Blog

Yet More Proof Exclusionary Discipline is Just a Bad Idea

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 25, 2021 | 0 Comments

28-year-old Alexis Hawkins posted her message on LinkedIn, just after she graduated from the Howard University School of Law:

“This accomplishment represents so many things but most importantly it is proof that ANY thing is possible. This one is for those individuals and communities that are often overlooked and forgotten about by society. To everyone who believed in me, thank you!”

The words are inspiring. They're full of hope. It's hard to keep from getting emotional when Hawkins thanks those who “believed” in her.

Not everyone did, though.

A Difficult Path to Redemption

Hawkins grew up in foster care. Despite this fact, she became an A student at her high school, Ballou High School in southeast Washington, D.C. At least she was an A student, until at age 15, the school expelled her for fighting. Her story isn't uncommon. Many schools across the country endorse what's known as “exclusionary discipline,” or removing “problem” students from the normal classroom environment through suspension or expulsion.

Exclusionary discipline has been closely associated with the “school to prison pipeline,” or the tendency of elementary and high school students who have received harsh discipline to eventually wind up in trouble with the law. Hawkins was on that path.

Out of school for six months, Hawkins drifted with little direction until she got involved with an anti-violence group called the Peaceaholics. On a trip with the Peaceaholics, she met Annie Cooper, a Southern activist. Cooper shared stories with Hawkins about the Civil Rights movement, about standing in line to vote, and about punching a policeman who wouldn't stop prodding her with a billy club. That story helped to change the direction of Hawkins's life. As Hawkins describes it,

“That touched me because I'm a fighter. I have a warrior spirit too. Annie Cooper made me realize that I was fighting the wrong people. I was fighting people who looked like me, Black girls who came from the same community, who had gone through the same hardships.”

Back on the right path, Hawkins would eventually get her GED and receive a B.A. in criminal justice from Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, before enrolling at Howard Law.

One of the Lucky Ones

Hawkins's story is an inspiring one. It's also a frustrating one. Hawkins was lucky. Studies show, for instance, that a student who is suspended from school just once is twice as likely to wind up involved with the criminal justice system as a student who received a lighter punishment. Schools know this, and yet they go on using exclusionary discipline on the principle that leaving a problematic student in class harms other students.

Here's the thing, though: Annie Cooper got through to Alexis Hawkins. Rather than punish Hawkins for her behaviors, Cooper met her on her own ground and taught her how to use her attitudes for positive ends. Do we really face a choice, then, between harming one child or harming many? Or have we simply failed to find more creative solutions than exclusionary discipline?

If your child has been suspended, expelled, or subjected to another form of exclusionary discipline, you can fight back. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Mr. Lento represents students and others in disciplinary cases and other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Mr. Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he has sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address school-related issues and concerns anywhere in the United States.

Comments

There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us Today!

footer-2.jpg

If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.

Menu