Last week I read about Anthony Ruelas, a middle schooler in Texas who was suspended after he lifted a girl in the throes of a horrible asthma attack and carried her to the nurse’s office.
Apparently the teacher had already e-mailed the nurse and was awaiting a response when Ruelas took matters into his own hands to help his suffering classmate. For his actions, Ruelas received a suspension, and guess what? His mom says he’s now going to be homeschooled.
Just the other day I read another story about pre-kindergarten and kindergarten suspensions in my home state of Massachusetts. Last year there were 603. Children six years old or younger apparently behaved so heinously that 603 times in a single year, they received what I remember from my own years in public school as the most serious form of punishment short of being expelled.
I field calls from new homeschoolers on a regular basis, and I’ve heard too many stories like this. I’ve heard from parents of chronically ill kids who’ve had the Department of Children and Families called on them for keeping their kid home from school too many days. I’ve heard from parents with anxious seven-year-olds that had the police called on their children for behavior the teachers deemed too threatening to deal with themselves. I’ve talked to parents whose special needs kids, rather than getting the help they needed, were targeted by school officials in one way or another.
These parents call me because they’re considering exiting a system lacking in common sense or compassion, never mind education. Homeschooling is something they never thought they’d consider, but they come to it out of desperation.
In some cases, it turns out great, and the family winds up grateful for having been “pushed out.” In others, it doesn’t work out so well, which isn’t surprising given that these families often feel forced into homeschooling.
What’s also troubling is the underbelly that too often drives these punitive approaches. The article on kindergarten suspensions in Massachusetts, for instance, points out that black kids are suspended almost four times as often as their white classmates. Institutionalized racism in schools is, in fact, driving more African-Americans to choose homeschooling.
I’m very glad that the option to homeschool exists for kids that are being bullied, oppressed, or otherwise mistreated in schools, whether it be at the hands of fellow students, or teachers and administrators, but we should all be concerned about the lack of sanity such situations exhibit, and the fact that they are clearly not anomalies.
Homeschooling is a valuable option for those who choose it, but no one should feel “pushed out” or otherwise forced into it.