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Omdahl: It All Comes Down to Parenting

By Staff | May 29, 2015

Statistics on disciplinary action collected by schools in the Fargo metropolitan area revealed that Hispanic, African-American and Native-American children were suspended five or six times more than were white children.

While the data comes from only one area of the state, it is safe to assume that the findings would hold up all across North Dakota.

One observer was generous enough to allege that the statistics didn’t smack of racism but of stupidity on the part of teachers who don’t understand the cultural backgrounds of unruly students.

But simply understanding isn’t enough when a student is disruptive in a class. The teacher is required to deal with the situation immediately. Understanding is for later.

North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler came closest to the truth when she noted that the differences in suspensions may be explained by cultural perspectives.

First, we need to admit to the proportion of unruliness among minority students. If minority students are being suspended five and six times more often than white students, we maybe should assume that these students are five and six times more unruly, regardless of ethnicity.

In most cases, the problem of unruly kids goes back to parenting, or the lack thereof. If there is no discipline exercised at home, there will be no discipline practiced in school.

Unruliness and lack of respect may be the unexpected consequences of destroying the traditional family structure and opting for new less stable variations in group living.

The lack of discipline can have many causes, some of which we are no longer free to discuss because of the demand for political correctness, such as the importance of fathers in a home.

Superintendent Baesler is correct when she mentions cultural differences in defining acceptable discipline. Historically, the dominant white society has not been helpful.

African-Americans have had a long, painful road to bring meaning to family after decades of slavery when white slaveholders showed little respect for preserving African-American families.

Today African-Americans are still struggling to bring real meaning in family. Women are still the mainstays in most African-American homes and are primarily responsible for imbuing children with behavioral discipline.

The white society has been equally dismissive of Native-Americans who have been forced to change a whole way of life, with its unique social structure, to meet the expectations of white schools.

Children from white families have had the benefit of early exposure to the rules of society. However, white children growing up without enforced parental parameters are as unruly as minority kids so ethnicity need not be considered a dominant factor.

The education system must somehow deal with unruliness although it seems unfair to expect teachers to correct years of bad practices at home. (So what else is new?)

Because unruliness blossomed in the home, families with undisciplined kids are hardly in position to solve the problem. In many cases, parents will defend their unruly children, claiming is was justification for unruliness. Defiant parents produce defiant children.

Unruliness will not be solved with an afternoon workshop or a 30-minute meeting with parents in which only one parent shows up. It will take concentrated effort to undo years of cultural experience.

Shire Mohamed, an AmericCorps recruit in Moorhead, works with 30 middle and high school students each year, using a variety of techniques to keep kids positive. But this sort of effective involvement is labor intensive, meaning it is expensive.

States claim they don’t have the money to hire more Mohameds. So we will continue to suspend students until we learn that cheaper is seldom better.

Now in the case of Tom Brady, suspension is advisable.

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