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December 12, 2019

Failure of Accountability - Part I

Cindy A. Rose

It took Nikolas Cruz murdering 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland to highlight Broward County school’s Restorative Justice Practices.  Maybe we can use the tragedy of John Weed losing his life while attending the Great Frederick Fair this past September to discover those same practices in Frederick County Public Schools?

There were multiple tragedies at the fair on September 19.  A man lost is life; two young boys lost their futures; two sets of families were torn apart.  Our community still mourns as we struggle to understand what caused the events that lead to a man’s death.

Some people demanded the Board of Education terminate Fair Day.  Others created a petition to have minors exempt from the fair without an accompanying adult guardian.  Neither of those unmasks the cause of the tragedy, nor will they prevent fights from happening in the future.  First, the assault didn’t happen during school hours and nothing prevents accompanied minors from splitting with their adult chaperones once inside the fair grounds.

I do, however, believe there is something we, as a community can do proactively.  If parents and the public want to make a demand on the Board of Education and FCPS, I suggest they demand an accounting into the Restorative Justice disciplinary practices.

Restorative Justice (RJ) is, in theory, based on discipline that is victim centered with focus on offender accountability.  Trained facilitators in RJ procedures are supposed to bring together the victim and the victimizer to help the perpetrator understand the negative effects of their actions.  Discipline is itself supposed to be a positive experience.  In reality rules and responsibilities are being assailed.  Punishment in its true meaning is turned into a negative and an opportunity for acceptance and redemption is removed.

Restorative Justice involves a stepped up process that gives the offender multiple infractions before any real discipline is dispensed (if ever).   Discipline starts small and escalates with each occurrence.  These are the practices that created the Parkland shooter.   Those who could do something did not.  Problems were minimized and ignored until 17 young people were murdered.

My guess is the two boys who assaulted Mr. Weed at the fair, escaped a lot of “meaningful” discipline from Frederick County Public Schools.   Rumors of their school behavior do not paint a pretty picture.

FCPS will be quick to blame the parents of the two assailants who surely bear some responsibility.  However, I’ll wager FCPS does not have clean hands.

If you want to know how hard it is to discipline a student at FCPS, take a look at their Regulation 400-08.  “After exhausting positive behavior interventions and supports provided by school personnel, the following consequences will occur [emphasis added].”  Sadly for some victims of bullies, discipline never happens.  Sometimes the victim is forced to change schools while the bully gets to remain in his home school with his friends.   Often schools are terrorized by the same student or students until they graduate, drop out or get incarcerated.

Teachers report students have threatened other students and staff and have been returned immediately to the classroom.  Parents have reported their child has been assaulted on Tuesday and the offender is still in school on Wednesday.

Why?

Check back on Thursday, December 19 for Part II and “Why”?



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