Torrance Chaotes: Discipline begins at home at home

Published 2:15 pm Saturday, May 6, 2017

In this week’s column, I will be discussing the importance of discipline, not just at school but at home as well.
As many of you know, discipline in the home is becoming rare. While there are still many of you who discipline at home, I would like to give my kudos to you; however, lately there has been a struggle on the school front. Many times, discipline has been so one-sided. School principals and teachers do all they can to maintain a good, safe learning environment at the school only for it to be undermined in some homes by a lack of parental support or no support at home. In some instances, there is a case where a parent is accusing teachers and administrators of picking on their child or children. In short, please know that when this happens, we have lost the opportunity to show our children the correct path.
As a former school principal, I had to get very smart and strategic on how I handled discipline.  My philosophy was to avoid “out of school suspension” (OSS) as much as possible. The reason I wanted to avoid OSS was because for some students this was just a simple vacation for getting into trouble at school. I have seen and heard tales of pizza being ordered, being able to play video games and sitting at home watching cartoons all day, and I have even seen some return to school with an entirely new wardrobe. Of course, sometimes you do not have a choice on whether to suspend or not. In several cases, I just felt that I could do more from a school standpoint than to suspend. That is right! Suspension is easy to do; however, it takes a strategic mind to deliver the right consequences which, if done appropriately, could be more of an accurate discipline measure than suspending a student.
I would like for you to equate disciplining a student to the diagnostic of a car. For instance, your check engine light is on and you notice that the car is just not running right. Something has to be wrong with the car! So, you take it in and have a full diagnostic where machines are hooked up to it and the technician tells you that you have a blown head gasket. Again, everything has been connected to the machine and he is accurately telling you what is wrong with your car. Instead of listening to what the technician is saying, you ignore it and decide that he does not know what he is talking about. So, you decide to repair your brakes instead and all too often and sadly, this is the case with schools having to deal with disruptive/defiant students who are not being disciplined at home. Instead of fixing the blown head gasket and deciding to repair the brakes, the problem is still there. Your car is not getting any better; it is getting worse. The same holds true with student discipline. Every time there is inconsistency, you are pretty much guaranteeing a recurrence of the problem. The school will have to deal with the problem since you, as a parent, have decided not to deal with it.
What ever happened to “back in the day” when all it took was “one phone call home.” Parents and communities were much more supportive of the importance of children getting a good education with few distractions. In this column, I am going to tell it like it is. We need to return to the time of “back in the day” where that one phone call home really meant something!
The community leaders of Sumter County have a perfect opportunity to continue to push this county in the right direction, especially, with the heavy presence of One Sumter, the Sumter Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Kiwanis, the Sumter County Board of Education, Sumter County Commissioners, the City of Americus, the City Council, and our active police and sheriff’s departments. In addition to all of the community support, to top this off, we are the only county in the state to have a former U.S. President!
The time has come for our community to unite and for these next few years to dedicate our efforts towards the children of this community. We need to set our differences aside as we are losing children to the streets. How many times have you driven by an individual and wanted to yell out, “man, pull your pants up!”? We have to teach our young children what is acceptable behavior and what is not. We should all work hard to eliminate a climate of division. Instead, we should work towards a climate of unity, where mistrust is nonexistent, to eliminate the continuance of, “from the cradle to the school, to the jail pipeline.”
Parents, you only get one shot at being a good parent. Please make the best of it. It is OK to discipline your child or children instead of upholding them when they are wrong. I think nearly every adult from the older generations received a lot of tough love, myself included, and look where it got us. We have done extremely well and we have manners; we know how to act civilized, and we know how to dress appropriately. This all leads to being successful. Remember, being successful does not mean you have to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a school teacher. It is a state of mind and an individual’s attitude plays a big part.
I have an idea we can all make a difference and everyone can do their part. Churches can push the importance of having a good attitude and working together for the greater good. Schools can monitor and praise acceptable behavior. Parents can take part in disciplining their children again instead of letting the state do it when they get incarcerated. Yes, we can make a difference, but it will take all of us to work together in unison and not in divisiveness!
In my next column, I will discuss how we can get more involved with our community.

Torrance Choates is superintendent of Sumter County Schools.