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Spare the Suspension,Spoil the Child

Working with 25-40 high-schoolers in a classroom setting, alone, at a "challenged school" takes willpower, self-control, diligence and sheer bravery. When things go right, the rewards can be spectacular. The small advances made by some of my difficult students are the ones I will remember long after I forget the legions of want-for-nothing students who plugged along doing exactly what they needed to do.

When things go wrong, it can be jaw-droppingly ironic. I am recalling parents who practice a kind of NIMBYism (not in my backyard) as they assert "not my little angel" and threaten media coverage and lawsuits under the guise of due process.

Due process can quickly reduce a school to minimal efficacy when students, parents, teachers or taxpayers use it as a tool for manipulating a system to deflect personal accountability. For students, just showing up in class earns at least a C. For parents, school becomes cheap day care. For teachers, an educational career becomes a paycheck, summers off and a recession-proof path to retirement if they can just stand it for a few years more.

For the taxpayers, it's the cheapest place to warehouse teens who otherwise would be unsupervised at home. Lastly and least discussed, it can overwhelm special education caseworkers and alternative programs with conduct-disordered students, drawing resources from those truly in need of individualized services and redirecting millions of dollars away from "regular" education.

rot out and twist statistics all you want ("The Insubordinate," Cover Story, March 12). I applaud Richmond Public Schools and the work of Deborah Jewell-Sherman for trying to minimize classroom disruptions created by repeat offenders who, though failing to rise to the level of physical altercation, relentlessly distract and intimidate others. Maybe more experienced and innovative teachers looking for jobs will begin to consider city schools instead of skipping off to the counties.

Ed Chapman

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