Zero tolerance not the answer to discipline at OPRF

Opinion

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As an alumna of OPRF High School, a spouse and parent of graduates of OPRF, and taxpayer in District 200, I have a strong interest in the school. As a retired teacher, I also have an interest in all children and youth. Presently, I am distressed about what I am hearing regarding some discipline decisions made by the Board of Education.

Apparently, you have determined a "zero tolerance" policy regarding fighting in the school. While I agree that the school needs a tough policy so that students obey rules and an atmosphere of order is maintained, I question what will be accomplished by the expulsion of an honor roll senior student who has no record of previous infraction of rules.

What are your goals in discipline? To show other students what will happen if rules are broken and therefore prevent them from breaking them? While strict enforcement will probably prevent some students from disorderly conduct, I believe that most will not think of the consequences in the heat of battle (even the death penalty does not prevent most murders). Instead, the result of a too- harsh penalty may be anger and lower morale of students.

Is one of your goals to help the student who broke the rule learn to be a better citizen? I hope so. I hope you distinguish between discipline (to train) and punishment (to chastise). I question whether a senior who is expelled after serving a 10 day suspension for his first infraction of a rule will grow in his self-awareness and citizenship. Wouldn't the suspension be enough? Even baseball players get three strikes before they are out.

While this letter is prompted by the particular case of a student, I am also concerned about your discipline policies in general. I urge you to consider what is best for each student and try to determine the long-range consequences for him or her.

Lynette Jackson Colmey
River Forest

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