In Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School, a student was sent to the principal’s office for disciplinary measures. While most teachers are used to just sending kids to detention, this encounter ended quite differently. It will make you think how far proper communication can take you, and how it affects one’s character.
He wore a hat in class when it was prohibited to do so.
He was forced to have a conversation with the deans for half an hour until they were left with no choice but to send him to the principal’s office.
Principal Jason Smith had to intervene and was asked to deescalate the situation. When people think of intervention, they’d find ways to punish and discipline.
Smith, however, chose to treat the student with dignity and respect.
Instead of reprimanding him, he talked to him. He said in his interview with the local news station:
“I sat across from him and asked, ‘What’s wrong? Why are you being defiant, why are you refusing to take your hat off? It’s a pretty simple request,’” Smith said. “And he explained that his parents took him to get a haircut and he didn’t like the results.”
The student explained that he wasn’t being defiant just because he wanted to.
He was wearing a beanie after his haircut had gone a bit awry. Understanding that appearance is an important aspect in adolescence, Smith decided not to be a principal for a moment.
Instead of putting the student out of school for something he didn’t do, Smith offered an alternative:
“I told him, ‘Look, I’ve been cutting hair since I was your age,’ and I showed him pictures of my son’s haircuts that I did and some of me cutting hair in college. And I said, ‘If I run home and get my clippers and fix your line, will you go back to class?’” Smith said. “He hesitated but then he said yes.”
The principal, going above and beyond his responsibilities, drove back home amidst the snowy weather. He almost didn’t make it back to school since the sidewalks and side streets weren’t cleared yet. Around the same time, Moore’s parents were called to get their consent.
Twanda Johnson, Moore’s mom, thought that the gesture was amazing.
She praised Smith for handling the situation with such thoughtfulness and care, and that the whole thing didn’t end up in a suspension.
Smith explained that he understood where Moore was coming from. Haircuts in the Black male culture, he explained, are very important. Looking your best and being sharp within the community is a cultural aspect.
After the haircut, Smith checked on Moore throughout the day.
He was glad that the boy is learning and that he didn’t have the hat anymore after the touch-up.
Smith shared that not everything should end In punishment and that instead of detentions, we should always look for ways to support school children.
“All behavior is communication and when a student is struggling, we need to ask ourselves what happened to this child instead of what’s wrong with the child,” Smith said. “What need is the child trying to get met and really, the future of urban education rests on that question.”
If Smith didn’t choose to listen, Moore would’ve missed a day of school and would mean missing out on the education he deserves.
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