To stay or to be suspended, that is the question

My take on Senate Bill 419

My friend recently showed me a list of the new laws in California. One of them didn’t catch me at first; I was indifferent about it. After some research and consideration, I agree with Senate Bill 419. I do not believe that elementary school children and suspensions go together all that well. 

Senate Bill 419 prohibits school children from grades four through eight to be suspended for “willful defiance.” I like to call it the: School-Cannot-suspend-Us-for-Acting-out Bill.

Perhaps the reason why I finally made up my mind on this law is the fact that I have two fifth grade brothers. While they both have never gotten into serious trouble, I know they often make immature decisions.

I picked up my rambunctious twin brothers from school one afternoon. Watching them play with their friends, the law popped into my head. The context put my mind to work. Is it right or wrong?

I understand both sides of the issue. This may be making it harder to discipline the children. It may give the district less authority over the students.

As the two whirlwinds hopped into the car, more questions flooded my mind: Would knowing that they could be suspended for certain behaviors actually change the way they act? Would they be able to inhibit their reckless spontaneity out of the fear of the consequence?

At their age, suspensions are ultimately invitations for them to go on vacation.

I’m talking about grades four to eight here. In fourth grade, I was living my life in Canada, throwing snow at my friends. Was I thinking about college? No. I lived my life free of worry and stress and as carefree as possible. In fifth grade, I was passionate about skiing. In sixth and seventh grade, I was into playing soccer. Eighth grade was when I started thinking about my future: college.

I do not think that children that young see suspensions as a real punishment. A child at this age is not thinking about how their actions will affect their future for many reasons, primarily because it is totally out of context for them.

When I think of suspensions, I think of the deadly remark on a high school record that college officials mournfully shake their heads over. As any other senior would, I think about college all of the time. The relevance of college is comparatively striking. Elementary and middle school kids simply do not see the shaking heads.

And on the college application, the question of: “have you ever been suspended,” probably won’t be an accurate picture of yourself, even if the incident occurred in first grade.

The simple reality of children as it applies here is that it is natural for them to not be super excited about going to school. Vacation is almost always the preferred reality. Granted, running away from a problem is the easy way out. But not being suspended and having to live with the consequences at school seems like the more impactful punishment. I compare it to ostriches sticking their heads into the ground when times get rough. The suspension is the ostrich sticking it’s head in the ground. Out of sight and unseen.