(This column is written by San Leandro High School English teacher Jerry Heverly. Last week he addressed a policy at the Fred T. Korematsu 9th Grade campus: checking for the IDs that students are supposed to wear on lanyards around their necks. Today he revisits the topic in a column that is a slightly edited version of an email that he sent to fellow faculty.)
On the ninth grade campus we have been conducting daily “lanyard checks.”
The administration has organized it efficiently so that once a day each teacher gets a roster of a different period. Our instructions are to check each student to see if they have their ID’s affixed to a lanyard that is around their necks.
No lanyard around the neck? I highlight their name on the roster.
No ID? I highlight their name on the roster.
Each student highlighted on my roster gets a detention from the school.
Each time I check I hear howls of pain from those cited.
I get pleas:
- “Look, Mr. Heverly, my ID is broken. It won’t stay on my lanyard.”
- “I lost my ID during lunch.”
- “I’m a new student. I’ve only been at this school a few weeks. I don’t have an ID yet.”
There are procedures for all these situations that a diligent student could take advantage of.
But few, if any, avail themselves of the procedures.
After a couple weeks of doing this intensive process there has been virtually no change in the number of students without lanyards/ID’s in my classroom.
When we started this program I had about twenty-five percent of my students highlighted.
Now, after about a dozen checks, I have about twenty percent of my students highlighted every day.
This violates my own notion of common sense.
I keep thinking that the pain of the detention will compel virtually every student to get with the program.
But, from my perspective, that isn’t what’s happening.
I’ve asked a few colleagues here at the Fred T. Korematsu campus about their own experience with the lanyard checks.
A small number said they refuse to do the checks.
Mostly, though, other teachers tell me that they have the same six to eight highlighted names each period.
The administration, seeking some laudable end (a safe campus, for instance) hands down a rule.
Teachers interpret the rule according to their own classroom situation:
- For some this means ignoring the rule.
- For others it means interpreting the implementation.
- One teacher might announce a coming lanyard check so that students can hurriedly take them out of backpacks and back pockets.
- Another checks at the door, catching unsuspecting students before they can sit down.
But what really intrigues me is, what if no amount of punishment will ever persuade students to comply?
There are only so many things a school can do to gain obedience.
The ultimate punishment at our place is “in house suspension.” Offenders spend a day sitting quietly in a kind of study hall.
For many of my students a day of in house suspension is a reasonable price to pay for dispensing with the dreaded lanyard.
I’m assuming that not wearing the thing becomes a way of self-identifying as a rebel.
My suspicion is that this lanyard war cannot be won.
Some in the public, reading this, will see this as confirmation that we can’t manage our own house.
The students gradually learn that the tiger is toothless.
And, maybe most insidious, the faculty is fractured between strict disciplinarians and progressives.
Read other columns from the Entirely Secondary archive.
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