Last week La Comadre received a report from a parent whose child who is enrolled at Palms Magnet Middle School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The administration at Palms Magnet Middle School was holding approximately a dozen students in detention with no instructional time and labelled the students as “ineligibles” because they have not met the requirements for 8th grade culmination.
Alex* had been a solid student until this year when she started to experience some mental health issues. These issues require therapy and medication, and Alex’s mom has been making every attempt to make sure that her school schedule and life remain as normal and routine as possible. Alex’s mom even obtained a Section 504 plan for her child, which is supposed to protect students with disabilities from discrimination and provide for accommodations for students so that they can access their educational program.
Putting children in detention and then labeling them as “ineligibles” does nothing to educate or nurture these students. Additionally, for students like Alex, who have a disability, this punitive action could be considered discriminatory. By denying students instruction and the opportunity to make up credits, Palms Magnet Middle School was humiliating and segregating the students. This action is the kind that fuels the school to prison pipeline and discourages children who are already experiencing difficulties from learning.
Alex had shared with her mom that she felt singled out and excluded, which is understandable being in a room with about 11 other students and being instructed to not talk to each other, while not receiving any instruction. The only breaks that students were given were for nutrition, lunch, and occasionally a bathroom break. School personnel used the term “ineligibles” to refer to these students, adding insult to the cruel treatment that they were receiving.
La Comadre advocates for high quality education for all students. What has transpired at Palms Magnet Middle School with the students who are not participating in the 8th grade culmination activities is contrary to the mission of LAUSD, which is to ensure academic achievement and empower tomorrow’s leaders. It is our hope that LAUSD acts swiftly to end these punitive detentions that do nothing to further the education of children who have struggled and who are behind in their work.
This incident at Palms Magnet Middle School can be a teachable moment for other schools in the district and anywhere in the U.S. on how not to address and engage with students who are not participating in culmination activities. Schools should inspire students and help them meet their goals without embarrassing them or discouraging them from continuing their education.
Parents whose children encounter unjust punishment like this should contact the school and go up through the chain of command requesting a teacher meeting, a meeting with the principal, the principal’s supervisor, and more. LAUSD has the Uniform Complaint Procedures if a school is not complying with applicable state and federal laws and regulations. Parents and students should feel that they can talk openly about punitive actions taken by their school and ask for help if any school personnel in a position of authority puts them down in direct ways such as labeling them as “ineligibles” and/or berating the students for not meeting the academic standards.
Alex’s mom shared that her child was even excluded from watching her classmates participate in the culmination ceremony, even though she wanted to cheer for her friends and offer support. Excluding these children from even attending the culmination ceremony does nothing to inspire these students who need extra help or even motivation to catch up. The children who were in detention should be able to witness their peers’ success, as it can influence them to reach their own goals.
*Note: A pseudonym for the student has been used to protect the child’s identity.
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