The holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is used as an opportunity to teach children about his legacy. But in too many of those same schools, Black and other nonwhite children's extraordinary talents are still being wasted.
I understand that teachers are trying to control their classroom. I know many of the classrooms give rewards as well as take-away reward systems. But taking away a crucial part of a child's learning -- play -- is unproductive when getting a kid to sit still.
Extreme disciplinary responses can actually make the problem worse, and even hurt the very students they are designed to protect. To defend themselves, victims of bullying often see no other choice than to employ survival tactics, which could include carrying a weapon.
While both pro-gun and anti-violence supporters have spent millions of dollars to either arm or disarm people, the resources that have been dedicated to equip at-risk youth with opportunities, skills, and academic support are woefully ignored year after year.
A new report shows that 13 percent of students were suspended at least once during the 2011-2012 school year, with some middle schools suspending more than two-thirds of their students. The vast majority of these suspensions were for behaviors involving no drugs, no injuries, and no weapons.
Simple strategies, such as the use of restorative circles in classrooms, provide opportunity for students to communicate with their peers and teachers about feelings and concerns, reducing the anxiety and misunderstanding that produce tension and conflict in schools.
The path of a trailblazer always holds resistance. To pioneer meaningful change, one must be prepared to defend themself against the inevitable opposing force. One man who has come to know this all too well lately is U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
I hope that the lesson emerges from Quitman, and similar turnarounds, that the better approach is to invest in socio-emotional supports, teaching children to be students, and thus laying the foundation for high-quality instruction.
When we require our kids to say the obligatory words, "I'm sorry" without actually meaning them, we teach them that words alone can let them off the hook and they don't have to genuinely feel empathy for whoever they have wronged.
The course to all of our health and prosperity starts with changing the odds for our sons and brothers which will build opportunity for all of us. There are real signs of hope and momentum building around the country.
More than 23,000 schools out of 132,000 nationwide have or are discarding a highly punitive approach to school discipline in favor of supportive, compassionate and solution-oriented methods. Those that take the slow-but-steady road can see a 20 percent to 40 percent drop in suspensions.