It Doesn’t Always Have to be Beautiful

Implications of a zero out of school suspension policy.

Vandalism. Extortion. Burglary. Theft. Possession of Stolen Items. Discrimination/Harassment. Lewd Behavior. Inciting aggression. Gang Activity. Forgery. Fraud. Fighting (not assault). Disruptive/Unsafe Activity. Negligent Driving.

Take a guess as to how this (incomplete) list was composed and where you might find it. You ready?

In the fine print listed on a district behavior incident form, this list represents just some of actions that do NOT warrant out of school suspension at Highline High School, and a glaring reminder of my decision to leave. I’ve seen the implications of this list, but just recently discovered that the district put it into writing, on a district form.

I often write in a way that lends the reader a chance to find optimism within a disparaging situation; to explain a new perspective, or to encourage the understanding of two different sides within the same issue. This is not that time.

My school district has been getting a lot of positive publicity in the past few months, which they deserve! The successes of diverse students and staff who work tirelessly at school and often, at-home, in less-than-ideal living situations, is absolutely inspiring.

But that doesn’t mean that we can just ignore the bad. Inequities exist within our school district; ranging from unsafe facilities to transportation to hiring practices and more. By not discussing the negative, we are in compliance. And I have been part of the problem by not being more vocal in my opposition to the many inequities to which I’ve been exposed.

The. System. Is. Broken. The first year I started teaching was the first year my district implemented a progressive, strategic plan. Among many things, raising the graduation rate to 19/20 seniors and ELIMINATING out of school suspensions topped the cake.

Sounds good, right? Expect that more students graduate from high school. Keep kids in school, instead of sending them away. It sounds good, in theory, and I am the first to applaud the superintendent for her unwavering advocacy to support our diverse cultural and socioeconomic students.

But it is absolute chaos. I don’t think that the district office fully understands the implications of the policies put in place, because things are being swept under the rug and teachers are afraid to speak up (my mom pleaded with me not to publish this under my own name, in fear that I wouldn’t be hired anywhere else, but as I sit in a hostel editing this draft, on the other side of the world, in a country in political unrest, that is the least of my concerns).

Trickling from the top-down, administrators, security officers, counselors, and teachers-alike are being asked to work more, assess more, “discipline” less, and compromise teaching practices in order to appease the district’s strategic plan.

The most concerning issue for me, in addition to lack of educational resources and unsafe facilities, is the administrative position towards behavior, and the bureaucratic position towards the well-being of both students and staff.

I understand keeping kids in school! I really, really do, but the manner in which we are approaching strategic goals is alarming, at best, when dealing with behavior. Schools (and school districts) make up a mock society. Violence is rampant and behavior management is non-existent within our school community.

I hate the word discipline. As a teacher, I am very proactive in my management strategies. I let students create their classroom expectations, so if they break a rule, they’re breaking their own. If chaos ensues, it is the result of their own behavior, and with reflection, they learn to both take responsibility for their role in a situation, and to self-monitor their behavior. In most cases this has worked very well.

There are obvious exceptions to this management strategy, which include any illegal activity and any derogatory /discriminatory language and/or actions.

IT SEEMS OBVIOUS (to me).

Do Don’t
Keep kids in school. Let them break the law
Give them second chances. Let them harass/bully/discriminate their classmates or teachers.
Listen to their perspective. Ask them why they’re behaving the way they are. Let them vandalize, steal, or be in possession of stolen items
Set societally-appropriate expectations. Make up your own rules, in order to meet strategic goals

When a student breaks the law, gets into a fight, uses derogatory language, is suspected of being under the influence, or any of the many behaviors I witnessed daily while working at HHS, there needs to be a consequence that is similar to societal expectations. I witnessed time, and time again, a complete failure at meeting these very-minimal expectations, at the expense of both our students and staff.

Students feel unsafe at school. I felt unsafe at school. Fighting, harassment, and incited aggression are present during passing periods, after school, and at-lunch.

Teachers’ behavior reports are often modified so as to “protect the student” and will often times not be reported at all.

I wrote less than 10 referrals in my three years, but I remember every one. On multiple occasions, the wording that I used was changed, the students were sent back to my class within the same hour, and there was no follow-through. I was always told that this was to protect the students.

I once had a student call me a “fucking cunt”, then proceed to knock over a table and throw a chair towards my Yoga students. (Because I asked her to release tension in her neck while stretching). She was in my class the next day. When confronting administration about why she was in class, I was told that she met with the principal and they worked it out. (Apparently their version of “working it out” was having a meeting in which that student stood up, said “fuck this”, left the room, and slammed the door.)

 When she continued to come to my class that week, without addressing her outburst, my coworker stepped in and told her to go to the office. The student told my lesbian coworker, “protecting your girlfriend, dyke?”

 But since discrimination/harassment is not a suspendible action, she continued to show up to class. And the precedent was set that calling a teacher a cunt, using hate speech, and throwing a chair was “shmeh.” 

My goal as a teacher is not to punish students. It is not to get them in trouble or to show power. My goal is to prepare students, to the best of my ability, to exist and excel in society. By not addressing behavior issues, we are failing our students! When the power is taken away from the teacher, students are going to push boundaries, people are going to get hurt and good teachers are going to leave.

When administration asks “what I did to contribute to a situation” it is unbelievably insulting.

What did I do that warranted a student to walk into my classroom, make a gun out of his hand, and pull the finger trigger towards my head? In that case, I asked that student to step outside if he was going to talk during classroom presentations.

How did I contribute to a student flipping me off and yell fuck during a lecture? I refused to show his 20 second video that had zero educational value and multiple cuss words. Definitely my fault.

 How did I know two students were smoking weed behind the girls’ locker room? BECAUSE I WALKED IN THE ROOM AS THEY WERE SMOKING A JOINT…INDOORS! They were hot-boxing in the school. I wasn’t even mad. I looked at both at them, and said “c’monnn guys, really?! Walk to security and I’ll meet you there.”

 So I locked up the locker room, asked a coworker to cover for me, and made it to security within ten minutes, only to find the students were sent back to class because there was “no proof” they had been smoking.

 I offered to take security to the garbage can where the students threw away the joint. They said that wasn’t necessary. I told them if they called the students back, and I asked them if they had been smoking, they would say yes. Security told me not to worry about it.

I was then asked if I had a vendetta against these kids. The answer is a resounding NO! I care about those kids and their future. I didn’t ask to walk in on them smoking weed, but I did, and by not reporting it, I made it okay. I didn’t want to ruin their future, but I wanted to set societally-appropriate boundaries.

During my first year teaching, during the first month of school, a 19 year old student chased a freshman around the gym with a chair over her head, screaming “I’m going to fucking kill you!” This lasted for upwards of five minutes. Students were scared. My department asked, repeatedly that she not be allowed in gym classes. In a classroom, it is easier to monitor aggressive behavior, but in PE, she was a risk to other students. Our request was denied.

Fast-forward five months. This same student is upset with a girl who spoke little English. In the locker room, the same student that we asked to be removed from PE, took it upon herself to grab the back of this girl’s hair, smash her head into lockers; knocking out her front teeth, breaking her nose and causing her to crawl towards a bathroom stall. The same student that we asked to be removed from PE, then went up to every girl in the locker room and said, “if you snitch, I’ll fucking kill you.”

 A trail of blood led to the bathroom stall, in which the beaten-student was residing. The girl who was attacked spent the night in the hospital, and was sent on a redeye flight back to her home country the next day. Because my school couldn’t protect her.

 When a mother trespassed and threatened a student during school hours, when security didn’t show up for the third time in a month, when students came back into my classroom after sending them to the office, when I sat through my third-full lockdown at school because there were persons with weapons on campus and administration still refused to have a proactive strategy to make an effective change…when day in and out, I saw injustices on campus, and felt powerless to make a change, I became overwhelmingly disheartened.

I felt so-very unheard as a teacher in regards to behavior and the safety of the school. My safety was a concern to administration when there was an exceptionally traumatic episode, or when I was physically present to address my concerns, but on multiple occasions, both my emails offering assistance and asking for help were ignored. So long as we weren’t making headlines, they weren’t going to address the underlying issues and the traumatic culture we, as a district, are enabling to exist.

During ONE week in March, I broke up three fights. I was hit in the face during one, and stood in the middle of two young men who were being physically restrained by their classmates during the other two.

I would stand, face-to-face with these students, I’d look in their eyes, and tell them, “You’re better than this. It’s not worth it. You’re mad? Okay. Let’s talk about it. He disrespected your family? I’d be mad too. She posted an inappropriate picture on social media of you? Let’s do something.”

Having a funky haircut and a relaxed work attire, I think I saw more violence than most teachers. I’d be able to make it to the start of a fight, before it began, because often times, students wouldn’t recognize me as an authority figure.

During one particular fight, I stood in between two young men. Each of them had three peers holding them back; pleading with them to stop. Their peers screamed, “stop it! It’s not worth it.”

 I had the same message. “What’s going on. Let’s talk about it. You’re better than this.” They were red-faced, and looked right past me. They were being PHYSICALLY held back, and I stood in the middle.

 By the time security arrived, five minutes later, I still stood in the middle of these two students. Six people were still holding them back. People were still screaming. The security officer said to me, “You all right? You got this?”

 It took me a second to take a breath. To process the absurdity of that question. The 6’2, trained security officer was asking me if I had this handled…when I stood in the middle of these two students. When six students held them back. If I’d backed away, I have no doubt they would have continued fighting. So I said, “No. Does it look like I’m all right?”

 The other students pleaded with me not to leave. And of course I wouldn’t. The security officer rolled his eyes, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “okay.” That was the third fight of the week that I’d been in the middle of. That was the third fight of the week in which I had no follow-through.

I repeated to students in my classroom as often as I could, that this is NOT NORMAL. If changes are to be made in this institution, it has to derive from the students, because they have more power collectively, than teachers.

I can’t say there is one situation to which affected me the most at HHS, but the first time I was ever physically ill due to bureaucratic failure, was during my first year teaching. I taught this young woman in both Health and Yoga. She was brilliant and vibrant and witty. When she missed class one day, and I saw her crying later in the hallway, I became worried. Her friends came to me later that afternoon, and said they were worried that her dad was going to hurt her, I immediately went to her counselor. She wasn’t one to play the victim, and when I asked her about it, she looked down and away.

It was towards the end of the day when I reported it. I said I had reason to believe this girl was in danger. We made a CPS call. We told security and our on-campus PO. Their response? “This girl is always drama.” I felt disrespected. I felt scared. I felt sick. I asked for a police officer to visit her house. I was told there wasn’t enough information.

When she came to school two days later, with bruises on her cheekbones, a black eye, and with handprint-bruises on her arms, I excused myself to the restroom and I cried. I bawled. I threw up. I. Hurt. I could barely even look at her when we met again. We both started crying and I said, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. You don’t deserve this. No one deserves this.” And she just buried her head in my neck (but teachers shouldn’t hug students, ever, right?).

I lost sleep. I felt sick, even as I wrote this, two years later. I carry her trauma with me. The system failed her. And I couldn’t stop it. Her dad beat her that night. What she feared and what her friends feared and what I feared, happened. It could have been prevented. And I felt helpless.

Over the course of this past school year alone, 23 staff members left Highline High School. One school. One year. 23 educators, student advocates, and public servants left within one year, and no one bats an eye. I am one of those 23, and it’s breaking my heart. On campus police officers quit because they are expected to compromise their integrity and bend the rules within the school system, which don’t coincide with the legal system. It’s inexcusable. I’ve felt unsafe at school on several occasions. The response from admin has been bureaucratic and final.

23 staff members are leaving. But the district is showing videos and statistics of a small increase in graduation rates (which is quite simply a result of the system enabling students into passing).

I have always been encouraged to tell my story. I’ve been told that people need to hear about it. So here it is. Something needs to change. Teachers need to feel free to express their issues without fear of losing their jobs or being undermined.

I believe in being liberal in the CLASSROOM, so as to support a diverse range of learners, from all walks of life, with different potentials with different definitions of success. I think public education is one of the most important systems our country has in place to support its citizens in being progressive and successful.

Being liberal in the classroom means variations in teaching practices, assessment tools, and subjects-covered. Being liberal in the INSTITUTION is a different situation, entirely, and it’s a scary reality.

I am writing this because I think people care, but aren’t aware of the serious implications that come along with a one-size, fits-all strategic plan, without the necessary resources and funding or utilizing valuable insight from veteran teachers.

I am writing this because there was an article published that blamed the increase in teachers leaving on the new teacher evaluation system (a system that in which I passed with flying colors).

I am writing this because even though I completed three exit-surveys, and asked for an exit-interview in each survey, I was not granted the opportunity. My three years at Highline High School and my experiences and my reason for leaving were not considered.

Sometimes it takes exposing the ugly, to appreciate the beautiful. There is so much to celebrate in education, but there is an ugly side to education. There is corruption, ignorance, and inequality. And I think we should talk about it.

With that said, I had a lot of positive experiences at HHS. Here are links to just a few of the ways I supported my students during my three years.

http://b-townblog.com/tag/jasmine-kettler/

http://mynorthwest.com/15860/richard-sherman-barbershop-surprise-high-school-student-with-seahawks-playoff-tickets/

 

*This is not an attack on a specific administrator, or implying that this happened with intention. Often times, the administrators in-building are left with their hands-tied, because if they don’t make changes within their school, their job is at-risk. This is not an attack on the district, either. If the district were more-aware of the happenings of an average day at HHS, I don’t doubt there would be more done about it. I wrote this to spread awareness, and to start a conversation towards a positive change. It should have been said earlier.

 

*This is NOT an excuse to vote NO on school bonds. The condition of the school largely contributes to the students’ perception of unworthiness and the accepted delinquent behavior. The physical condition of the school needs to be changed, along with the social condition.

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54 comments

  1. A teacher at HSD · August 13, 2016

    What this teacher describes plays out at many of HSD schools. In one in particular two troubled youths known to be violent were allowed to return to school. Shortly after that one of them committed a murder (not at school) assisted by the other.

    We are all sickened and traumatized by the policies that do not protect students or staff, nor yield any benefits to the learning environment. They hinder it.

    We need to change this. We need help.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kyleigh · August 13, 2016

    Reading things like this are what make me glad to now be a former student of HHS. Know that no matter what new school I end at it can’t be nearly as bad as what I experinced at this school. I like school, and I had some amazing teachers (such as yourself) who made the best out of a bad situation to make their classroom a fun and safe place where students could come to them. But sadly most of those teachersare leaving. There are things i’m going to miss like working on the yearbook, hanging out and getting to spend time with some of my favorite teachers, and some of the amazing friends I made. I have always enjoyed learning new things and meeting and talking to people that I normally wouldn’t because school has given us some kind of common ground to stand on. But the seemingly the only common ground at HHS was whatever drama, violent outburst, or tragity that had happened that week. My time at Highline is not what highschool should be like. There are things that I have heard second-hand and personally experinced and witnessed in my time at highline which went unchecked and unpunished that should have never happened or have gotten as bad as it did. More than once I was called hatful things loudly and infront of staff and no one ever said one thing about it. While highline like any other school has a zero violence policy, there were countless fights both physical and verbal that took place in the halls and in classrooms that went unpunished. But of course there are times when the admins did take action like the time they expeled the wrong person for taging the school or when they punished a group of seniors for a senior prank where they zip-tyed lockers. A prank that had such a small impact on the students that it wasn’t even being talked about in the next class period. The adminisation gave the entire group lunch detention which is honestly not that bad but it went too far when they threatened to suspend a senior when theyexpland they couldn’t do lunch detention on the day given to him because he would be on a family vacation that day and they also threatened to take away one of the girls academic letters. Luckly the girls mom and a few teachers were able to ensure that she got to keep her letter. But the fact that they did this on a first-time offence is ridiculous. I really hope thatall of these teachers leaving is a wakeup call for the people incharge and some plans that can actually take help are made and put into action.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Karen Day · August 13, 2016

    Well written Jasmine. I know you care deeply for students and you are an excellent teacher. I share your concerns and applaud you for starting this courageous conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Julie · August 14, 2016

    As a teacher in the HSD I too share your concerns. A coalition of parents, teachers, and students must address these issues with the person of authority who can make the changes necessary. I am willing to be a part of it but do not have the skills needed to be the leader.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pam · August 15, 2016

    You had both my girls in your classes and I just want you to know that what you did for them, truly mattered. I am so sad to learn that you have left and by reading your blog, I see that you were justified. I’m very disappointed as a parent and a HSD employee to hear how bad things are at the high school level, from an educator’s perspective. I know my girls have both expressed safety concerns at school and it makes me even more nervous to know I have 3 more children to send through it. What can we do as parents and staff to help change these ridiculous policies?
    Thank you for all that you have done for my daughters and all the students you have taught during your time at HHS, you will be greatly missed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Betsy · August 16, 2016

      Forward her story and these replies to the board members: there is a Board Meeting Wednesday, 8/17 at ERAC 6PM and ask that they ask Susan Enfield, our district’s leader to focus on fixing it: money and personnel, student accountability… Or go to the meeting and ask in person. We need to let them and top management know that we parents and payers of their salaries, will not tolerate this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jasminekettler · August 16, 2016

        I’m in Bangkok right now, but would like this to be officially submitted to the school board. Anyone on this thread is welcome to share it or email me at Jasmine.kettler@gmail.com to give me the name of who to send it to. I think we all want the same thing, but have different ways of getting there.

        Like

      • Lee · August 19, 2016

        I was a security officer at this district and had to deal with all these topics you spoke about. I saw first hand all these issues on a daily basis and watched admin do nothing to solve the problems but continuously slap the hand on repeat student offenders. I have worked in other districts , prior law enforcement and military arms veteran and coming to this district was a joke. The district screwed me on pay, lied to me a few times and ultimately screwed me out of several thousands in hidden Union fews where I lost 500.00 a month on a salary we all know is under paid. I am now let go after a year of docked pays and thousands to a union and I won’t see any of that. The interactions I had with the students and their parents was positive and I know I made a positive impact on the students but my personal time at the district was negative. The management is a joke and the HR and payroll is rude and nobody looked out for the employee in my department. It was a negative experience where I left previous work to take a position within the district to be let go and now another unemployed veteran.

        Like

    • jasminekettler · August 16, 2016

      Thank you for the kind words. I truly LOVED my job and my students, but I knew my voice could not be heard if I was still working in the system. I hope to be back, with more passion and perspective, but until then, my heart is with Highline.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Emily · August 17, 2016

      It’s going to take an active group of parents who are willing to take this on and stick with it until real changes are made. Unfortunately, the teachers aren’t listened to so the real pressure needs to come from the community.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. John Knicely · August 15, 2016

    Hi there, I am an anchor/reporter with KIRO 7 News and am doing a story about no-suspension policies. I’d love to talk with you about your experiences and thoughts. You can reach me at jknicely@kiro7.com. Thanks! -John Knicely

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.T. Burn · August 16, 2016

      Why don’t you talk to the King County Sheriff cop who used to work there for the past two years about all the crime the kids were committing and the principal trying to force him to look the other way? Or the district trying to get him fired when he found out they were breaking laws. And the real reason he left in the middle of the school year.

      Liked by 2 people

      • jasminekettler · August 16, 2016

        “On campus police officers quit because they are expected to compromise their integrity and bend the rules within the school system, which don’t coincide with the legal system. It’s inexcusable.”

        Liked by 1 person

    • Mfunge · August 16, 2016

      Thank you so much for writing this! Hopefully someone will be able to approach administration and help us get some changes made!

      Liked by 2 people

      • jasminekettler · August 16, 2016

        FYI-http://www.kingcounty.gov/exec/PSB/RLSJC/~/media/exec/PSB/documents/RLSJC/2015/May/RLSJC_5,-d-,28,-d-,15_Meeting_Notes.ashx?la=en

        Like

  7. Stehanie · August 15, 2016

    I taught in the Highline School district for 2 years and I can identify completely with your perspective and had similar things happen to me and heard about similar things happening to my colleagues and we were at an elementary school. I also left at the end of this last school year and moved out of state. There were more reasons than just the instability and lack of discipline and follow through, but it was something that weighed heavily on me almost every day as I struggled to teach my 6th graders. Thank you for your courage to tell your story and say the things that most teachers are thinking.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Highline parent · August 15, 2016

    Several of you have asked what you can do. Please consider attending the next Highline School Board meeting this coming Wednesday 8/17 at 6 pm at ERAC. You can sign up to speak by calling the Board secretary at 206-631-3070 by noon on the day of the meeting. Tell the Board and Superintendent you want something done about this issue immediately. Just to note, the Board will be voting to renew the Superintendent’s contract at this meeting. Dr Enfield’s strategic plan is the reason behind this discipline policy. Her contract is in the board agenda and it will provide a salary increase, an increase in retirement and a contract extension to 2019.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Liz Weets · August 15, 2016

    Jasmine, I applaud you for having the courage to state what you wrote. I am one of the teachers who left HHS at the end of this year also (I am one of the twenty-three). I wanted to stay until I had my twenty years in but just could not stand it another minute let alone two more years. I retired this year (early) because I just could not take – not having any support from Administration when faced with a discipline problem or an unruly student. It was not until I had sent over 15 students to the office (without any follow-up or consequences to the students for their behavior) that I realized nothing was ever going to change until I began forwarding my complaints and write-ups to the District office Administration (our school Administrator’s bosses) that I received even a couple responses from our school administrtion about action they were going to take on my discipline referrals. It was too little too late for me and I made the wise choice to leave the position and the district permanently.

    I must disagree with you about one aspenct of your write-up though the part where you wrote that it is not our Superintendant’s fault (partially and our immediate supervisor’s partially) for not getting tougher when needed. I also feel that the current Superintendant is expecting the impossible with her no out of school suspensions especially when the students who really need to be suspended refuse to show up for in-house suspension in lieu of being given out of school suspension. Instead they just bully the ISS teacher and call her all kinds of names and cuss her out when she tries to keep them in her classroom for their assigned time. Even when they refuse to show up at all and skip school – when they return nothing is done to most of them and they are simply allowed to go back to classes with no reprocussions. I am sad that I had (for my own mental sanity) to leave teaching, I know it was the right choice for me. Good luck with your future and may it be a long and healthy one.

    Liz Weets former HHS teacher

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A heartbroken veteran teacher · August 15, 2016

    Thank you so much for this. I admire you. Southern Heights Elementary was written about in the Seattle Timea for their positive behavior approach and using the Ruler curriculum. What they neglected to say is that students are asked to identity how they are feeling then given snacks and screen time when sent to the office. When they return to class and are required to behave, they run out the door for more snacks. I am an excellent teacher and am able to help struggling kids but without support, it can’t be done. These were first graders who hit, bit, smashed walls, and threw chairs. Because principals are not allowed to discipline this is only going to get worse.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. J.T Burn · August 16, 2016

    And you can be sure it wasn’t this kind of rampant behavior amongst the students and the anti-police insults from the administration that lead to the SRO leaving the school in the middle of the school year right? The same one whom took a gun off a kid at school, had a trash can thrown at him from a second story level, the same whom got punched I the face by a parent and student then bit by the same parent and student, got lied on by the admin and district. The one whom actually tried to make the place safe.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Student of RAHS, former his jazz band and symphonic band member · August 16, 2016

    Having hhs as my home school, and taking part in extra-curriculars there I can sympathize. But being a student I have no power alone. The students who can help have either given up or been overlooked by the school much like you. For instance, there was a friend who ran for president with his quote, “highline is depression.” It was looked as a joke, a prank done by a future dropout. The real joke was on the school. Campaigning in the hopes of getting the word out about the school was the real plan. That friend of mine was later expelled for carrying out his plan. He gladly left. His flaw was that the students who didn’t care for ASB paied no attention to him. Thus, resulting in them not caring.
    As a student I can say that if you can devise a way to get into every student’s head about how their school is going with how that will affect their future in a way that will keep their attention, you change the school.

    Lastly, I applaud you for spreading the word and wish you the best in your future

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Gayle · August 16, 2016

    Jasmine, thank you for your courage, your compassion and love, and your honesty.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Renee · August 17, 2016

    Jasmine,

    I had a meeting with the Superintendent about the no out of school suspensions and the horrible effect that has on them (Now that they know nothing can be done about their actions, as well as the fact that the district is not having the kids complete the actual standards set, but is lowering the standards to raise the graduation rate. I do not understand this AT ALL. She wants to promote these changes as a positive, when they obviously are the opposite.
    The numbers might be better, graduation rate up, but when you aren’t requiring the same things across the board to graduate, what good is it. I told her that she was making my straight A daughter’s Diploma a joke with the minimum joke amount of work they are letting kids “Pass” and “Graduate” with. I so, agree with the part of your letter where you talk about your job, as well as the school districts job is to get these kids ready to succeed in society. That is not ERAC’s concern. It’s all about the numbers, and that is SAD! They are turning out onto society, kids that have no discipline, no respect, and no skills, and calling that a win. Thank you for your letter, and good luck in your future.

    And P.S. if you were here, I’d give you a big hug.

    Renee

    Liked by 3 people

  15. a class of '18 student · August 17, 2016

    I wonder what would happen if one of the kids who brought a gun to school was given a referral
    “Sorry, but we don’t have enough evidence to continue this referral”

    Like

  16. HHS student · August 17, 2016

    If smokers trail is on campus property, we should fence it off or have SROs near it

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Former Highline teacher says school suspension policy wrong; needs changing | The Waterland Blog for Des Moines, WA
  18. kadlum · August 19, 2016

    I am a former Highline teacher who retired earlier than I wanted because I refused to be a part of this abusive system any longer. I was elementary and we actually had meetings about our “excessive” referrals. A subtle form of pressure to not refer kids so our numbers would look good. Also, there is a definite climate of fear in this district. People who NEED to keep their jobs stay quiet but they also silence us but calling us toxic and not good for the team if we speak out. A subtle way of silencing us. My strongest suggestion to anyone living in the Highline area: RUN FOR THE BOARD AND CHANGE THIS.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. lindylu312gmailcom · August 19, 2016

    My question is: why does a policy of no out of school suspensions equate to doing nothing? Are there no alternatives defined? Are there no interventions that can be used with these students? It seems like HSD (like some other districts as well) has put the cart before the horse, directing the elimination of out of school suspensions without discussing, funding, providing resources or training for alternative actions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Former MRHS teacher · August 29, 2016

      You nailed out! That’s the hsd standard approach.

      Like

  20. Michele · August 19, 2016

    Jasmine- Thank you for your courage to speak up, be a voice in the darkness, give a voice, a name to what is being done in the “dark” so to speak, and for addressing the elephant in the room in an effort to bring about awareness which can then lead to positive change.
    My hope is that the parents and students feel empowered to take a stand now that “the cat is out of the bag” and collectively go before your school board to employee their assistance in the matter. While it is sad that things have come to this, but it sounds like it is vital.
    Kudos for your courage in writing this Jasmine. My hope is that you stay in the profession and land a teaching job in a healthy school district that supports its teachers, students, and families. Wishing you the very best!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Norbert · August 19, 2016

    A suspension should be done based on the action of the student. If the action is threatening, physical, caused damage to property, etc. a suspension should be done , after an investigation. If a student can be charged under the law than that needs to happen. Once a student is suspended or kicked out of school than alternative learning needs to be activated. To insure the student goes to this alternative learning center it should be done through the legal system, if a student refuses to go to alternative school. Also, counseling needs to be provided for student. If the act is non-threatening, but just bad behavior in-suspension in school should be done. Instead of going to a classroom with other suspended kids they go to their regular classroom. They go to a classroom before school, during lunch, and after school to work on school work. During this time, they are getting counseling on how to act properly in school. We need to recognize schools should be a safe place to learn.

    Like

  22. Jan · August 22, 2016

    Our educators are heroes. Highline educators are super heroes.
    There is no shame in leaving. Some are simply unable to cope with the challenges presented by this profession.
    There has always been and will always be disciplinary issues in our schools. We should remember these are children we are talking about. Working with them with, listening to them with patience and understanding is difficult but a much better choice than throwing them away.
    Our public school teachers in the classroom are on the front lines in the battle for a stronger community and a healthier democracy. We should support them in every way possible.

    Like

  23. Former HSD teacher · August 29, 2016

    I left the district after 10 years (over half the staff at my school left together at the end of this past school year following an abrupt and thoughtless change in leadership, after years of little to no turnover) because of the way they are harming students just to get their numbers up. I loved my students beyond words, and would have stayed my whole career under the empowering, supportive leadership we once had. The culture of the district became gradually and then rapidly unbearable once Enfield became Superintendent. Highline leadership, you should be ashamed of yourselves. School board, you should be doubly ashamed for not doing anything about Susan Enfield. She is a disgrace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jan · August 29, 2016

      Dear anonymous former HSD teacher from an anonymous school,
      I have trouble believing you. Your post rings like a weak rationalization for not giving the new strategy an honest effort.
      You say you loved your students. Your actions contradict that statement. (unless you were only referring to a select few students)
      Easy to love some, hard to love all.
      Highline School District has had some great Superintendents
      throughout the years and I rank Dr. Enfield among them.
      You criticize her for wanting to get the “numbers up.” I praise her for that.
      It isn’t about the numbers, it’s about our kids, however, in reality, the numbers ARE our kids.
      The more students we can lift “up”, the better. The more students we can encourage to visualize a future, graduate and not fall through the ever widening cracks in our society the better it will be for all of us.
      Our district demographics present some very difficult challenges. We are extremely fortunate to have Dr. Enfield here to help us face those challenges.
      I’m all in.
      No shame here, just gratitude.
      Jan Noorda

      Like

      • Former MRHS Teacher · August 30, 2016

        Jan,
        I appreciate your point of view, but my long personal experience in Highline, and the experiences of dozens of former colleagues I know well, says otherwise. Enfield has been a disaster for the staff and morale of this district. When basic safety needs are neglected, everyone suffers. When half baked ideas, no matter how well intentioned, are forced on people without training or support, those plans founder. I too wanted to stay in Highline until I retired, but the educational malpractice became too much to bear. It had nothing to do with the students and everything to do with leadership and a dehumanizing system that takes its teachers and support staff for granted.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Jan · September 2, 2016

        Dear Former MRHS Teacher,
        Back in the old days I would follow the advice of NY Yankee catcher Yogi Berra to “never answer an anonymous letter” but nowadays with the internet, it seems the accepted way to vent anger under the cover of anonymity.
        That is a shame. It’s like booing the “players” from the peanut gallery. The players in this case are those educators, both teachers and administrators, who in spite of the hardships and frustrations are still in the game making a difference in the lives of our children.
        I am not a teacher and can only speak from the outside looking in. I have had a close look though and I do feel your pain. I know, from dear teacher friends and a wife who has taught for over 30 years, how challenging your profession can be when one troubled student can disrupt the learning experience for an entire classroom over and over.
        However, I have an issue with pointing fingers and blaming every problem that we have in our school community on our current superintendent when
        I know she is dedicated to solving those problems.
        She comes to us with a classroom teaching background and has studied the profession at the most respected universities in the world. She is not here to coddle, placate and provide a comfort zone for teachers. She is here to help change the culture of learning in our community for the better and we are fortunate to have her. She is a lightning rod and an easy target. It gets me so angry when I hear disaffected teachers say that she’s in it for the money, that she is cooking the books to make herself look good or that it’s all about the numbers and not about the kids. That is such cynical BS!
        I know she is open for input. I know she reaches out to the entire district staff. I know there are problems with her new strategy but there always are problems with a new way of doing things.
        Instead of playing the blame game, which has little effect, stay in and/or rejoin the real game. Add your input to the problem and make a difference.
        The kids need your experience, love and guidance.
        Jan Noorda
        PS: they need yours too Jasmine

        Like

  24. Concerned Teacher · September 3, 2016

    Dear Jan,
    I think you said it best when you said, “I am not a teacher” so you cannot possibly know how bad it is. I’d like to add that no matter how well intentioned Enfield is (debatable) she can’t either because she neither listens to nor spends quality time with teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jan · September 4, 2016

      Dear Former MRHS Teacher,
      I had one of those inadequacy dreams last night. Sitting in class totally unprepared while the rest of the class handed in their major term projects wondering how to explain to my teacher the fact I had done nothing.
      I’m retired and approaching 70 and I still have those dreams.
      What’s up with that?
      Maybe it was our conversation. Maybe I feel I haven’t communicated well with you or explained why I believe the way I do. So here goes, more Jansplaining, as my wife calls it.
      Let me say right off, you are absolutely right, I am not a teacher. I am however, a hero worshipper of teachers. I am aware that the brunt of the load of a new policy or strategy from the upper administration eventually falls upon the classroom teacher. If the load comes without support, it can be a little slice of hell.
      The real problem isn’t the lack of moral support, but the lack of money for “boots on the ground” support.
      Public Education in Washington, and in our country in general, is under attack from a far right wing ideology called, oddly enough, Neoliberalism.
      This ideology promotes privatization of everything that can be privatized. This, among many other important public services, includes Public Education.
      Thus we see the rise in charter schools across the country. These schools are non profit only in name. They can decide what they want to teach and how they want to teach without elected public oversight. They can pay whatever they decide to both teachers and administrators. This is the wave of privatization of education that is now occurring in our state and nationwide. No unions to deal with, top down education by the top, by those who are reaping profits from the public (tax) coffers that were meant, constitutionally, for our public school children.
      To summarize, this ideology is reduces the districts ability to provide the support you needed and should have had by defunding our public schools.
      These giant corporations own many charter schools as well as the companies that make up the new standardized tests. The narrative is that “public schools are failing”, but in my opinion, they are the ones who encourage failure for profit.
      I tend to get a bit carried away over this attack on the American Way.
      If you’re in agreement, and have time on your hands, you could advocate with me for the proper funding of our public schools.
      Jan

      Like

  25. yet another concerned teacher · September 5, 2016

    Jan, the last person you responded to was not the Former MRHS teacher, it was Concerned Teacher. I am yet another teacher. You have refused to believe all of the teachers who have responded, so I will not try to convince you. Rather, I will tell you what I think of your behavior.

    You use your patronizing words ostensibly to praise, but also insult, my colleagues. If they leave, they are not throwing away children. They are not “unable to cope with the challenges of this profession.” They are going elsewhere, hopefully to where the administration works with them, rather than against them, so they can accomplish more for the children they teach.
    You insult the readers’ intelligence by intimating that anonymity by a teacher on this blog is related to untruthfulness or anger. What doesn’t ring true is that you are unaware of what happens to employees who complain publicly. Even if they leave the district, they need referrals for future employment. Look up the definition of blackballed.

    You state, “The real problem isn’t the lack of moral support, but the lack of money for ‘boots on the ground’ support.”

    It’s both. And moral support can make a difference on its own. There’s no reason teachers shouldn’t have it from administration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jan · September 6, 2016

      Dear “yet another teacher”,
      I apologize to you and to any other teacher who read my comments and felt offended. This was not my intention. This is not the first time I’ve been accused of having a patronizing attitude. I do suffer from “know it all syndrome” as my dear wife points out to me from time to time. She uses the term “Jansplaining” to mock and criticize my behavior.
      I am truly sorry that you took offense to my comments.
      Clearly there have been some problems within the district as Jasmine illustrated in her thoughtful blog. I had to reread the entire blog as well as the comments to refresh my understanding of the issue.
      Before we tar and feather Dr. Enfield and run her out of town on a rail I think a little empathy with her situation is called for. As a teacher, I know you are aware that the Quality of Empathy is the key characteristic of a good teacher. Certainly from Jasmine’s blog, she has an abundance of this quality and I admire her willingness to tell her story openly under her own name. Her courage makes a difference and already has if you’re aware of the recent changes in leadership at HHS. I have no worries about her future. I think she would be rehired by the district, or any district for that matter, in a heartbeat if that is the path she chooses.
      By the way, I did not say that “teachers who leave are throwing away children”. What I meant was that we, as a society, need to try harder to understand and support these troubled children. When we give up on these kids, they fall behind and give up on themselves. They end up struggling through life and adding more troubled children to the mix. A vicious repeating cycle.
      I did say “some are simply not able to cope with the challenges of this profession” but this is a fact, not a criticism. This reflects my high regard for the profession. There is no shame in leaving. Some are better suited to make a contribution in other areas, myself included.
      Back to the issue. I examined the districts referral form and couldn’t find any fine print. The form clearly listed minor behavioral infractions, major behavioral infractions and in bold print those infractions that are cause for out of school suspension/expulsion which appear in bold print: Assault with major injury; Bullying/Harassment/Intimidation; Interference with Authority; Weapons, among other behaviors listed.
      All the events that Jasmine described fall under cause for suspension and/or expulsion. I suspect that the inappropriate response to these events by the former Highline high school administration was the result of an overzealous application Dr. Enfield’s new strategy. Someone just trying to please the boss.
      To the larger issue: the strategy itself.
      I believe we must support our public schools. I believe Dr. Enfield is on the right path. She, like all previous superintendents, will someday move on to greener pastures. What will remain is her legacy, which will be the community and the teachers she has had a positive influence on.
      Yes, she is human and has made some errors in judgment, but I have great confidence in her ability to guide this School District, this giant ship of state through the troubled waters we are currently in.
      One last thing, I noticed the Bond Opposition Group is using Jasmine’s blog as a reason to vote against the upcoming School Bond even though Jasmine herself supports it.
      I pray there are no teachers out there so petty as to harm our children out of spite.
      Jan

      Like

      • Enough · September 7, 2016

        Jan you really need to stop trying to have the last word. Your lengthy discourse is (once again) an innuendo that teachers who leave couldn’t cut it and Dr, Enfield is doing a great job. Your rereading of the referral form gives you no idea how it is playing out in actuality. YOU DO NOT TEACH IN THIS DISTRICT AND THUS YOU HAVE NOT IDEA! This district is bullying teachers and using tactics to silence their opposition to Dr. Enfield’s top down decision making. Teachers are being micromanaged and Enfield and the board are not listening to the few brave teachers that come to board meetings and speak out. To be perfectly clear once again…YOU HAVE NO IDEA so stop defending what you know little about. Perhaps you need to talk to the teachers that have to resort to anti anxiety medications to teach here, or the many that are having health issues due to the stress of teaching in Highline. Or the teachers that don’t feel safe due to the lack of support with the current discipline policy. I have an overview of a couple decades in this district and yes, teaching is and has always been stressful BUT NOT LIKE it has been since Enfield arrived. Please stop talking about what you know nothing about. PS You mention jansplaing (twice) as if it’s cute and enduring. It’s not. It’s insulting to people who know what they are talking about.

        Like

      • Jan · September 7, 2016

        Dear Enough,
        Really?
        It’s me who wants the last word?
        In a meaningful dialogue there is always a give and take.
        If I don’t know what I’m talking about, why the anger?
        I just don’t see any evidence of your assertions.
        I would love to talk with some of the teachers you are referring to. Maybe I can help. My overriding concern is the quality of public education.
        Enlighten me.
        Suggest a time and place, you know my name and I’m in the book.
        Jan

        Like

      • jasminekettler · September 12, 2016

        Respectfully, Jan, please take your condescending commentary to a different forum. This article was not easy for me to right. Trust me, I know, more than anyone, how much students need teachers like me in the classroom, and as I’ve continued on in search of some perspective before I get back to the classroom, a returning voice that undermines my decision to leave helps no one.

        I am still not sure if leaving was the best thing to do, but I do know, that in staying, I would have been unable to post this article, and many voices would have remained stifled. I am not the first teacher to speak up. I am the first teacher who is getting a real response.

        Before I left, I hand wrote sixty cards to my students, giving them my personal contact, explaining how they changed my life, encouraging their self-advocacy, and telling them not to hesitate if they need anyone to talk to.

        I received an email, from one of my previous Advisory students on the first day of school that said, “I was so sad to come to school today and not see my amazing Advisory teacher, but when I see your awesome posts from around the world, I think if she’s okay, then I’m okay.” I was not okay at Highline, and it broke my heart to read that. As much as I encourage my students to be an advocate for themselves, I have to do the same for me.

        Part of being a teacher means being a role model, and I am doing the best I can, outside the classroom, to encourage my students’ success as I can.

        All the best,

        Jasmine

        Liked by 1 person

      • Another Highline Parent · September 14, 2016

        Never give up
        No matter what is going on
        Never give up
        Develop the heart
        Too much energy in your country is spent developing the mind instead of the heart
        Develop the heart
        Be compassionate
        Not just to your friends but
        to everyone, be compassionate
        Work for peace in your heart and in the world
        Work for peace, and I say again
        Never give up
        No matter what is happening
        No matter what is going on around you
        Never give up
        ~His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

        Like

  26. kadlum · September 5, 2016

    Here, here Yet Another Concerned Teacher!

    Like

  27. Highline parent · September 9, 2016

    Jasmine has written her comments. Teachers have posted here, and also on Jasmine’s Facebook page in three different posts by Jasmine on dangerous working conditions.

    If you want more, then listen to the school board meetings. Many meetings for the past several years have included teacher comments during the citizen comment sessions. There are recordings, like June 1. The teachers start at minute 36. The archived minutes and recordings are on the school board web site. http://www.highlineschools.org/domain/1146 After you’ve listened, post your follow up questions here.

    Apparently the Highline School board is supportive of the outcomes of her policies because they just renewed her contract with a raise and a very generous retirement increase.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. BPteacher · September 11, 2016

    Thank you for posting this! I was also a teacher at a Highline school and I resigned last school year for similar reasons. Even though I was a teacher at an elementary school, I saw how children were learning how to manipulate the system and were not taught to be accountable for their actions. It was a very traumatizing experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Heather · September 11, 2016

    Jan sounds like Susan Enfield in disguise. Or, Enfield’s twin sister. How pathetic of you to throw a whole bunch of superlatives to yourself. Talk about being a shameless self promoter!

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Highline parent · September 11, 2016

    “But overall, Enfield remains unapologetic about her belief that much of the responsibility for handling difficult students rests with teachers.”

    From the Seattle Times article

    http://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/highline-struggles-with-fallout-of-limiting-student-suspensions/

    Apparently the School Board stands firmly behind this leader.

    “We are pleased our graduation rate is rising and that our district is making progress toward our bold goals,” said Highline School Board President Michael Spear. “This is a vote of confidence in Superintendent Enfield’s leadership and her commitment to working with our community and staff to ensure our students graduate prepared for college and career.”

    http://b-townblog.com/2016/09/08/highline-school-board-extends-superintendent-enfields-contract-through-2019/

    Why would any teacher in their right mind want to work under this kind of authority?

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Highline parent · September 13, 2016

    Meanwhile, the Superintendent is a speaker at a the White House speaking to her bold goals including the success of her suspension policy. Today!
    http://mobile.edweek.org/c.jsp?utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_source=feedblitz&utm_campaign=highschoolbeyond&item=http%3a%2f%2fapi.edweek.org%2fv1%2fblog%2f179%2f%3fuuid%3d60035&cid=25920011

    From the article –
    The story of Highline Public Schools, in Washington state, was another showcased by the White House today. Susan Enfield, the superintendent of that district, told the attendees that five years ago, when she was interviewing for the job, she met with groups of high school students and asked what they wanted for their schools.

    The teenagers were anything but shy; They wanted more Advanced Placement classes, protection of their sports programs—since that was what kept some students from dropping out—and support for their dreams of accomplishment, even though they came from modest backgrounds, she said.

    Enfield said she knew the district had set its expectations too low for its students. “There is a massive pity party happening for our kids and we need to shut it down,” she said.

    So her team set ambitious new goals, including 90-percent-plus graduation and Algebra I completion rates. They used a regional Race to the Top grant to offer the SAT during the school day for free to every student, to eliminate a barrier to college application. They changed their approach to discipline, cutting out-of-school suspension rates by more than 75 percent. They’ve added more AP and computer science classes, and ramped up offerings of internships, job-shadowing, and mentorships, to help students “change they way they see their future,” Enfield said.

    Like

  32. kadlum · September 13, 2016

    I am so sick of her PR spin. She goes to these places saying the things they want to hear (which make this ambitious superintendent look great) without ANYONE talking to teachers about how it’s really going. I’m insulted for myself and EVERY current and former teacher in Highline to be accused to “to low of standards” for our kids. If she REALLY asked students those questions and they REALLY answered that way, get them out to board meetings and interviews to make the same accusations and statements. And also, let’s get some current students to voice their opinions since the current students (not ones from FIVE years ago) are the ones living under this no suspension policy. How do they feel about it?

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Pingback: Defiant kids stay, teachers leave — Joanne Jacobs
  34. Pingback: With Discipline as With So Much Else in Education, Choice is the Answer – FREEDOM BUNKER

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