President’s Message & Topic of the Month by Chairman Larry D. Johnson

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December 2017, Presidents’s Message

Happy Holidays to all of our members and as we get ready to close out 2017 let’s not forget about our students that are endangered or missing. At our 49th Annual Conference in Long Island, NY, we will have John F. Clark, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, present at one of our Lunch Plenary sessions. It is important for school leaders to understand the valuable services and tools available for a child that becomes missing and is endangered. Often, our school officials have critical information for law enforcement and parents in regards to a student who has become missing. Remember, the first two to three hours are the most important for when a child is missing and every minute counts after that. Many of these situations can be from a parental abduction, child custody dispute with guardians, a student accosted by stranger or even by someone who they know. Many times, these situations can uncover human trafficking crimes occurring within our community. I urge all of you to join us in 2018 to hear more about this topic based on our theme of “Safety and Security Around the Clock.”

As always Stay Safe Out There!

Chief Ian A. Moffett, President

President of NASSLEO

Education First Safety Always – Since 1969  

Topic of the Month

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By: Larry D. Johnson

How serious a problem would you say discipline is in the public schools in your community? That’s a question that many school parents are asking themselves as well as those with no children in school. The conversation that I continue to hear is that parents are felling there is “fairly serious or very serious” concerns about discipline in schools.

As the significant adult in a child’s life while in school, teachers certainly have some degree of responsibility in maintaining discipline.  Effective teaching cannot take place without it.  However, school discipline is merely an extension of home discipline.

The foundation for discipline begins at home.  When teachers report a discipline problem, parents should talk to their children and to the teachers to work out a solution together. Parents must support the work of the teachers and administrators by following up on school discipline matters, and taking the time to talk with the teacher to see the matter can be resolved without a repeat in the behaviors.

Perhaps part of the problem lies in a general misunderstanding of the term itself.  “Discipline” tends to elicit images of parents spanking or shouting at a child, or a teaching scolding a student for misbehaving.  To many people, discipline means verbal or physical punishment.

On the contrary, the purpose of discipline should be to guide children toward acceptable behavior and to teach them to make wise and responsible decisions.  The school house is merely attempting to prepare the child for a rewarding and productive adult life.  The lessons learned in the school will extend beyond both negative and positively.

Discipline helps children learn to think in an orderly fashion and to understand the logical consequences of their actions.  It helps them deal with information and attitudes that are important for their success in school and as adults.  For instance, we may teach our children to arrive home on time for dinner and that they must understand in advance that it they are late they will not be allowed to go outside and play afterward.

Parents, teachers and others in a position to work closely with children should understand that discipline should not be equated with punishment.  The ultimate goal of adult efforts at discipline should be a positive effort to help children learn self-discipline; to develop and inner sense of right and wrong and to learn to exhibit restraint when there is no adult supervision.  Instead of punishment, children need to be taught what behavior is allowed or not allowed and, most importantly, why.  Parents should stress “do’s” rather than “don’ts and praise their children when they behave well.

Parents are children’s first teachers, and initially the task of teaching, or discipline, children may seem overwhelming.  However, if parents understand the goals of parental discipline, they may feel more comfortable about their role in that part of their children’s growth.

Often parents discipline children to protect them from danger.  Thus, a parent may teach a child not to touch the hot stove or play with matches. Or, they try to teach their children how to get along with others by, for example, telling youngsters not to grab their friends’ toys or not to talk in class.

And, discipline helps transmit parents and society’s values.  Through discipline, children learn that society has certain common rules that everyone is expected to live by, such as respecting others’ property.  Children also learn the individual values that there families, schools, and communities hold.

It also is important for parents to support the school’s rules and let their children know that they expect them to follow rules.  Parents should make an effort to be aware of the school’s discipline code or policy.  If there is none, parents might suggest a written behavior code for all students.  If the existing code is not satisfactory, parents need to get involved in a revision.  Poorly developed rules and lack of or uneven enforcement causes discipline problems.  In a school as at home, the most effective rules are those decided upon by everyone, including students, teachers, administrators and parents, and enforced by all.

Studies have shown that physical punishment, such as hitting or slapping, and verbal abuse or are not effective methods of discipline.  In fact, may children when subjected to such abuse will continue to become involved in antisocial behavior. It is often the type of discipline used that creates this behavior, both and home and in the school.  While such punishment may seem to get fast results, in the long run it is generally more harmful than helpful.  Physical punishment can demoralize and humiliate children and cause them to develop low self-esteem.  Some experts suggest that it also promote physical aggression in children by showing them that violence is an acceptable method of enforcing one’s will.

National studies by schools, and other educational related organizations offer many tips on student discipline.  Some of those suggestions in helping parents become better teachers of discipline are among the following:

·         Involve children as much as possible in making family rules and decisions.  Children are less likely to break rules that they have helped establish.  Also, be aware that studies have shown that the most effective schools are those where students help set the rules and where students are encouraged to be self-disciplined.

·         Set limits on behavior, but be careful not to impose too many rules.  Too many rules may overwhelm and are hard, if not impossible, to enforce.

·         Praise children for good behavior and accomplishments.  Let them know you appreciate their efforts.

·         Try to ignore unwanted behavior unless it is causing harm to people or is otherwise destructive.

·         Set a good example. Children learn more by how parents act than by what they say.

The Impact of After-School events and the Home Environment

Over the years of working as the Executive Director of Public Safety and School Security for a large urban district in Michigan, I have learned after talking with directors and chiefs from around the country that extending school safety process and procedures to after-school and evening programs is critically important in sustaining a strong and effective school safety program.

With the influence of social media and that way it has impacted our youth, schools, parents, law enforcement and the community must work together to prevent tragic incidents from reaching the door steps of the school.  The National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officials (NASSLEO) have identified many solutions that we believe we give not only the schools but also parents and law enforcement a critical advantage of providing mental health and social and emotional support to your students who may be facing and even discussing a crisis in their lives.

With the opportunity to monitor student based websites and emails that are often provided by local school districts, there are solutions that exist that can “snatch” critical words, phases, and pictures that may be inappropriate and that is being shared online with other students.

Students are often reaching out for help and interventions. However, as adults we sometimes miss this opportunity.  Some would say we are stepping on the constitutional rights of students, by monitoring certain email systems and websites.  I would argue that we are not monitoring everything that a student or child is sending but rather taking advantage of solutions that exist that pulls critical words, phrases and pictures when a student is posing a potential risk too themselves or others.  To ignore this inappropriate behavior and communication by our youth could be a critical mistake. 

It is very important to know what our students are doing after school.  With the lack of funding to increase after school programming students will continue to pose a risk when involved in unmonitored or unsupervised activities.  With more that 14 million students leaving our schools each and every day we must be concerned about what they are doing.

Because it is a known fact that after school hours are the peak times for juvenile crime and risky behaviors including pre-martial sexual activity, alcohol and drug use.  We must look at ways to extend not only school discipline to the home but also provide parents with suggestions and solutions to keep their children safe while at home, to and from school and during school hours.

With most school programs some state require schools to have some type of emergency procedure in place, however that usually does not require those procedures to extend to afterschool programming.  In addition, to the opportunity to monitor what students are doing on social media, it is also recommended that we closely monitor the programs and activities they become involved in during this time as well.

The final area that discipline must be extend to and what must be also closely monitored and supervised is sporting and other recreational events that draws students interest.  One of the partners of the National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement (NASSLEO) is the National Center of Spector Sports Safety and Security (NCS4).  This important partnership have provided us with additional resources and information to understand the importance of extending school safety and discipline programs to afterschool events.

These societal changes and changes in the thoughts of school personnel as well as parents will be the key factor in keeping our schools, homes and communities safe.  We understand that incidents will occur however, if we work together we will be in a better position to respond, and recover not only in the school, but also at the homes of our students and within our community.

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By: Larry D. Johnson

Chairman of the Board

National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officials

Chief of Staff

Assistant Superintendent

Executive Director of Public Safety

Grand Rapids Public Schools