Lisa Love, the new principal of Harrisburg High School, made a bold move by issuing suspension notices to more than 500 of the 1,100 students at her school, leaving most to wonder what all of those teenagers could have possibly done do deserve the same punishment. Then, Love revealed the reason behind her shocking decision, leaving everyone stunned.
Love has only been the principal at Harrisburg since January, but she immediately noticed a concerning trend among the students who go to school there — most of them had racked up an alarming amount of unexcused absences from class.
“The problem I’ve noticed here as principal is that students are coming to school but they are not going to classes when they get here,” said Love. “Many parents send their kids to school and they’re thinking they’re going to class. I needed to reach out because of the enormous number not going to class.”
To remedy this, Love decided to suspend every single student who had an excessive amount of unexcused class absences. Assistant principal Keith Edmonds said the benchmark used to establish what constituted “excessive” absences, and thereby earned students a suspension, was 35 missed classes within a 45-day marking period. That number represents a week’s worth of missed classes or seven classes per day in a five-day week.
“Right now, the process is just to weed out where our issues are so that we can properly address them,” said Edmonds. Love agreed, saying, “If you’re not in class, all you’re here to do then is to wreak havoc upon the school and disrupt the work that we are trying to do here…to focus on student achievement.”
Love continued, “We don’t like to suspend,” adding, “I don’t even like talking about suspensions. But because we’re in a place where our school is a priority school, we need to send the message that we value education first.”
According to Western Journalism, Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney backed up Love’s decision to issue one-day suspensions to half of the students at Harrisburg, saying it should be a “wake-up call” to parents in a school district where the graduation rate is more than 30 percent lower than the statewide average.
“In order for us to get different results, we have to do something different,” said Knight-Burney. “We can’t do the same ol’ same ol’ and then complain about it when we’re getting the same ol’ results.” Indeed, that would be the definition of insanity.
In a demographic where the graduation rate is so low, the obvious culprit is a lack of parental involvement. It certainly sounds as though the mothers and fathers of the students at Harrisburg have no clue what exactly their children are doing all day long. Hopefully, all those suspensions served as the wake-up call they desperately needed.