply

“So let me get this straight. Without investigation or question, you are sending my son to ISS for talking? Let me repeat that…talking?!”


“Yes, he is going to ISS.”

My son, the same kid who will admit to the most ridiculous of things that he has done, who owns up to his consequences like a champ…who often does NOT tell me what happens to him because he knows that I lose it in these cases, responded…

“Mom, that referral was wrong. I’m not going to ISS. Can we talk about this?”

FYI: ISS = In School Suspension….where he sits on a stool all day in silence…100% Inhumane

Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I’ve taught high school kids so I know that kids will often present a different side of the story to their parents. My son is a normal kid and he is not perfect but when he’s wrong, he says it…every single time. I’ve also been a high school teacher at THAT school and I know how teachers write referrals of insignificance and BECAUSE it was sent to the office, the AP’s stance is to abide by the referral with zero question.

Something as minor as talking can get a kid placed in ISS. Let me rephrase that. Something as minor as talking gets black and hispanic kids placed in ISS.

White kids don’t go to ISS for talking. White kids are not written up for talking.

That is a distinction most often reserved for black and hispanic kids…the ones without parents in the friend/family ring of the teacher.

My son wants to fight it. He wants to defend himself against what he believes are false accusations. Unfortunately, he can’t defend himself. His self-advocacy is considered insubordination.

He has no voice.

He has no choice.

He has no chance.

In case you missed it, THIS is why Educolor is 100% necessary

Because #BlackKidsMatter

Comments 6

  1. This is very well said, Refranz. Too often to do we see this in our schools, and while I’m glad that you are willing to share a personal example to bring the issue to light, I am sorry that these issues must happen in order to enable that. While your story highlights talking, I know that it is just a springboard for the discussion of equity in our actions in general – extremely important.

    Hopefully as more schools adopt restorative practices (with fidelity, that is) then these incidents can start to disappear through collaborative conversation and relationship building.

  2. I’m sorry that you and your son have to deal with this, but I also appreciate your sharing such an unfortunate, avoidable, and biased response from the teacher and admin. If a teacher feels they have to write a referral to deal with a classroom situation as minor as talking (TALKING), maybe they shouldn’t be in the classroom. If a teacher feels the need to write a referral because they can’t treat a student of color fairly or respectfully, then maybe they shouldn’t be in the classroom.

    This happens too much. Too often. Only by shining a light on this type of ridiculousness will things for our kids start to change.

  3. Rafranz – I wish I could say that I did not see this when I taught in AZ… but I did. I am so sorry your family has to endure this reckless use of power.

  4. That seems to be a common thread in schools and districts that do not know how to properly service minoritites. One strike… the teacher is right…not sure what happened but the teacher is right.The best book I read was A Framework for Understanding Poverty. I read this book as an assignment in grad school (which was a majority white campus). It helped me understand that different cultures from the most affluent to the poorest have different rules. In order to teach to all populations you must understand that culture. Talking to me as an educator is fine. Does not bother me much because I can hear the thoughts of my students and can change the conversation into a learning moment. But then again I’m not one to write students up for looking at me crazy when they don’t like what I say.

  5. I truly love your conversations with him you posted on Facebook that help him get through this important stand. I believe most schools need to rethink their disciplinary systems that punish, defeat, and silence versus get the student to learn a better way. ISS doesn’t get at the root of any problem or get the student to see why they made behavior choices and how they will correct that behavior when the situation arises again.

    In this case, your son is being silenced because the teacher doesn’t understand how to manage a classroom, have conversations with students, or engage students. Why should your son be punished when this teacher doesn’t help students interact or engage with math?

    I also question a principal who doesn’t empower their teachers to learn how to engage students and who would allow teachers to not even deal with talking in class. This doesn’t help the teacher or student at all improve the learning environment. If the principal has time to deal with every student who talks in class then that is pulling away from his/her more important leadership duties.

    I’ve had a student throw a chair at me and I didn’t send him to the principal because I don’t believe in school disciplinary systems. It’s what I write about in The 30 Goals. Instead, I had us both cool down then we talked, got to the root of the escalation (my part and his), and discussed how we’d prevent this in the future. I also left him knowing I cared about him and knew he could; therefore, expected he make better choices in case other teachers weren’t as forgiving. That student and no other ever threw a chair at me again in that school nor did anything remotely like that. To cast him out of my class would’ve been an example of another adult not taking the time to care and also it wouldn’t have gotten him or others to never throw chair or react angrily in the class in the future.

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