Thursday, March 31, 2011

Group Punishment

I have to admit. I am writing this post today out of complete and utter frustration. I am at my wits end with my kids school and I am not sure what to do next. My older 3 go to a wonderful elementary school. It is rated Excellent with Distinction by the state of Ohio. I love how they have implemented so many great programs to help kids who need extra help and enrich the studies of students who are ahead. My kids are in kindergarten, 2nd and 3rd grade. All 3 of them work well above their grade levels. Andrew is my oldest. He is in 3rd grade. He is in the schools gifted math program and is a straight "A" student. Grade cards came home yesterday and not only did he have all "A's" but they were all high "A's" and he received the highest marks for his excellent behavior.  He is every teachers dream for a child. I'm not just saying that either. He is a people pleaser and does everything he can to do what he is supposed to do. He is by far the most responsible 9 year old I have ever seen and we constantly reward him for his excellent behavior at school.  He is very quiet and shy so he doesn't talk much and he ALWAYS does what is expected of him. So if he is so wonderful, why has he missed over a dozen recesses this school year?! 2 words. Group Punishment.

This is new to me. Since he has been in kindergarten, I have had minimal problems with things at school concerning Drew. But this year for some reason, it is a complete different story. The playground and cafeteria aides at the school are extremely hateful and mean and they all have this idea in their heads that if one student is misbehaving, they should all be punished. I can't tell you how bad this burns me up. I have kept quiet all year long with my hubby reminding me to "pick my battles" and just let things go but yesterday was the final straw. My son missed most of his lunch recess because a group of boys at the opposite end of the table were horsing around.  Andrew and his friend were at the other end of the table, yet the entire table was punished and had to stay in the cafeteria until all of the other tables had been dismissed. First of all, let me tell you why this bothers me so bad.

My kids only get 2 recesses at school. Lunch recess and a short aftenoon recess. The rest of the day, they sit in classrooms where they are expected to sit and be quiet. Recess and lunch are their times to give their brains a break, run off energy and converse and socialize with their friends. I believe this is incredibly important, especially for small children!!  When teachers punish them by taking away the only time they have in their entire day to get a break, I believe they are punishing themselves as well because they are going to have students who can't sit still because they didn't get to run off any energy! What sense does that even make?

2nd, I am completely fed up and tired of my kids being punished because of some other punk kids who can't behave!!!  Drew says to me one day, "I don't even know why I bother being good when I get punished anyway" and he is exactly right. What kind of message do we send to our kids when we don't hold them accountable for their own actions?! Group punishment is both ineffective and unethical and I am extremely saddened that my child has had such a problem with it this year. 

I tried to come up with reasons why teachers and aides would support punishment. I understand that in their minds, it creates a culture of compliance because the "good" students will nag the "bad" students into being good. I happen to think it has the exact opposite affect. Instead, you will see the "good" kids start breaking the rules too because why not?! They are being punished anyway, right?

In once instance this year, I did have a convo with one of the playground aides. She identified my son as one of the "good" kids and that she has never had any problems with him. So when I asked her why then did my son keep losing recess, her response to me was, "We have an unusually bad group of 3rd graders this year. We can't tell who is being bad from who is being good so we just punish them all." Well guess what?! Not in this lifetime! My son just got punished for the LAST time because of the actions of other children.  I sent an email to both the principal and superintendent asking them to address the issue with their staff. Going forward, every time it happens, I will go into that school and turn that place upside down if I have to. But I'll be darned if my child is going to be punished one more time because another kid can't behave.

Going along with the same theme, the school also has many teachers who reward on a group level as well. In gym class, the class can receieve something called a "par bulldog" for good behavior but my sons class will never get that reward. Why? Because he has kids in his class with severe behavioral problems. I actually witnessed one of these kids eat a sucker stick and a set of plastic googly eyes that I gave him to use for a craft. He has severe learning and behavioral problems and I am pretty sure he might have a case of PICA the way he eats such strange objects. Regardless though, the rest of the class misses out on opportunities to be rewarded because of  kids like this who can't control themselves. I just don't understand why they can't punish and reward kids on a individual basis. Give credit when credit is due.

To me, teachers who use group punishment are just plain lazy! They can't take the time to come up with more effective and fair ways to deal with problem kids so lets just punish everyone! Take the time to find who is causing the problem and then, hand the consequences out to that individual, not the innocent kids who are actually doing what they are supposed to!

We have 4 children. Each of our children have different personalities, different we expect different things out of each of them. But one thing that is consistent is that we treat each of them as individuals. When one of them breaks a rule, that one gets punished. Not all of them. When one of the does something really great, they get rewarded. I would never punish them as a group unless they were all guilty, it just wouldn't be fair.

The bottom line is, I send my kids out my door every day to go into a school where they have to sit from 8:45-3:45.  That is 7 hours that I am entrusting their care to their teachers, aides, volunteers and leaders. They spend more of their waking hours through the week at school than they do at home and over my dead body are they going to continue being sent somewhere that has staff who obviously HATE kids!!!  There are thousands of unemployed teachers in Ohio right now who would LOVE the opportunity to teach our children. If those who are there now can't handle their jobs without being mean and hateful to the kids, I think they need to be replaced.

What do you think about Group Punishment? Am I overreacting? I would love to hear your thoughts!


  1. One of many reasons I chose to homeschool 20 years ago.

  2. I don't think you are over reacting at all! I mean, how would the teachers and aides like to get wage reductions as a group punishment because one teacher doesn't do their job properly? It wouldn't be "fair" to them! Why would kids deserve that punishment? It turns the good kids bad and the bad kids worse.

  3. We had to go after our son's elementary school once because a new sixth grade teacher decided to do group punishment with her class based on how they had behaved for the substitute the day before. They were denied recess and even bathroom breaks. I was happy to find out that we were not the only parents who complained. In fact, most of the parents who complained were also teachers themselves.

    Because my husband and I both worked with at-risk students, we also knew that it was illegal to do group punishment (at least in our state) and we spelled all that out in a letter. We also met with the principal and things did eventually get sorted out. Our son was horrified that we would rock the boat, but we felt it was our duty as parents to make sure he was treated fairly. Group punishment is very old school and isn't supposed to be allowed anymore. They still use it in the military, but that is with adults, not children. I applaud your outrage and determination to make things fair for your child. Those who punish all or reward all aren't helping their students. I realize that it's easier to do group rewards or punishments, but nobody said life was going to be easy. Being a parent sure isn't!

  4. sarah - i cant say i have any experience with this, but i think you are right on! im more of a new mother (i have a 16 month old), but being a parent has not only opened my eyes to things that do and/or will affect my child, but it has also given me the desire to speak up more on behalf of her. so, go for it! rock that boat!

  5. Part of the reason why I now homeschool my 2nd and 4th graders. I don't ever plan on sending my 10 month old to public school. I never wanted to send the older two but became a single mom and full time nursing student so I felt I didn't have a choice. I would have reacted exactly like you! Recess is one of the most, if not the most, important subject of the day, especially for young children.

    If we are having behavior issues they get an extended recess (outdoors only, usually doing obstacle courses and timing themselves) and then do our bookwork, they can focus so much better and are lest apt to "cause trouble". :)

  6. I think recess is very important for kids and should only be taken away if the circumstances warrant it. Group punishment can sometimes be effective in certain circumstances, but not on a consistent basis. That seems very unfair and I would definitely complain!

  7. I don't think you're overreacting at all- it sounds like the staff is jaded and lazy and doing the children no justice. I can't imagine how frustrated you must be.

  8. I'm not familiar with the school system in Ohio, since I live and taught only in Virginia (and briefly in Florida). The first thing I noticed was that your kids have two recesses. Here, they have one, and only one recess. Lunch is 30 minutes, all in the cafeteria. So having two is already a bonus from my perspective.

    Most teachers at the elementary schools where I taught punished and rewarded on an individual basis. On very rare occasions it is simply not possible for a teacher to individualize because he/she can only be in one place at a time. For myself, I always made every effort to be fair at all times, because I am the role model. I must exhibit fairness to expect fairness. But there were a handful of times over 10 years of teaching when that was simply not possible. If there were one or two children behaving and it was feasible, I would send them out with another class. Normally what I did was take the whole class outside and have the offending children receive their consequences there. Sometimes they were simply made to walk in a certain area, so that they were also getting exercise. It all depends on what is accepted at the particular school and what is allowed by law. I don't think it is fair to constantly punish all the children for the behavior of another group. There are numerous ways that this could be dealt with in the classroom and cafeteria, since this is obviously an ongoing problem.

    Since you have already addressed the issue with the teachers/adults in charge, I think you were absolutely right to go to the principal regarding this issue.

    I wouldn't call the teachers lazy; it's not laziness because having those worst behaved kids stay in is only causing those adults to have to deal with them more. It sounds to me more like inexperience, lack of knowledge, indifference, and ignorance.

    The only other thing I would say is to please, everyone, do not judge all teachers by the actions of a few. Most teachers are very good, care about their students, and want the best for them. Lately it seems like everyone in the media and government, and society in general wants to trash and bash teachers. They're the ones in the classrooms, so they're the ones getting blamed for pretty much everything. The staff member who said that to you was so far out of line it's not funny. There is no excuse for what is going on there.

  9. I don't think you are over reacting. Annoying people is what they are!

    I had a friend in 4th grade that was going to Disney World. He had to leave school early because of it. The aid kept saying how irresponsible his family is for him leaving school early. What she didn't know and didn't ask was, that he was going there because he was having open heart surgery. I told him not to listen to her. He passed away during surgery.

    My point is, is that aids, teachers often times don't ask, they act. Things like that stick with kids. I have bad memories about the situation when it happened years ago.

    I think if you see your son upset for a reason that is out of his control, you should step in.

  10. I completely agree with what you are saying. Especially the LAZY part. I am prepared to go to battle with my 3rd grader's teacher today regarding a group punishment. And, I too am ready to bring it to the principal. I am fed up with my child being taught that his efforts of listening and following directions are futile, if the GROUP is bad enough...gimme a break! Not to mention, when I brought up my disagreement with this type of punishment last time, her answer was telling me how out of control the classroom was...really???

    Wish me luck! : )

  11. What I love is parents who deal with three kids some of the day and complain when they pass those kids off to a school system for most of the day. If you don't like it then you raise your kids and stop letting the school system. Teachers have 20 plus kids in their class. As a teacher I have seen a few bad teachers but I have seen horrible parenting way more frequently. Students have to learn sometime that other people depend on them to do the right thing, we live in a democracy where this is required. A democracy is built on commitment from and involvement by informal leaders builds community support. If your child wants to stop losing recess then teach him/her to be a leader and find productive ways to influence peers. They will be all the better for the life lessons taught especially since your perfect child will no doubt be leading groups of people one glorious day. Of course if the kids dont have recess at school when will they get their exercise? Definitely not when they go home; they have to play video games and who would watch their tv's.

  12. Oh, my little people are far from perfect but I think you missed my point. :)

  13. Parents hate this stuff too? Awesome! As a student I can't stand it! That's not to say I'm the wisest person in the chat room, but I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who thinks this is asinine!


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