Brevard County (Florida) Sheriff Wayne Ivey chose the county jail to make a passionate public statement about the deteriorating discipline in public schools and its catastrophic consequences last month. Flanked by law enforcement partners, school board chair Matt Susin, and 18th District State Attorney Phil Archer, Ivey needed urgent reform.
As it was his job,to keep schools safe from all forms of harm, “the clowns who continually disrupt our classrooms, our assemblies, with their bad behavior” had to change, Ivey said, and he pledges to be active in executing that change:
“Our teachers are distracted, they can’t do their jobs anymore, they’re spending more time dealing with children disrupting their class than they are in teaching those that came there to learn….As a result, we are losing teachers in mass order. Teachers that can no longer take having their class disrupted by these clowns. We are losing those that came here to passionately teach our students, that are passionate about teaching others.”
Ivey pointed to “the failure of school discipline policy” in Brevard County allowing a minority of students to repeatedly engage in class violence, disrupting lessons while attacking teachers physically and verbally. The sheriff said that teachers and principals were “handcuffed” regarding discipline, with excessive bureaucratic obstacles rendering the process to request disciplinary action slow, burdensome and ineffective.Ivey said he had witnessed chaotic student behavior while speaking at an anti-bullying assembly, noting that the disruptive students were not obviously unconcerned with possible consequences of their actions. “They’re not worried about getting in trouble, they know nothing’s going to happen to them, they’re not going to be given after school detention, they’re not going to be suspended, they’re not going to be expelled,” Ivey said. “Unlike the old days, they’re not going to have the cheeks of their ass torn off for not doing right in class.”
Now, he claimed, “school discipline is going to be put back in place in Brevard Public Schools.” Ivey said that he had the support of the school board, the teachers union, principals, the state attorney’s office, and school security.
Supposedly aggressive new policies in line with Ivey’s lament were proposed in a subsequent school board meeting on Dec. 13, but specific plans have yet to be released.
What Ivey described is a nationwide problem of long standing, and its getting worse. The current Department of Education has no intention of addressing it, and can be counted on to oppose the kinds of measure Ivey would favor. The school conditions he described are the reason my wife and I pulled our son out of Alexandria’s mega-school, Alexandria City High School more than ten years ago, Its name was changed from T. C. Williams High School in 2020 because the 30-year school superintendent hadn’t absorbed—in the 30s,40s and 50s—the wisdom of school integration before the rest of the nation and the US. Supreme Court had, and thus his significant contributions to the community and the school system obviously amounted to nothing; after all, a black lifetime petty criminal had died under the knee of a bad white Minneapolis cop.
But I digress. The corrosive and intellectually deficient idea that the “disparate impact” of school discipline on minority students meant that teachers could inflict virtually no discipline at all has metastasized into efforts to eliminate grades, standards, testing, and eventually education itself. The public schools’ mission is now more concentrated on race than the traditional “Three R’s.” Is that an exaggeration? The very first sentence on the Alexandria City High School website states that the school “places racial equity at the center of everything that we do as a school division.”
As well-intentioned as Ivey’s urgent address may have been, it would be hard to make more blunders if one were trying to accomplish something other than blowing off steam:
- Staging the speech in from of the jail was bonkers. The law enforcement system needs to stay out of the school discipline issue except in extreme episodes. Tying the two together walks right into the “school to prison pipeline” argument, which claims that school discipline must be all but eliminated.
- Do you see any Africa-Americans with the sheriff? Like it or not, school discipline is a racial issue. Without the support of the local NAACP and black community leaders, Ivey’s call for action is certain to be tarred as a racist ‘dog whistle.”
- Ivey’s nostalgia for the good old days when disrupting class resulted in a child’s ” cheeks of their ass torn off” disqualifies him completely. Corporal punishment in the schools was disgavored when I was a kid; longing for it now marks any official as a clueless barbarian, and, frankly, an idiot. This is the guy whose going to lead school reform?
Advocates for school discipline are right, but if they can’t do any better than this, they might as well just shut up and commit to private schools and home schooling. It is unethical to presume to address a crucial pubic policy issue, take the lead, and then botch it as badly as Sheriff Wayne Ivey did.