Friday, January 27, 2012

A parent asks a question (part two)

Yesterday, I posted my email to our elementary school’s principal asking how much of an increase there had been, compared to last year, in the number of disciplinary incident reports and suspensions. She replied that I would have to file a formal public records request to get an answer to that question. (She also cc-ed the superintendent and two assistant superintendents, who were then included in all of the correspondence that ensued.) My email in reply:
Well, I’m a little puzzled by that response. I’m just trying to get a sense of whether there’s been an increase in the disciplining of students this year at Hoover. I haven’t asked a lot of questions – maybe three emails this year? – and in the past I’ve always appreciated your willingness to answer them, even if the answer wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I’m not sure why your answer this time is so different. I don’t know any more now than I did before I asked the question.

As I’ve said before, I’m concerned about what Hoover is teaching the kids, and about the atmosphere the school is creating, through the way it handles discipline. Those are certainly issues that people can disagree about. But if it’s true that the school is issuing a lot more incident reports and suspensions than it did in the past, that would be an important thing for people to know as they think about whether Hoover should be handling discipline differently.

It’s true that, like most parents, I’m not active in the PTA, but I hope that doesn’t disqualify me from asking questions. I do read the PTA’s website and haven’t seen those questions answered in any of the material posted there.

I certainly didn’t think I was making a public records request. I’ve asked questions before about things happening at Hoover, and no one ever suggested that I had to make a public records request to get an answer. I don’t really understand how you’re deciding which questions you can just answer, and which ones require a public records request. In any event, without digging up the actual numbers, can you tell me whether it’s your impression that there’s been a significant increase in the number of incident reports and suspensions at Hoover this year?
The principal’s response:
In response, I have been advised to ask for public records paperwork to be completed if you would like specifics. As per the general question - no, I do not believe there has been an increase in behaviors at Hoover. The students, overall, are very well-behaved. There is, however, a difference in how those behaviors which are bad choices are being handled this year. This does affect our student discipline numbers - which are accurately being entered this year.
Thanks for your inquiry and if you would like more specifics I would be happy to send the paperwork request to you.
I found that response a little frustrating. I hadn’t asked whether misbehavior had increased; I asked whether incident reports and suspensions had. The principal’s response seems to imply that there’s been an increase – but doesn’t actually say it. And it seems to imply that it wasn’t her decision to insist on a records request (“I have been advised”) – but doesn’t actually say it. And it seems to imply that the previous principal didn’t keep accurate records -- but doesn’t actually say it. So has there been a significant increase, or not?

To be continued.

1 comment:

FedUpMom said...

"I have been advised to ask for public records paperwork" means one thing -- she's afraid of a lawsuit.

I think you should go ahead and file the paperwork. Frankly, just the knowledge that someone is digging in to the situation might be enough to prompt some changes at the school.

I think the principal knows perfectly well that the discipline situation is going overboard, and she's hoping that the parents will just accept the situation.

Does the principal know you're a trained lawyer?