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When Charlotte native and veteran teacher Scott Yamanashi saw NC Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner’s recent news story (“Lawmakers move bill that would make it a felony offense for a student to assault a teacher”), he felt compelled to speak out. It turns out that Mr. Yamanashi has extensive direct experience in the area. Not only has he spent several years as the de facto disciplinarian at multiple schools, he has also seen from his own family’s experience how a felony conviction acquired as a teen can seriously damage a person’s life.

Making felons of troubled teens is not the answer
By Scott Yamanashi

State senators in Raleigh are currently pushing a proposal (Senate Bill 343) that would make it a felony for a student to assault a teacher. As a 12-year veteran teacher and Charlotte native currently enrolled full-time as a graduate student in Educational Administration in order to become a principal, I certainly appreciate the intentions of the sponsors. Unfortunately, the proposal would ultimately cause many more problems than it would solve.

First, it should be acknowledged that violence is a genuine problem in our schools. Often, “tough love” is needed to address the decline in attentive parenting and two-parent homes and the lack of academic and behavioral integrity these trends help breed within our student populations.

I should also add that I have never been attacked and only threatened a couple of times in my career. But I am also six feet five inches tall, almost three hundred pounds, and have been a part-time bouncer for twenty-four years. Needless to say, students don’t even try it with me, and they know I will defend myself and my colleagues with any and all necessary WWE moves I have at my disposal to end the threat in the safest manner possible.

That said, through my years of experience as a “go to” school peacemaker it’s become clear to me that the best and safest campuses are those in which the school administration and teaching core work to effectively instill a school-wide set of effective and consistent discipline policies and procedures, as well as adequate counseling.

These kinds of policies, programs and structures (and the budgetary resources to make them possible) are what our schools desperately need from state leaders more than anything else in order to handle violent, misguided students. Turning more young people into convicted felons won’t help.

On this latter point I speak from direct experience. Read More

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Public News Service has a good story on its website this morning that highlights a newly released report from the folks at Action for Children NC entitled “From Push Out to Lock Up: North Carolina’s Accelerated School-to-Prison Pipeline”:

“Discipline practices at some public school systems in North Carolina are preparing students for prison instead of a profession, according to a report released Wednesday by Action for Children North Carolina.

The problem stems from a trend for school systems to involve the juvenile justice system, even for the most mundane discipline problems, instead of dealing with the problem internally, according to Deborah Bryan, the organization’s president and CEO.

‘School districts are strapped,’ she says. ‘They’re short-staffed already, so it is a challenge already for them to deal with some of these discipline behaviors.’ Read More