Nashville Minority Students Who Disrupt Class Don’t Get Traditional Punishment


Traditional methods of punishing public school students who act out in class oppress blacks and Latinos, according to a New York City-based education official who defends a much softer way of teaching them discipline.

That person, Kesi Foster, said as much in a scholarly journal in 2015.

And that’s the same soft approach members of the Metro Nashville Public School System use for their own minority students.

As The Tennessee Star reported this week, Nashville officials use this method, Positive and Safe Schools Advancing Greater Equity, or PASSAGE for short.

But, as of Friday, those same Nashville officials had yet to describe precisely how they discipline minority students under this program. Metro Nashville Schools’ spokeswoman Dawn Rutledge had yet to respond to our requests for comment. Members of the Metro Nashville School Board also had yet to respond.

Much of the material available online about PASSAGE is long on jargon and short on specifics.

But the same scholarly journal Foster wrote for, Voices in Urban Education, seems to give some insight as to how school officials in other cities administer PASSAGE.

Christopher Marti, a Denver-based middle school science teacher, seems to say he and colleagues take a more politically correct approach with their classroom’s constant troublemakers.

“When we encounter incidents of behavior in need of redirection, we first seek to warmly redirect. If behaviors continue or are at the point of needing a pause or removal from the classroom, students are asked to take a break and complete a refocus form,” Marti wrote.

“We use a buddy teacher’s classroom as a place to provide a temporary break from the environment and invite an opportunity to reflect. The form consists of a series of five questions designed to help students use empathy, think about what happened, and take responsibility for making things right.”

Those five questions, according to Marti:

• What happened? Who was affected?

• What are you able to take responsibility for?

• What could you have done differently in this situation?

• What are you willing to do to make things right?

“Before returning to class, the buddy teacher or original teacher has a quick processing conversation to assess the student’s readiness to return to class,” Marti wrote.

“If the quality of their thinking demonstrates a thorough, empathetic reflection, they are ready to rejoin the learning environment.”

This refocus process, however, does not guarantee these students won’t repeat the same behavior, Marti said.

Foster, meanwhile, said that during the 2013-2014 school year black students in New York City represented 26 percent of the student population, but accounted for 53 percent of all students who were suspended and 61 percent of all students who were arrested in school.

“The lived experiences of the students that continue to be pushed out complete that picture. Black, Latina/o, LGBT, non-gender-conforming students, and students with disabilities are having a vastly different experience with school discipline than their cis-gendered white peers,” Foster wrote.

According to information on the Metro Nashville School System’s website, Nashville participates in PASSAGE along with the three largest school districts in the country: New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “MTPS School Bus” by MTPS.




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4 Thoughts to “Nashville Minority Students Who Disrupt Class Don’t Get Traditional Punishment”

  1. voncile

    “” Nashville participates in PASSAGE along with the three largest school districts in the country: New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.””
    Well Hells-Bells, them two lines right there should tell you everything you need to know about the success of the great ‘PASSAGE’ program.

  2. Pissed Off Nashvillian

    And they can’t understand why Nashville schools lack qualified teachers.

  3. Habu

    The last time I checked if a person was treated differently because of their skin color that was called racism??? How about we forget about the skin color. Programs such as this perpetuate racism. What do you think the
    “non people of color” are going to think when they are not treated the same as their dark skinned classmates? Here’s a new concept – – – TREAT EVERYONE THE SAME. RESPECT EACH INDIVIDUAL. DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY FROM EVERYONE. This isn’t rocket science, it’s called common sense and TEACHING.

  4. Rick

    These individuals will be on the local news soon after they are out of school for committing crimes and whatever crime they commit they will not be prosecuted .For the same reason as no discipline in school. We are creating a society of individuals that have no respect for authority of any kind.