More SROs, fewer joysticks
In the midst of the accountability movement, too many students are challenging themselves to meet Nintendo and Sega standards rather than school proficiency minimums. Earlier this year, following a grueling six-month campaign, I anxiously began my tenure as mayor of Meriden, Conn., a diverse community of about 58,000 residents located roughly halfway between New Haven and the state capital, Hartford. As a former teacher and current school administrator, it was no surprise to my constituents that education would be a top priority of my administration. Facing increased suspensions and expulsions in our schools, the need for disciplinary reform was apparent. Having recently completed my doctoral dissertation on the role of the school resource officer (SRO), having completed a week-long school resource officer certification class, and after having participated in the Governor’s Prevention Partnership Workshop on Alternatives to School Suspension and Expulsion, the light bulb flicked on!
Federal and state governments, in response to increased pressure from concerned parents and educators, created new laws requiring school districts to issue mandatory suspensions and expulsions, and establishing barriers that make it difficult to find alternative disciplinary solutions. Federal law enacted in the mid-1990s mandated that school districts take specific disciplinary actions for weapons violations. In 1995, Connecticut legislators expanded the definition of a student possessing a deadly weapon. These changes have increased the number of suspensions and expulsions. In a related vein, in 2001, the Connecticut General Assembly adopted a new law designed to cut the dropout rates in our schools, changing the legal dropout age from 16 to 18. Students under the age of 18 now need the written consent of a parent or guardian to drop out of school. But what will all these statutory changes do to turn off the Nintendo and Sega video games at home and keep kids actively engaged in school...