• Bodie English

Parents Telecommuting From Home Begin Writing Discipline Referrals On Their Children.

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

With schools shut down and many parents working from home, families are in a new territory wherein some parents are having to try out a new role of disciplining their children…….FROM HOME.” This new wave of reality is predicated on a set of circumstances for which teachers were blindsided. As teachers have begun to readjust their pedagogical strategies and begin teaching via web platforms such as Blackboard, Google Classroom, Canvas, etc., one element that has been difficult to reproduce is discipline and behavior.

We reached out to some stay-at-home teachers and parents to see how they’re adjusting to this new/ temporary apparatus of education. It wasn’t hard to find the teachers, they were returning items they had purchased for their classroom to Hobby Lobby and I just picked the first person I saw organizing the other store patrons into an orderly line; ”There’s my teacher!” I thought. When I approached her with my questions, I was silently shushed with her index finger up towards me as she stared daggers at a man attempting to cut in line. Once he silently moved to the end of the line, she adjusted her focus to me with a smile that told me I had all of five minutes to ask my question.

I asked her how she was adjusting to teaching remotely. “Well, we have one-to-one technology so all of our kids have district provided laptops and I’ve already had them working on digital work, but do you think they logged in and did their work!?” I asked if she had any plans to overcome this challenge to which she responded, “Oh….you mean discipline and behavior? I already called home to one of my babies that was failing before Spring Break. His mom said that he was just always on his cellphone and that when she tried to explain the work that was due, he just said he didn’t understand and that he had a headache, or was tired, yada yada.” When asked what teacher tips she shared with the parents she said, “Have you called his momma yet?” I could tell by her widening eyes that this advice did not go over well. I had run out of time and so I sought out some parental insight.

This too was not difficult to find. I drove through a large suburb surrounding the local highschool campus and found a roving band of teenagers. They were all walking while using their cellphones and in a somewhat “V” formation like geese flying south for the winter. The lead teenager was not on his cellphone and instead was guiding the others down the sidewalk. Each teenager had their hand on the shoulder of the person in front. They would take turns in the lead so that each person could get the chance to watch TikTok videos as they moved from one house to the other. I asked the leader where I could find his mother and despite the red-flags this presented, he rattled off his address with no issues. Perhaps I look harmless.

I went to the address and explained my journalistic intentions and began to inquire as to what life was like as a telecommuting stay at home parent. She wanted to remain anonymous for reasons I’ll explain shortly. Her first comment was that she had started requiring her kids to clean up after themselves and prepare their own meals. She let me know that it meant remembering back when she was a child and when children were held accountable. To which I leaned in on the issue. How was she handling discipline at home when her child was off-task or rebellious. She grimmaced, "“Well I googled "discipline referral" and started printing them off and writing up my kids when they violated my rules and expectations." I asked what happened with the referrals next; she became indignant. Apparently she had sent them to the campus, who in turn had reported her to the State Board of Education. Surprisingly this had become a real thing all of a sudden as parents created group message boards where writing referrals for your children was going viral.

The board began to notice an alarming amount of referrals from parents and quickly issued a response that too many referrals indicated improper parent/ teacher best practices. In fact, as I learned, parents had already pushed back by saying essentially that they had given them opportunities to learn, bought them internet service, provided chairs and desks and even study guides and independent help, but they would not get off their phones or make meaningful attempts. They were failing their classes and didn’t care. The board adopted a review process to have other parents come review the other parents and evaluate how they could best achieve success in the home. Parents became livid and decided that if the state would not let the discipline referrals result in consequences that would disincentivize the negative behaviors, then they would consider using Moses Law, (A law that allows parents to give up guardianship if they leave their child at a designated safe facility such as a local fire station.) The state responded by declaring that it would remove funding for these parents by raising their taxes. The parents responded by saying, “Cool.”

Ultimately this battle waged on for sometime, but when I reached out to another parent that had no major discipline issues with their child, she simply said, “Me?! I spanked my kids.” She too wished to remain anonymous.

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