Content pending...please check back in a few days. In the meantime, here is a letter to the editor which I wrote nearly 30 yrs ago regarding this subject.
Time Out is Nothing More Than Prison
Baraboo News Republic 9/23/89
To the News Republic:
I want to comment on the creation of a sol-called “Time Out” program in Reedsburg Middle School by Principal Jim Wieczorek, who is also responsible for the program at Webb High School. Wieczorek is quote in your Sept. 3 article as saying that variations of his program, this one which would be more accurately named “Solitary Confinement for Children,” are now in use at a number of schools around the country.
Administrators who support the creation of a prison system tactic in their own school do so because it gives them a way to avoid fulfilling the job they were hired to do. Your article referred to the fact that this policy of arrest, conviction and sentence to solitary confinement within “just 10 seconds” enables Mr. Wieczorek to avoid “using his valuable time disciplining students.” Just exactly what are his more important duties? I thought that the job of personally dealing with discipline was one of the main responsibilities of a principal. When did this change?
In reality, the disruptive student is often a sensitive and intelligent kid who is under tremendous pressure either at home or at school and any decent principal or teach will do what he can to extend help to him. (Teachers recently have come up with “assertive discipline” as their own euphemism for a less extreme way to avoid helping troubled kids.) By sending a child into solitary confinement- where he is then forced to fill out a “work-it-out sheet” which assumes the child’s “guilt” and which often has nothing to do with the usually complex reasons of why he is being disruptive- Mr. Wieczorek is going a long ways in insuring that what, given a little patience and dialogue, could be short-lived crisis in a kid’s life becomes instead the beginning of a major attitude problem which keeps him from ever learning how to get along with others. Of course, one could make the case that this is just preparing the child for the real world, where a “well adjusted” adult is increasingly defined by how well he can follow orders.
No one is forced to become a principal, and presumably if it proves too difficult he or she can decide to get out. I know of one who got tired of the discipline problem, returned to teaching with a big salary cut and is now a happy person. Kids, on the other hand, don’t have that option. I think that anyone involved in public education should know that helping the problem child is one of the main responsibilities of being a school principal, and that parents and teachers in Reedsburg should insist that it stay that way.
Wieczorek’s version of Time Out, which incidentally, is far different from what many teachers understand the phrase to mean, is a primitive conditioning program which tries to break the spirit of any normal child who fails to instantly conform his behavior to whatever least annoys the person in power. The impersonal nature of solitary confinement and its deeply demoralizing impact on many adults is why even prisons use it as a last resort. Combine this with the fact that what the teacher saw and what happened are often different, and you have a program which I think is a clear case of child abuse.
No one is forced to become a principal, and presumably if it proves too difficult he or she can decide to get out (I know of one who got tired of the discipline problem, returned to teaching with a big salary cut and is now a happy person.) Kids, on the other hand, don’t have that option. I think that anyone involved in public education should know that helping the problem child is one of the main responsibilities of being a school principal, and that parents and teachers in Reedsburg should insist that it stay that way.