All Articles Tagged "school"

What To Do When Your Kid Starts Learning About Sex At School

August 31st, 2015 - By Erickka Sy Savane
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Day 1

“Lea said that she saw a man on top of a woman, kissing her privates on TV.”

Excuse me?


Day 2

“Lea said a boy asked her to marry him and she said ‘no’ and then he got on top of her and started kissing her and she said ‘yes.’

Say what?


Day 3

“Lea said…”

“Stop talking to that girl!” you scream. “She’s making up stories!” It comes out harsher than you intend, but you don’t know what to do? Like, really, Pre-K is where your kid is supposed to learn about numbers and patterns, not SEX. But lately it seems that is the education she’s getting, and from another preschooler no less.

What do you do when your kid is learning about sex at school?

It ain’t right.

This little girl (who you’re already familiar with because early in the school year your daughter came home asking to watch Scandal because it’s apparently Lea’s favorite show), is undoing all the work you and your husband have done to keep inappropriate images out of your daughter’s sight. Your girl’s not even allowed to watch Barbie Life In The Dream House because Barbie’s got a boyfriend and spends her time shopping, hanging by the pool, and trying to immolate the Kardashian lifestyle. Music videos don’t exist in your home, which means she knows rapper Nicki Minaj more from some hair ads in your neighborhood than her music. But now the system has been corrupt and you’re screaming, ‘Mayday!’

You only see two options, have the sex talk with your kid way before you intended or let her learn about the birds and the bees through her buddy at school.

You talk to your friend Quiana about it because she has a daughter in Pre-K, and though she hasn’t experienced this, she has had situations where her daughter picked up on news stories before she and her husband were able to come up with an age-appropriate response. Boy, can you relate.

Being so caught off-guard on this caused you to lash out at her little friend Lea and something tells you that it wasn’t an appropriate response. Honestly, though, when your cub is being threatened you’re gonna make sure she gets away from the fire. But when you think about it, how realistic is it that your daughter will be able to stop talking to this friend? In fact, she’ll probably want to talk to her even more because we do what we’re told not to do, right?

So what’s the answer?

Oh, just call Dr. Carothers already! She’s gotten you out of more parenting jams than a traffic cop. She’ll help figure this out.

“While it’s totally normal not to want to have the birds and bees conversation with your four or five-year-old, it’s never too early to start talking about things that they may be exposed to whether it be on TV or from friends. There’s lots of content in the media that’s highly-sexualized that kids can see inadvertently, and it’s natural for them to have questions. They often talk about what they’ve seen as a way to explore what it means and as a way to get additional information. One thing I would do is explain that there are some things that are for adults who really care about each other, and as you get older you’ll learn more about those things, but what the girl probably saw is sex or making love.”

“You want to use the language that the child has given you, and you want to give as much truthful information back as possible,” explains the doctor. “You don’t want to say the girl is lying or make it so she’s an untrustworthy friend.”

Too late.

Dr. Carothers goes on to say: “So you tell your daughter that what her friend Lea is talking about is a natural part of life, but at this age it isn’t something that she has to worry about. It may be a good time to have a conversation with the Pre-K teacher to let’em know that some kids have been exposed to this type of content so she can have a general conversation about parents being more cognizant of what they’re kids are seeing. That will definitely happen.”

“One thing to remember as you’re raising your child is they’re going to get this information from somewhere so you want to be able to funnel it and have the first say. It’s better to get ahead of it and be proactive than reactive.”

But where do you start?

“There are some children’s books that do a really good job of giving developmentally appropriate information about things related to nature, sex and reproduction,” says Dr. Carothers. Read a few books to find which you’re most comfortable with and that way you’ll have a consistent message you can give to your kids. Common Sense Media is a website that can help you see what type of content is appropriate for your kid.”

Man, you didn’t handle this well, but that’s why you reached out to the good Dr. You can’t know what you don’t know. More than anything, you’re seeing that there’s a positive way to move forward with this, and no, your daughter won’t be turning to prostitution because Lea talked to her about sex.

The more casual you can be around sex as a conversation, the less she’ll see it as a cause for alarm. One thing you do regret is how you demonized the other little girl. She doesn’t know what she’s seeing and probably just wanted someone to talk to about it. You didn’t have to drag someone else’s kid down to save your own. Next time, you’ll see if there’s a way to stand for both of them. That’s the true meaning of ‘it takes a village.’

Erickka Sy Savané is a freelance writer and creator of THE BREW, a social commentary blog. Before that she was a model/actress/MTV VJ. She lives in Jersey City with her husband and two daughters. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Cool Mom Alert: The UnBake Sale Is The New And Healthy Way To Do Fundraising At Schools

August 20th, 2015 - By T Hall
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unbake sale1
Let’s be real. When it comes to schools raising funds, bake sales are still winning. Because funding is not as plentiful as it could be, using bake sales as a way to make extra money is the go-to option for most schools. Athletic teams, debate clubs, and the Parent-Teacher Association use bake sales to come up with extra funds for a variety of school-based needs. But given the newest changes to the federal guidelines when it comes to food served at schools, the menus at many have changed. There are fewer calories and sweets being served and more healthy food options available.
While bake sales are usually made up of home-cooked and baked goods for purchase, the items are generally still full of sugar and salt. Cupcakes and brownies are a favorite but no matter how you dress them up, they are still high in sugar and calories. To help schools stick with the new food guidelines in schools, Bolthouse Farms came up with a great idea for fundraising. They introduced the UnBake Sale, the healthy alternative to a traditional bake sale. The UnBake Sale starter kit consists of items made of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy things that can be tweaked into really cool snacks for people to purchase.
From fruit salad to apple and grape panda bears to watermelon pizza, the possibilities for an UnBake Sale menu are almost endless. Taking fresh fruits and vegetables and turning them into cool edible creations is key when trying to make an UnBake Sale pop. And parents are excited to have healthier snacks being served at school. Bringing something like the UnBake Sale into institutions as a fundraising option is the perfect way to help promote healthy eating. Imagine how easy it could be to sell fruits and vegetables disguised as yummy fruit bugs and dinosaurs. Kids don’t miss a trick, but the UnBake Sale is a great way to”trick” them into making healthy choices when it comes to snacking.
unbake sale
Making the transition away from cookies and cupcakes may seem like a difficult task but it’s really pretty simple. Not only is it easy but some of the products are cheaper to purchase and prepare. With the help of local farmer’s markets, products are more readily available for purchase to help make this happen. When the campaign first kicked off, Bolthouse Farms offered the first 100 schools to sign up the UnBake Sale starter kit to help them get started. The UnBake Sale website is chock full of helpful tips and delicious recipes that will assist you in making the UnBake Sale a successful event at your child’s school.
Schools all over the country are making the switch from bake sales to UnBake Sales to participate in the healthy food initiative. Ultimately, healthy eating starts at home, but the UnBake Sale is a sure way to make it look cool at school. This is an excellent way to transition away from the unhealthy and steer children in a healthier diet direction.
Check out The UnBake Sale for the UnBake Sale toolkit, recipes, and ideas on how to get an UnBake sale started at your school.

Non-Boring Ways To Help Your Child Transition Back To School

August 19th, 2015 - By Tanvier Peart
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By now your little one should be hip to the fact that school is calling their name. Sooner than later, they will need to make their academic debut. Hopefully the transition from late summer nights to homework can be a smooth one. After all, there’s always one child that doesn’t go nicely.

Should you find yourself between a rock and a hard-headed student, here are some non-boring tips to help your child transition back to school.

Excite them with shopping. Even if your kids are little, they can still appreciate a trip to Target or the mall. Make back-to-school shopping more fun and less of a hassle to find an endless amount of supplies.

Talk up their grade. “Oh you’re going to be a first-grader? You’re getting so big!” As corny as it might sound, some kids will puff out their chest at the idea of moving up a grade. Hey, if it helps them to feel special, why not?

Host an end-of-summer bash. This of course is optional but something for the entire family. Call up your child’s friends and invite your own over to toast summer (make sure the kids have juice and not a cocktail). Have a cookout, camp in your backyard, host a movie night, or let the little ones have one last sleepover before school starts. The more creative you are, the more full you’ll have.

Create an activities calendar. Just because summer is coming to an end doesn’t mean there won’t be any opportunities for fun during the school year. Create a central activities calendar (it’s great if you can use an erasable one) where you can highlight important days off, field trips, after school activities and family adventures you plan to take.

Style up a homework station. Now is the time to show off your crafting prowess as you renovate your child’s room or an area in your home. All students need a space to do homework, so why not make a fun station that includes eye-popping colors (they’ll need something to keep them awake) and stylish supplies?

If all else fails, you can bribe them with something you know they want, but that of course should be the very last resort. In all honesty, the back-to-school season doesn’t have to be horrible. Sure waking up earlier than necessary is a pain, but think of all the friendships they’ll build and cool things they’ll hopefully learn. Hopefully these ideas will get your student excited for what’s to come.

Helping Your Child Adjust To Boarding School

August 13th, 2015 - By Rich
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Boarding school is not for every parent (or child) but if you happen to be a parent that does find value in the concept, then knowing how to adjust is essential. Many professionals call boarding school a “planned separation.” A boarding school lifestyle is similar to college life in a way. Your child will have to do their own laundry, chores, develop good time management, get used to a roommate and dorm rules. But these rules and new way of life may help them become organized, focused, and motivated later in life.

Being homesick is pretty much inevitable at least for the first few weeks or months, but here are some things that might help them get into a rhythm and become comfortable.

The Comfort Pack
Every kid has their favorite snack or DVD so try and get into a routine of sending one on a routine basis. It could be once a week, once a month or every few months but the key is consistency because your child will have something special from you to look forward to.

While you want your child to develop an independent lifestyle and learn more about themselves, you also want to maintain good communication and to let them know they are loved. If you know that calling on a daily basis might make them want to come home then establish days that you will definitely talk and catch up. You could even suggest that you send a Sunday email too that includes things that are going on with the family or funny things that happened that week. Make sure that they know they can share any information with you no matter how good or bad.

Problem Solving
Problem solving is an essential life skill and the worst thing you can do is be a helicopter parent when your child is away at boarding school. Of course you care, but try and allow your child to problem solve some things on their own. When they call you for advice before you give it, ask them to come up with two or three ways that they think it should be handled and tell them you will call them back in half an hour to discuss it. This way, you can still give your advice on the second call but at least it gets them thinking for themselves.

New Friends
Try not to worry too much about your child making new friends because the professionals at boarding school are used to it and probably have ways of encouraging new relationships. You can suggest that they join sports or other groups where they may meet people. Or, if the school will allow it, have them start their own group on a certain topic they love like photography, painting or a book club etc. You can even ask them if they want to invite new friends home for some holidays.


If you visit every weekend it may defeat the purpose of this new independent lifestyle that you are trying to promote. Most boarding schools have dedicated times like fall parents weekend where they will have planned things for you guys to do. But in between the planned times visiting once every few months is a great way to spend that needed one on one parent time. Because you don’t see each other on a regular basis, when you do visit, make sure you try and really connect.


It Happened To Me: My Daughter’s Teacher Did Her Hair

July 23rd, 2015 - By Rich
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A few month’s ago, a photo was circulating on the internet of a little girl, who had just gotten her hair done by her teacher. To no one’s surprise this garnered reactions on both ends of the spectrum from the cyber world. As a mother, I was torn in my opinion of the situation, with no reason to think it could ever happen to me. As I read through the responses of Facebook friends, and their friends I thought, If I was a teacher, and a student came into class with her hair matted and linted, yes I would probably take it upon myself to spruce her up. However, in regards to my daughter this was not the case. Last Thursday, after a fresh hair wash, and slightly running behind I decided against my better judgment to let my daughter go to school with a headband and her curls out. BIG MISTAKE.

Thursday afternoon, like every day I went to pick up my daughter from her schools playground. As she ran toward me, all I could do was mouth to myself, “wtf?.” Seeing my reaction her teacher scurred behind her, quickly offering an exonerating explanation as to why my daughter didn’t look the way she did only a few hours earlier. “I did her hair, I hope you don’t mind?! She said she was hot.” I was furious. My blood was boiling, and there were no nice words I could find. I offered a limp smile, and could barely utter, “it’s fine.” I was fuming. My daughter’s hair had been brushed, with whose brush? I couldn’t tell you, parted, and braided in plaits, and embellished with rubber bands and barrettes, out of the teachers own supply.

After about 30 minutes to an hour, I called the school and spoke with the director and asked that Lyric’s hair not be touched by anyone, at all, for any reason. She assured me she would talk to the teachers, but I could tell she really didn’t care. For days I debated with my cousin, a former daycare teacher about the violation, boundary infringement, and the subliminal message being taught to my daughter. My cousin argued the teacher had no ill intentions toward my child, and that she thought she was doing a good thing. She assured me her actions meant that Lyric was a favorite in the school, and now that I have made this an issue they will probably treat her differently now.

While I’m 100 percent sure the teacher had no ill intentions when she decided to do my childs hair, but more so just wanted to get her hands in some Black hair. Against my better judgment, I assumed the unspoken rule about not touching Black hair was well known. Needless to say, no matter what the circumstances may be, no matter how tired I am, that hair gets braided down daily! I refuse to allow my child to be mislead into believing her beauty, and worth are defined by what pleases the pale faces of the world. I am a patron of the facility not for beauty treatments, but to first educate, and second care for my child. Unfortunately, I have stigmatized myself as “that mom”, and prayerfully my daughter doesn’t suffer of any ill treatment because of this.

Would I feel as strongly about this situation had her teacher been Black, and decided to do her hair? Nope, because to me that would of been a sister looking out, a homegirl hook up because of the unspoken understanding all Black people share. Is that biased, ignorant, racist? Call it what you want, but because of the history of the Black body, in relation to White people, (ownership, and exhibition) I will never be ok with White hands in my childs hair.

What would you do if your daughter’s teacher did her hair?

Have you had a tricky situation that needed to be addressed at your child’s school? How did you handle it?

Target’s New School List Assist Makes Back-to-School Shopping Easier

July 21st, 2015 - By Kweli Wright
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Target has made getting ready for back to school quick, easy and fun for families this year with the online hub School List Assist, which offers a curated assortment of the most common K-8 supplies, staring July 21.

Parents and kids will find a broad assortment of supplies, gear, apparel and accessories to fit any kids’ unique sense of style. For young fashionistas, the new Stevies collection launches in all stores and online beginning the week of July 19. Designer Stevie Madden, daughter of renowned footwear designer Steve Madden, is Target’s youngest design partner.

As always, parents can purchase the school supplies their kids need and then pick them up in store or have them shipped to their homes.

“When it comes to back-to-school shopping, we heard from our guests that shopping for ‘the list’ is a top priority but also the biggest challenge,” said Jason Goldberger, president and Mobile. “School List Assist makes it easy for guests to shop for all of their back-to-school supplies with just a few clicks – giving families more time to look for the exciting things like Target’s backpacks, lunch kits and first day of school outfits.”

Target’s New School List Assist Makes Back-to-School Shopping Easier

10 Unique Ideas for Parents of Soon-to-Be College Freshmen

July 14th, 2015 - By Kweli Wright
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The summer before a child enters his or her freshman year of college is filled with excitement and consternation, happiness and remorse, confidence and concern. This period of anticipation is parents’ best chance to help their child with his or her final preparation – academically, emotionally and financially.

Family Mission Planning is a cornerstone of McManus & Associates, a top-rated estate planning law firm with offices in New York and New Jersey. So, the firm came up with these great ideas that can help families stay on track with their individual mission statements as soon to be college freshmen leave the nest.

Balance – take it easy: Pre-med, Pre-law, Engineering, Science and Math majors frequently require challenging courses in the first semester. Many schools, however, have core requirements, as well as mandatory courses in areas outside your child’s expertise. For the first semester, encourage your child to take at least one or two courses that have a lighter workload in areas that they really enjoy; the adjustment to college life and all of its demands will be significant enough without an overwhelming amount of work. Some schools such as MIT and Johns Hopkins have “covered grades” for freshmen, meaning students take courses PASS/FAIL for the first semester or first year, taking the GPA pressure off and making the transition into college more sustainable.

Grades – yes, they do matter: A wise man once said, “College is a great time to have fabulous memories that you take with you the rest of your life, but grades also travel with you the rest of your life.” There are many significant aspects of learning both inside and outside the classroom that enrich the college experience and make for better human beings; there is no question your child should embrace every aspect of the college experience. That said, your child’s course load (over four years) and GPA will be leading indicators for the first job your child will land or the graduate program into which your child will gain admission. Surely one’s first job or graduate program is not the dispositive indicator for a rich full life, but a strong start is advantageous.

Walk, walk, walk and take public transport (and a cab/Uber when it’s late at night!): If your child’s campus and surrounding town are walkable and/or have ample public transportation, do not have your new college student bring a car to school the first year, if it can be avoided (McManus & Associates would encourage equal restraint in the following years, unless having a car is absolutely necessary). Walking and taking public transportation will enable your children to further enhance the college experience as they enjoy their surroundings and appreciate the life they have. When it comes to a night out, your child impaired behind the wheel is a horrible risk, but your child in a car with an impaired friend driving is equally unacceptable – lives can be ruined in an instant. Encourage your child to plan ahead and take a cab or an Uber.

How much did you spend?! For many children, college is a liberating time marked by freedom from the shackles of typical parenting when they lived at home. Parents may avoid putting their child on a budget because they feel as though they are constraining their child’s experience – until the first credit card statement arrives. It’s important in advance to discuss expectations of budget and to monitor the monthly burn. It’s the best lesson you can give your children in managing finances and helps prepare them for the time when they are truly out on their own and providing for themselves.

My child is not returning my calls, my texts or my FaceTime efforts. Should I call his or her roommates? Let your child lead on the communications front. In time, if you make the conversations interesting and supportive, your college freshman will likely want to communicate with you as much as you want to communicate with your child. Let them volunteer what’s going on in their lives. Update them on the positive stuff going on back home so that you’re not viewed as clinging to their lives, trying to vicariously share college with them.

Yes, you can enjoy college with your child, too! Stay plugged in with your children and gently give them confidence during periods when they feel homesick. Look through the event calendar at your child’s school and propose going to see a performance, premiere or lecture, to which you also invite your child (beyond Parents’ or Family Weekend). Save up for a hotel and schedule a special dinner, allowing them to break away from the now routine cramped quarters of a dorm room and cafeteria food. It may wind up being the best night of the month for both of you.

Oh dear, my child is a legal adult, but I have learned that the frontal lobe doesn’t fully develop until age 25. Strong high school grades, solid ACT/SAT scores and acceptance into a good school do not mean that a child has developed the full discerning ability to make the best decisions all the time, especially when out at a celebration (and, particularly, if alcohol is involved). Whether your children like it or not, they need your guidance and expertise (help them come to that conclusion with you). Be that sage advice giver, but use it sparingly and be laser-focused about the issue being addressed.

Your child may be consciously excited AND consciously anxious to leave the nest: If parents think it’s tough watching their child leave the nest and spread his or her wings, imagine the confusion and consternation of that child who daily seeks to fly, but periodically seems so vulnerable and uncertain. He or she boldly, and possibly insolently, demands independence but occasionally looks over the top of the nest to see how far the drop is. This push and pull of confidence and vulnerability will be the paradigm for many years. Put aside, therefore, the less memorable times during the demand periods and be ready to welcome your child when he or she seeks the compassion and warmth that only a parent can provide.

Your chick is growing alongside chicks from other nests, too: A mature and understanding relationship with your child as he or she starts a new adult life away from home is the goal. But keep in mind that your child’s roommates and friends may not have that same relationship with their own parents. Showing affection and interest in your child’s friends’ and roommates’ lives will not only win your child’s companions’ affection who come to see you as a great parent, but your child will view this as support of their friendships and life choices, strengthening your bond during their maturation process. Your child may also view this open acceptance as an opportunity to share more frequently the events that occur in their social life, which will enrich your appreciation for your child’s experience and may also provide you opportunities to offer them wisdom.

Let’s get legal (So, who is in charge when your child is in danger?): While your child is an adult who can enter into a legal contract, vote for a public official, and choose his or her path in life, this does not mean he or she is immune from making sub-optimal choices. The fickle fate of life means that they can get sick or hurt, resulting in hospitalization. At age 18, our kids are adults in the eyes of the law, and parents do not have the legal right to make decisions on behalf of an infirm child. The only way to protect against this is for your newly adult children to elect individuals to act on their behalf if incapacitated. This includes a Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney, Living Will and Release of Medical Information documents. Each time McManus & Associates learns about a child turning 18, the firm recommends that they come to its offices to prepare and execute these documents naming their parents and other loved ones to act on their behalf in case of an emergency. When John McManus’ daughter left for John Hopkins, she was no exception; indeed she wanted to know the relevance of every paragraph and negotiate every term before signing but, in the end, the whole family knew that this was in her best interest.


“Your child is like a kite that you fly on the beach,” observed McManus. “Sometimes you have to run with them to get lift off, sometimes you have to hold them back to avoid them getting swept away, but always you must enjoy their beauty as they soar through the sky. Most of the time you cannot fly alongside them, but never let go of that mighty rope and always be prepared to make that occasional save when there might be a temporary nose dive.”

These Are Our Educators?: Texas Teachers Hand Out “Ghetto Classroom Awards”

June 11th, 2015 - By Kweli Wright
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Watch what one North Texas school official had to say about the handing out of “Ghetto Classroom Awards.”
Whether it was a poor attempt at humor or something more serious, reports are that Texas teachers have handed out “Ghetto Classroom Awards”. Now they claim they didn’t know that term was derogatory.
School officials at Sulphur Springs have called the so-called Ghetto Classroom Awards both unacceptable and embarrassing. Family members of one of the children who was handed such an award have another word for it, cruel.
“Tears just started to fall out my eyes and I said what did they do to him again,” said Debra Jose, whose grandson was handed one of the end of year “awards.”You want the best for children, period. Not just my grandchild, but every child.”
The 14-year-old middle schooler was in a class with others who all have some level of learning challenge. He received the “Huh” Award.
Video ID: 29187304

School officials in Sulphur Springs

A School Dress Code for Parents?! Yes, Please!

April 15th, 2015 - By Rich
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When I was in high school, I swore that the dress code existed for the sheer purpose of making my life miserable; that and gym class. How was I supposed to attract the senior boys without strapless shirts and short skirts? My glowing personality?!

As a parent I find myself defending the school’s policies — both the reasonable and the somewhat ridiculous– explaining to my children that they do have a purpose, and taking every opportunity to remind them that they go to school to learn, not for a fashion show; a line that’s completely lost on them. (I’ve apparently failed them in the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff department.)

However much of a nuisance dress codes may be to the students who have to abide by them and the administrators who have to enforce them,  they’ve long been an important part of both public and private educational systems. And now, a school board member in Broward County, Florida, is taking things to another level, pushing for a different kind of school dress code for parents, arguing, “If we’re going to train little boys and little girls to dress appropriately at school–no sagging pants, no hair curlers, no short shorts–parents should follow the same rules.”

To that I say: Thank you!

Not that I’m completely for the whole thing. A formal dress code for adults and parents may be going a bit too far, and realistically it would be pretty difficult to enforce, but I at least applaud someone for actually standing up and saying something about it.

Yes, teachers and administrators have a lot more to be concerned about when it comes to educating our children… I’d much rather have them mulling over ways to boost literacy rates and keep our schools safe than how to regulate what I’m wearing when I drop my kids off in the morning. But is this something that the school should even have to address? Shouldn’t we, as parents, already know better?

I get it– somewhat. With four kids, most mornings it’s hard enough getting them together, let alone make myself look at least halfway decent (emphasis on “halfway”) before stepping out the door. Have I been guilty of wearing my nightgown on the occasional drop-off when we’re running late (which is more often than I’d like to admit)? Um…yes. But in my defense, it’s tucked into my pants and I always throw a coat or long cardigan on over it so no one can see it. I try to keep it classy; as classy as you can be wearing sleepwear outdoors.

I’ve also seen some unique attire worn by other parents, sometimes downright offensive…yoga pants with no underwear, anyone?

I don’t do it because I’m trying to spare my children the embarrassment. (Some mornings I’m tempted to do just the opposite.) I do it because I respect myself and the institution enough to try to look like I give a damn when I’m there.

Is it really too much to ask that other parents do the same?

Discipline For African American Students: Why Our Kids Are Sent To The Office More

April 10th, 2015 - By Kweli Wright
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Numerous studies have revealed that African-American students are more likely than their white peers to face referrals to the office, suspension, expulsion or other forms of discipline at school.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Renae Azziz, founder and director of Virtuoso Education Consulting (, which provides professional development training to teachers and school district leaders.

Azziz, a school psychologist who helps districts across the nation resolve disproportionality in discipline, says in many cases it’s a clash of cultures, and not necessarily racism, that leads to disproportionate punishment for minority students.

“Teachers need to understand that sometimes what they see as misbehavior is not viewed the same way by African-American students,” Azziz says. “It’s just that in these cases the educators come from different cultures than their students. The teachers need to increase their knowledge about those differences and improve their skills for handling the situations.”

Azziz says there are a number of promising strategies schools can and are using to reduce disproportionality in discipline.

  Develop supportive relationships among and within school staff and students through the implementation of restorative-justice frameworks, which use conflict resolution and open dialogue. Restorative justice focuses students on the ramifications of their actions so that they take ownership of those actions and learn from their poor decisions.

  Engage in culturally relevant and responsive instructions and interactions to make the curriculum engaging for all learners.

  Change disciplinary codes of conduct to align with positive school climates through the implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) that are culturally responsive.

  Commit to ongoing professional development for teachers focused on developing their awareness, knowledge and skills related to culture.

African-American students often have more negative views of their schools than white students because they perceive them as being less fair and consistent with discipline. That this perception exists, Azziz says, reinforces the idea that educators need to be culturally responsive so that the school environment meets the needs of students from all cultural backgrounds.

It’s not that schools have failed to make an effort to address problems with discipline. For two decades, the method known as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports has been implemented across the nation as a way to decrease suspensions and expulsions, Azziz says.

That worked – sort of, she says.

Data indicates PBIS does indeed reduce the overall rates for those disciplinary actions, but there’s a caveat.  Minority students, especially African Americans, still receive the majority of the punishments.

“That tells me that PBIS is not as effective for African-American students as it is for other ethnic groups,” Azziz says. “So why is that?”
The answer may lie in those cultural differences, she says.

Here’s an example: Teachers who expect students to raise their hands before responding in class often send African-American students to the office for repeatedly talking out.

But many of those students see classroom discussions as more informal, Azziz says.

“Some students, particularly African-American students, show that they are listening and engaged by blurting out their thoughts instead of raising their hands,” Azziz says. “This is a communication-response style called back-channeling and it’s often seen in the African-American culture.”

Teachers who understand that back-channeling is a cultural pattern of behavior can better teach the students when that behavior is appropriate in the classroom and when they need to raise their hands, she says.

“When teachers don’t know about this communications style,” Azziz says, “all they see is a student who disrupted their class and it becomes a top reason for discipline referrals.”

About Renae Azziz

Renae Azziz is the Founder and Director of Virtuoso Education Consulting ( She and her team of consultants support educators nationally in the areas of Response-to-Intervention, Data-Based Decision Making, Assessment, Positive Behavior Support, and Culturally Responsive Practices. Before starting Virtuoso Education Consulting, Renae practiced as a school psychologist in Indiana. Renae also worked on grants funded by the Indiana Department of Education supporting Indiana’s Initiatives on Response to Intervention, Culturally Responsive PBIS, and Minority Disproportionality in Special Education. She was also appointed by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to the Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services, which resulted in several legislative outcomes. Further, Renae and her team of consultants have served as project evaluators for statewide initiatives and Corrective Action Plans in Indiana and Louisiana.

Renae received her educational training at Indiana University earning an Ed.S. in School Psychology, an M.S. in Educational Psychology, and a B.A. with honors in Psychology and is working towards completion of her Doctorate in Education at The Johns Hopkins University specializing in Entrepreneurial Leadership in Education.