Sunday, June 19, 2011

Disruptive Kids in Private School

I've been reading this thread at DC Urban Moms with a great deal of interest:  Curious -- are there several disruptive children in your kid's class, by chance?  Notice that this is a private school forum!

I'm interested in the number of commenters chiming in that they've seen an unusual number of disruptive kids in their private or parochial schools.  Why is this?

One reason is that in the recession, private schools are struggling to keep up their enrollment, and misfit kids who might have been counseled out in the past are being strung along today.   I'm sure this is a factor at Natural Friends. 

The teachers at private schools are generally accustomed to working with "easy" kids -- bright, verbal, compliant types.  It's one of the perks of working at a private school, to make up for the lousy pay.  So they are ill-equipped to deal with difficult kids.

Mostly, the school tries to offload the problem onto the parents.  But really, how much can parents do about this?  We can tell our child, "don't be disruptive at school!"  but that's not likely to have much effect.  Sometimes schools want parents to punish their child for bad behavior at school, which I think is a particularly crummy idea.  The kid just feels that everyone is ganging up on him.   And it's very unlikely that an elementary-school kid will think to himself "I'd better sit still and be quiet because my parents might take away TV time later."  If they were capable of that much forethought and self-control, they wouldn't be difficult kids in the first place.

And finally, the place I go to first, while it apparently doesn't occur to most others, is -- how much of this is caused by the school itself?  Are the kids disruptive because they're bored or frustrated or being told to sit still all day?  Are the school's demands reasonable or unreasonable?  How could the school change what it does to help kids behave better?  Are there large numbers of disruptive kids because school has become a bad fit for more and more kids?

I agree with this comment:

A major part of this problem is that schools are not designed to meet the developmental needs of young boys (and many girls). These children are labeled as behavior problems or worse because the expectations are not developmentally appropriate.

I could almost have written this comment myself:

Sometimes it's the school's fault.

My oldest son went to a very nice private school last year. He is 2E. We were very clear with them about his needs (language disorder) and his strengths (profoundly gifted in math and spatial reasoning). The school assured us that they could accommodate both his delay and his giftedness.

They were mistaken. They didn't have the slightest idea how to deal with a child like this. He was bored and disruptive. They knew how to work with smart kids, but they've never had a profoundly gifted kid. They had very little experience with language disorders. Conferences did nothing to correct the situation. They refused to follow the advice of our psychologist on how to deal with the boredom and the bad behavior. They refused to follow the advice of our speech therapist on how to redirect him so that he could understand what the correct social behavior is. It was a disaster of a year.

I'm very sure that our family was the subject of a great deal of negative gossip by other parents and that my son was characterized as a bad influence and my parenting skills were described as poor. We're aware. We were working out butts off, though, with no understanding from the school community. Horrible people.

This comment gives me hope:

Our ADHD child was "weeded" out from a school mentioned on this thread.
The school made the right decision.
Long story short, DC was diagnosed with an ASD the following year. Now, at yet another new school, it's amazing how the disruptive behavior has all but disappeared once we got the right "fit."

I hope we can also find the right fit for Younger Daughter.

P.S. I have a friend whose kids attend a fancy private school. She's concerned about the way that boys are "culled" (her word!) from the classes. By the time they're in middle school, the classes are about 1/4 boys, instead of 1/2. The boys won't sit still, so they're counseled out.


  1. I went to private schools. One observation I hear frequently when people talk about public vs. private schools, is that private schools have an advantage in that they can kick the disruptive kids out.

    In the private schools I went to, there were certainly disruptive kids. Some were expelled, if I recall correctly this usually was for breaking the law in some way.

    Something happened after I left that school, and my sister was still there. One of the administrators wanted to suspend some that they would miss graduation. The parents threatened to sue....and guess what, no suspension.

    You are right in that, if a private school decdes to kick someone out they definitely have to think about the economic consequences.

  2. And finally, the place I go to first, while it apparently doesn't occur to most others, is -- how much of this is caused by the school itself?

    can't say I didn't see that!

    Happy 1st birthday to your blog!

  3. Dang! Is today the 1st birthday? I'd better post something!

  4. Today's the first birthday? Oh, my! I remember all these discussions, as we transitioned from Stop Homework. I hope people still check into that blog from time to time too.

    Happy First Birthday, Fed Up. Love your blog. Go have a drink. It's on me. You deserve it!