Houston School Board Refuses To Ban Suspensions


Despite the fact that school boards across the country have banned school suspensions, Texas has yet to join the growing trend. Five Houston ISD school board members voted to keep school suspensions as a last resort for teachers who are “deal(ing) with kids who they can’t contain” in pre-kindergarten through second grade classrooms. The rejected plan also included provisions for a team of specialists and $2 million in classroom management training for HISD teachers.

In lieu of the ban, HISD decided to retain school suspensions of second grade and under students as a “last resort.” Of 2,673 reported disciplinary incidents during the 2014-2015 school year, 87 percent involved youth considered to be economically disadvantaged or at risk, and 84 percent were male. 70 percent of the youth disciplined with suspension were African-American even though black youths comprise only 25 percent of the HISD student body.

The school board’s initial proposal was laudable. It proposed the suspension ban as a positive approach to deescalating conflict in classrooms. It called for more accountability and more disciplinary data in an effort to develop school-specific annual plans to reduce misbehavior and rectify inequities. Encouragingly, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier called for a more empathetic approach to discipline, saying, “We understand better now than we ever have before how exposure to early adversity affects the developing brains and bodies of children. We must take a hard look at how we are handling these issues to ensure we’re not contributing to an already stressful situation for these students.” Furthermore, schools with lower suspension rates have been found to have higher achievement rates and narrowed achievement gaps, while schools with higher suspension rates see the opposite effect.

The school board’s decision was not without dissent. Other board members and teachers voiced opposition to suspension. HISD Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones called suspension an “ineffective” deterrent. Voicing concern for students at-risk for the school-to-prison pipeline, she said, “They go home. There’s nothing at home for them. They come back and it’s even worse. I cannot vote for continuing to perpetuate the pipeline to prison, not just for African-American children, but for any child.”

A similar article appeared earlier this week on Houston Public Media.

Finally, some Female Leads any Girl can look up to


In the past year films with female leads, not solely based on romance, made a splash in the box office. With films like the Hunger Games and Divergent series it is easy to see why. Young girls are finally receiving real role models they can look up to. The female leads in these films are there because they need to be, not because the male lead needs someone to make out with during a scene. The female leads add value to the story and without them there is no story. Yes, they have some romantic connections in the films, but that is not their sole purpose in the film.

Disclaimer:  I have not seen Frozen yet and therefore can’t add that to my impression of female lead films, but I have heard great things about it and its value for young girls. It is refreshing to see that girls serve a bigger purpose than to be the arm candy for the superhero in many of these films. These female leads are superheroes themselves and kick ass. They are smart, thoughtful, cunning, and ambitious.

In Hollywood where a ghastly low number of speaking parts in films are female, it is not surprising that Hunger Games: Catching Fire was the first film with a female lead, without a male co-lead, to top the domestic box office that year since The Exorcist in 1973. When I first heard that statistic I thought that had to be wrong, there had to be plenty of great female lead films in last 40 years. And there were, but all of them had a male co-lead. It is arguable that Jennifer Lawrence did have a male co-lead, but nothing compared to other films.

The great thing about these films is that they gave birth to female stars that are wonderful role models as well. Jennifer Lawrence is Today’s It Girl and she is known for her realistic attitude about women’s bodies, style, and ambition. She made the Pixie cut a fad. I am thankful that she and other women are making a splash at the box office and showing not only Hollywood production companies, but the world that female lead films can not only make money, but break the box office while still being great role models for younger female generations. Girls today can look up to Katniss and Tris, which I think is a lot better than looking up to Cinderella, a girl who gets all made up just to find a Prince.

Put the Phone Down!


My teenage brother seems to be addicted to his phone. He single handedly, increased my parent’s cell phone bill by $100 last month because he went over their data plan. I remember growing up when we were at the dinner table my younger sister would be texting away and my mom relentlessly tried to get the phone out of her grasp.

Children today are addicted to their phones and they certainly are not the only ones. It is difficult to remember the last time I went to dinner with a friend and neither of us checked our phones. Technology is leading our children to not know how to communicate with others. Just last week I was in a meeting with someone who said he was uncomfortable networking because he grew up communicating via text and social media. He felt incapable of communicating and networking in person.

I don’t mean to sound like my Nana when she would tell me about how when she was a kid she had to walk hundreds of miles through hurricanes, sharknados, hail, and whatever else can fall from the sky on her way to school. This is a real issue. Communication is not obsolete in the business world. Once these children are adults they will need to know how to interview, network, and have day to day conversations in the work place. Communication purely through texting and social media is stunting their growth. So, kids, please put the phone down! You will need to know how to communicate someday soon.