To be blunt, you shouldn’t be promising parents that you’ll be outcomes consistent when it comes to student conduct … because it’s not possible.
Sure, the table you prepared of categorised behaviours and the standardised responses to them seems fair, orderly and artistically appealing. That is, until any context is applied.
For instance, we can categorise punching as a level “whatever” behaviour and mandate a 2-day suspension for any student who does it. But what about:
- the super light punch that was meant in jest but was taken as intimidating?
- when the puncher has endured two years of bullying and just finally snapped?
- when the puncher was retaliating to five previous punches and was effectively self-defending?
- when an older student punches a much younger student, breaking a nose and several teeth?
- the punch was a brief moment of panic by a remorseful student with an unblemished record of conduct?
Should a blanket 2-day ban be applied in all of these contexts? I didn’t think so. And herein lies the problem. EVERY single punch has its own special context.
When we make promises about outcomes to parents we set ourselves up to be either liars or unjust. Neither is palatable to me.
Instead, make promises about fair and just processes and proudly declare that you won’t even try to be consistent of outcome.
All you need to do then is train and support your staff to be world champions of that process.
And only then, will you be making a promise you can actually keep.
Keep fighting that good fight,
PS. SUMMER SCHOOL is here! I’ll be running an extended 3-hr version of my acclaimed workshop “Leading a Restorative School” in January in Brisbane, Melbourne and then Sydney in mid-January. No relief teacher required and no turning your back on the ocean of school life. Click here to find out more and register.
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