RE: DSM: The Sudbury model -- appropriate for all children, yes or no?

From: Joe Jackson (shoeless@jazztbone.com)
Date: Wed May 30 2001 - 23:15:59 EDT


Ardeshir,

I don't think a lot of students get expelled from the schools. I can't
recall a student ever being expelled from Fairhaven. On the other hand,
several students get suspended every year for varying terms. The vast
majority of these end with the student returning and with the offending
behavior gone. The rest ended with the family deciding to leave.

> The answer of putting people behind bars is also not, I think,
> something that is productive. How many people who have been
> put behind bars, once they get out of prison, straighten out their
> lives? I would venture to say, only a small minority. The majority
> do not.

I'm not sure what the ratio is, and criminal justice isn't really my field,
but I would say that people who have ended up in prison and not come out
rehabbed don't want to be rehabbed. They have washed out of a lot of
layers: first offense/second chance, fines, arrest, probation, counseling,
rehab, etc. So let's say for a second that there is this category of person
who went through all of that, faced prison time and still is not
rehabilitated.

If the person comes out and still insists upon injuring people, should the
priority still be to rehabilitate them, or to protect society? I think it's
one thing to mull these things over in a philosophical vacuum. But I think
when one is in the court room and looking at a human who perhaps someday
might rehab but today is a danger to innocent people, the priority of
protecting the public hits you right in the gut.

Switching back to the other side of the analogy, I don't think we have many
of these people showing up at the school. I think there is a chance we
might have ended up with one early on, but he was suspended for a time for
some weapons/potential violence kinds of issues, and his parents pulled him
out.

But let's say we had one - this kind of person has decided they will
absolutely not face up to the fact that they are injuring the school or
people in it. So in this situation, the focus would absolutely, 100% *not*
be on helping the suspendee or expellee; the focus would be on protecting
the school.

> It might be instructive to know what happened to students who
> were expelled from a Sudbury type of school. Did they get better,
> or worse, at taking responsibility for themselves when they grew
> up?

As I said, we have never expelled, and all of the suspended students who
have returned have taken absolute care of whatever it was that got them
crosswise with the community in the first place. One was a five-year-old
who would try to bolt and go home (home was 10 or more miles of busy highway
away); he is back and doesn't do that anymore. One would try to intimidate
younger students by picking up knives and threatening them and waving them
in faces and other such nonsense, he's over that now. There's dozens of
other cases I can't remember off hand.

> In any case, consider the ideal situation: when *all* schools, every-
> where, are of the Sudbury type. To which other school are we going
> to expel such students, then?

When it gets to *expulsion*, boy that's pretty serious. If it gets to that
point, two things have been established: 1) This activity is one that the
community cannot live with as it is injuring the school or individuals in
it, and 2) this person has been through a whole pile of escalating sentences
and several suspensions and conferences.

So at this point, the priority is no longer with keeping a student who
all-too-apparently does not want to be there. If it gets to that point, the
priority becomes the other forty-something kids in the school. Who am I to
second-guess the message the expellee's actions are sending loud and clear?

-Joe

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