The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Good News for Kids in Pennsylvania

on August 24, 2016

It’s been a while since I was able to report any good news about education.  But today I am writing  about some good things happening in Pennsylvania. The information about legislation in Pennsylvania that will improve school conditions for students with diabetes was reported in a blog post  and the article about the change in rules for suspending young children was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

The air must be good in Pennsylvania, especially in the Philadelphia area. Early this summer the state legislature passed legislation ensuring that all children with diabetes will be medically safe at school, and just last week the Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted to ban most suspensions for kindergartners and all suspensions for students who violated their school dress code. In both decisions we see common sense and compassion for children overcoming the biases often ruling in public education today.

Over the past several years public schools and charter schools all over the country have neglected or formally refused to provide services for children with diabetes. In a few cases such children were denied school admission altogether. Those situations emerged when schools reduced their nurses’ time or eliminated their jobs completely because of inadequate school funding.

Under the new Pennsylvania law, however, school staff members will be trained to recognize diabetic emergencies and provide the proper care. Also, students with diabetes will be allowed to participate in all school-sponsored activities, and capable students will be allowed to self-manage their own diabetes.

Philadelphia’s rule change on suspensions offers reasonableness and compassion to all elementary school students. Up until now huge numbers of children have been suspended for minor or even involuntary actions. Last year 448 kindergartners, 500 first graders, and 1900 second graders were suspended from schools. Ninety percent of those suspensions were for non-violent misbehavior that included not wearing a school uniform.

In citing these examples of changed school policies I must add that they weren’t needed in the previous century. Almost all schools had full time nurses, and most of those that didn’t had someone trained and willing to take care of students with diabetis whenever necessary. Suspensions were extremely rare in elementary and middle schools, and most often were ordered because parents had not responded to previous notifications of student misbehavior.

Please understand that schools were not necessarily better and more compassionate in those times. They were just less likely to be publically criticized or sued for negligence or miss-treatment of students.  Moreover, whatever a teacher or principal did or said was right in the eyes of parents, and none of them thought of complaining, much less demanding special services for their children or moving them to a private school.

What has happened is a widespread decline in respect for public schools that began with the release of “A Nation at Risk” in 1983 and continued.  Most Americans now believe that our schools are inferior to those in foreign countries and that a school’s low test scores are indisputable proof of teacher incompetence.  As a result,“reforming” our schools has become a major project of the federal government, a popular topic of newspaper critics, busy work for state legislatures, and a great source of profit for educational consultants, test makers, textbook publishers, and charter schools.  Most of the reforms, such as “No Child Left Behind”, have failed.  But occasionally, good things happen, like the ones I have noted in this post. Those among us who understand what good education is must keep on supporting small steps in the right direction and working tirelessly to get more of the same.





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