Alternative School or Prison

by

Wafeeq Sabir, Ph.D

Throughout my career as an educator and my experiences traveling domestic and overseas, I see that many public alternative schools operate under prison-like conditions. I do not totally disagree with the discipline and structure needed in many of these schools but what our children must understand is that by attending these schools, they are subconsciously preparing themselves for prison. Due to the often ill-tempered nature of some students and those with mental health issues, administrators of alternative schools feel as if they have no other choice in the structuring of the school environment. I often tell students that because society views many of you as violent, aggressive, or out of control, you signal to society that it is okay to place you in an institution of semi-confinement when you cannot maintain self-control. Where else in our American society do we search, restrict movement and speech, and marched to and from locations, prison. I suggest too many of these students to take back their freedoms. One’s freedom should not be a privilege, it is a fundamental right. The primary way of maintaining one’s freedom is to never place yourself in situations where you have to forfeit it. I also challenge students in alternative schools to put these schools out of business by not returning.

35 comments:

Mus'B'Nyce said...

life for some is what it is. regardless to the the decision to place an individual in an alternative school, the "ULTIMATE DECISION" to do right lies within that invidual. not some predisposed idea that the enviorment off alternative school sets one up for "the slammer". wut is there to be said about those who dont take that route. are they lucky. blessed. oppertunistic. who's to say?

Robert Fugate said...

i couldnt agree with you more that it would be nice to put the alternative school's of the map but when do the parents take responsability for there childs actions and teach them that it's not ok or cool to be a menace to society

Anonymous said...

RoseBre
I agree with what you say, but these children have to wan't to change for the better. Because if society is only showing them that this is pretty much the only place for them, as well as maybe their home life why would they want to change? if that's all they know. It's gonna be up to the parents to implement change. Children Lead by example.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

ygo2slow said...

I agree with you on the subject. I believe that it starts in the home with the parents, however, it is hard for parents now to compete with the world. Society Is geared to destroy family structure. Parents have to work two jobs, come home tired and the kids turn to the T.V. or music instead of mom or dad. They see the rap stars with the sagging pants (also from the prison system, because in jail they take your belt) so not only are these alternative schools gearing them for prison, our alternative world is as well.

Anonymous said...

This is a really good point and well written article. I never thought about it being so similar to prison but you bring up good similarities. It really makes you wonder how different the world would be if it wasn't like that. If everything was more open and people were allowed to be more creative and open with their speech. The best solution is probably for someone to try it and show the results. Maybe if there was a school that did what you said, we could see how much better off the students are and others would do the same thing. Great article.

-Gulcihan M.

Cynthia Robertson said...

As a parent of children who have experienced alternative school, I feel that they do a decent job of turning some of these children around. Although the conditions may be described as prison-like, as in real prison, some will embrace the punishment and vow to never go through this experience again,and some will go through it over and over again. In my experience, the children who would be sent to alternative school more than once were visably obstinate and unwilling to change. The ones who would use the time as the punishment it was intended to be, were compliant and completed their time there on time or even early.
Public schools have been on the decline since they took prayer and corporal punishment out of the classroom. I know that the threat of licks from the "board" made me think twice about misbehaving. I don't condone child abuse, but there were no alternative schools when I was in school. Maybe if children were taught self-control and discipline early in life instead of being allowed to be "expressive",the nature of the alternative school would change.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree; but sadly I must say that society has contributed by accepting such set structure in alternative schools. I myself went to an alternative school for a few months and although I was there as a volunteer and not mandated it was a good experience for me. Being in a small class environment helped me pick up my grades having a small class and the availability of the 1:1 teacher student makes a difference. Aside from having to deal with the metal detectors and wanding at the entrance along with the loss of other privileges everything was okay (for me) I like structure it helps me function. Although not everyone is the same nor do they come from the same family household environment. That is what makes the difference and most people don’t seem to understand that! Many say that it is up to the parents to lead my example and take responsibility for their kids behavior; well have they ever stopped to think that maybe that is what they are being thought at home and that many of the kids that act out are not just trying to be a menace to society but are looking for, and asking for help. For someone to care and be that positive role model in their life to help that make the changes needed to be successful in life and break the ongoing cycle that that are living at home.

v.s.

Coyote Fugly said...

I think the only difference between alternative schooling and standard public education is the dose, either option is just used to keep minors off the street. Though I do see the necessity of an education, I also see a very forced institutionalized way of relaying information to youth.

Certainly there must be a better method of teaching our youth, Japan has a very institionalized education system, but their culture highly focuses on proper education, but because of their culture, I feel in general this works very well. (probably the improved family conditions)

America however glamorizes the stupidity of our culture, institutionalized doesn't work well for us, but I feel a self paced atmosphere, with dead lines for the average and no glass-ceilings for the intellectually endowed student (such as myself) would work wonders here.

But I digress,
you have some very interesting blogs I look forward to respond to more.

EC said...

I was placed in an alternative school (JJAEP in Dallas, TX) when I was only 14. I know what I did was wrong and should have been punished for what I did, but why is it that out of the four kids who were pulled aside for the mishap, I was punished the worst?? They all got sent to the local alternative school that the local ISD ran...not me. I got sent to a school with kids who brought guns, knives, drugs and who had even killed fellow students FFA animals at schools. I might not have been the best student but I was nowhere near as bad as the kids were (which in my opinion, I believe this was a cry for help for most of them. After talking with some of them they just wanted someone to listen. Who doesn’t want someone to listen from time to time?). I was sentenced to 90 days at JJAEP by a judge. My parents didn’t drop me off. A bus came and picked me up at my front door. We had uniforms we wore and weren’t allowed to take or bring anything to school. When you arrived you were greeted by razor wire fences, metal detectors and over 8 hours of silence since you weren’t allowed to talk. You got searched after you crossed through the detectors and were placed in lines before being escorted to your classroom. Your classroom was a big room filled with other students your age and gender. Desk lined the walls with dividers up around you so you couldn’t see each other. The teacher’s desk was in the middle of the room. You were handed your school work but not told what or how to do it. Hell, they never even made you do it. They didnt care if you fell behind or not. They were there to collect a pay check. Most of the time the stupid teacher was on her phone, watching her mini TV or reading a book. You only got a chance to go to the bathroom when they told you and you never got up from your desk until it was time to leave (which again you were taken by bus, searched and said goodbye to by the razor wire fence). There were fights everyday and I cant recall a day that a chair didnt fly by my head as someone chunked it at another student. This is only a few things that went on at this school because I choose to leave the rest as a haunting memory in my mind. My parents eventually pulled me out of this school after showing up one day unannounced and were greeted by the horror they saw (Plus i had been in there longer then i was suppose to). My parents and I went back to court and faced the judge who sentenced me. My parents and I pleaded my case and I was released never to return to any public school again. I did graduate through homeschooling and now I’m in college. It was a lesson learned but no kid should be "trained" for prison. Its just not right. They have other programs and ways to teach kids they did wrong. yes, you won’t help or change every kid, but the amount of kids that do change and see the light is greater than you'd think. I changed and gave my time to teach others and just listen. Now I feel better knowing I changed a life. EC

Joel English said...

I agree, and if the kids are bad enough then they have to send them somewhere, but being almost as hard as it would be in a prison would not seem to be legal for the school

Donald Tran said...

Alternative School or Prison? I would choose neither. I would like to try an experiment, only if it was possible though. Taking away young students freedom for one day. Try putting every student, bad or good, in a maximum security prison for a day and no they don't all go together. Just one student at a time, so they know no one. I think most young students that have just start causing trouble but haven't got caught up yet would rethink once they experience that. Leaving them in prison one full day, after a day they will feel very eager that they are out of prison and won't want to return.

Anonymous said...

Alternative School or Prison..

Depending on the situation, if children are acting out at such a young age something is really going on with them at home. Their life must not be what it should be whether it is discipline, abuse, not loved and they could have some mental issues. If alternative schools are “Prison Like” that’s a sad situation, I do believe in tough love but I think if we are spending so much money in other countries why don’t we put some of that money back and educate, counsel and help our own youth. Some parents have lost the ability to discipline because our system has taught them to call “CPS” for any little thing or they’re not fit to raise children but continue to have them. Please I was told I may discipline my child in the manner I want, as long as I leave no bruises/blood. The parents have to take Control as babies, teach them respect first and foremost, that’s a must in my home especially “YES MAM, NO MAM.” I’m a single mom and have worked two jobs, plus college which is NO excuse to allow my children to act in a different manner but to respect. Which teaches them when they are in society how to act and respect others. My belief is if they are raised right at Home we wouldn’t have all the problems in society today.
Carmen Lujan

Elira Sulejmani said...

I do agree with your opinion of alternative schools, however, in certain circumstances, I do believe alternative schools are very beneficial. Many of my classmates in New Jersey were sent to alternative schools because they were fighting, skipping classes, being disruptive, constantly being suspended and so on. After attending alternative schools about 80% of them became "rehabilitated" and were able to attend regular school. The start was very difficult for them and they started off worse, but after a while the militant style of these alternative schools whipped them into shape. The other 20%, however, became even more hostile and disruptive. They could not live shackled or in a sense "imprisoned." It truly all depends on the student.
-Elira Sulejmani

DJOHN said...

Alternative school in my opinion is a very structured institution. In many ways it can be compared to juvenile correction system. I have a cousin that was this year placed in an alternative education program, they were not allowed to take backpacks, they where not allowed to where undershirts or shorts under there pants. I believe in some instances alternative education can be helpful or is necessary in the discipline of students.but too often are there extremes in these environments where as students are not allowed to move without permission or express themselves through speech. I also agree with Dr. Sabir that these institutions will only exist as long as our youth allows.

Anonymous said...

Marie07

I agree with your statement to encourage our youth from becoming comfortable with this type of treatment. Some student do benefit from the structure they lack from home. I also have worked in the public school system for 6 years and yes some of our youth are angry and others misguided but I always try to open up to them and show them that I care. Sometimes, that was all the kids needed to have someone no matter who care for them. For many teens the structure given at an alternative school is more than what they get from home. So in a way some of the students attending these types of alternative schools may feel that this is a sign to them that the system cares.

Joel ENglish said...

I agree totally with trying to put thise schools out of business, and for these kids and young adults not going back to these schools. But I do believe that some of these kids and young adults need to go to schools like this so that they can get a reality check, and to show them that the direction they are heading in their lives is not where they need to be going. Educating these kids and young adults in schools like these and disiplining these people are some of the many steps that have to be taken in order to atempt to get these people back on the right track, because it is our responsibility as community to help these people regardless if people agree or disagree with it.

Ryncko said...

I feel that these children are being let down first and foremost at home. The brunt of the responsibility of what these children do should fall on the parents. Through child abuse policies while occasionally necessary have taken the control out of the parents hands for fear of being turned in. While I was growing up all the parents on the street had the right to inform my parents when I messed up and my parents punished me, not through beatings but discipline. When you don't hold children accountable from the beginning should you really be shocked that by the time they are teens they are out of control and respect no one and nothing.

da40pilot said...

I think that those of us who are a little older and can remember that alternative schools had a bad name. These schools now actually try to rehabilitate the kids. This is a better option for these young people than going to prison where they become professional criminals.

Sobe OZ said...

I'm not so sure if kids really see these schools how they are supposed too. My husbands nephew had to go and it seems like he's going on the same track. On the other hand it might be like a prison where people just keep coming back and don't learn their lesson the first time. However, this all has to do with the parent and discipline at home. Parents have alot to do with their childs outcome in life, and not being involved how they are supposed to lead to these criminals. Sometimes!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you on this. Alternative school really not a way to starighten up a kid. But maybe it can be part of it but it is like a prison. They have to wear the same clothing, line up in a line in order and this does seems like as if you are in a prison. I think if parents step up and look after their kids then we shouldn't have much problems. Education is very crucial and when parents puts these rules for kids maybe they will stay out of trouble. Parents can even have activities for thenm like get them involved in sports at school and have some activitis where the kid enjoys it and likes to go to school. This way they will be busy and stay out of trouble. Nida Raja.

samgotups07 said...

I also think this is awesome, very well thought. That is a great point to make, to put the alternative schools out of business by not returning. And also to stop giving up there fundamental rights and take what has been given to them. Live life to the fullest and stop giving it up to schools and prisons.

Dayone said...

Our children should not place themselves in situations where they jepordize their education or freedom. We as parents must help our children realize the importance of the choices they make. The choices our children make start with our choices, you cannot tell your child not to do something if you are doing it. We as parents must lead by example.

RubenR said...

I think these schools are there for a reason. like prisons they are too keep the type of people we deem not fit for society out of our society. You say that we should put these schools out of business but i would like to see you send your kids to school with the newly released aggressive, out of control kids that will now fill the class room.

-Ruben Rico

Andrea said...

I agree. Life is about choices. To not be counted as a negative statistic and placed in alternative school/prison children should make more positive choices.
Andrea W.

Val Davila said...

Great view! I understand that some children/young adults, commit crimes, however, I'm not totally convinced that alternative school or juvenile detention is the best answer! I would love to see these children do community service for the people/places for whom/where they commit the crimes. For example, graffiti done on a place of business, have the child paint the wall or better yet the whole business. Sometimes when a child is having to make a wrong into a right, the lesson is best learned by hard work. The memory of the hard work will serve as a reminder!

Purvi said...

This is a very good thing to talk about. However I don't believe that young adults should be able to commit a crime and still be able to go to an alternative school to become a "better" person. Unless children or young adults committing a crime learn by doing some kind of charity work or even some time in jail/juvenile detention. I strongly believe that putting an alternative school out of business is a good idea just because weather being in a regular school or an alternative school it's not going to change the mind of a person to commit a crime or not to commit the crime. In my opinion I think prison is a better way for someone to learn from their right and wrongs then to put them back in the same place they were before which is school.

Lisa B said...

I definitely agree with your last challenge statement to the children. However I must say that these students behave in this manner partially because of the way they are treated as children. For example, if a child is consistently told he is bound to end up in prison some day whether he excels or fails based on his socioeconomic status and racial identity, he may revert to behavior that will institutionalize him just because of the old saying "damned if i do, damned if i don't". I believe the school system isolates certain groups of students that they expect to act in this manner, and treats them in a way that encourages them to perform the very behavior the school discourages in the first place.
I don't agree with "prison-like" conditions for children, and like you said, it only prepares them for prison time. In addition to this, a child who is a little disruptive, but is not doing anything serious, is thrown into a network of other teens that are disobeying authority often to a much greater extent. This exposure can cause the only slightly disobedient youth to go down a much darker path by helping him relate to these other kids through the common ground of imprisonment.
Social Psychology MW 5:30PM TCCSE

Broderick Eggins said...

I'm glad that you touch on this subject. I use to work for transportation for fort Worth ISD and I use to drive "alternative" students to their school. The things I seen how they treat students it is no wonder why the students act the way they do. You treat them like prison, they will act like inmates.

Wyatt said...

I think that a child's home life and family is a big part of how they act in and feel about school or classes. what they get from listening to their family and people from their neighborhood it's just instilled in them that cretin things are not important so they see just give up and in some cases they do correlate alternative school with jail thinking that once they get back to regular school they see it as a way to get respect from other classmates.

Anonymous said...

Hardik P said...

I think it is perfectly okay to put children in alternative schools if they don't know how to behalf like all the other children in the school. But alternative school shouldn't be like prison as what Dr.Sabir said.

Tralena Watson said...

Tra'Lena Watson

I feel as though just because you are in an alternative school doesnt mean you are a bad person just some one that has made bad choices. But it is up to us as an society to not put ourselves in these positions were our freedom is in a way taken away to a certain degree. Because freedom to me is a right but society in my eyes think it is a previelege.

Anonymous said...

It never accured to me that the young people in Alternative Schools were subconsciously preparing themselves for prison. I always just looked at Alternative Schools as controlled or regimented environments. Something more like the bootcamp or the military. A place for the young people to get focused and discipline. However, I never have visited an Alternative School, so I really don't know what it is like. But it would be nice, if the students would cease to offer them business. This would mean that everyone is behaving in an acceptable manner. AC - TCC/SOC

CSP said...

I think your onto something with the fact that they are told for so long that they are believed to be "violent, aggresive, or out of control", if young people are subconsciously understanding this is whats expected of them, well, why not fulfill it?

Anonymous said...

The situation with alternative schooling is unfortunate. The situation with regular public schooling is also very unfortunate. Kids are being failed on every level in our schools. Schools need to get more creative about the way they serve the students. There are more ways to achieve success besides the current unsuccessful way. Citizens should get more involved and try to fill in the blanks that alternative schools and troubled homes leave. This way at least more kids have an opportunity to receive the crucial guidance they may not get at home.