Students barred from after-hour activities for poor grades or bad attitudes—yea, it’s about time

 By WINNIE HU Published in The New York Times: April 4, 2008CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. — Like a bouncer at a nightclub, Melissa Gladwell was parked at the main entrance of Cheektowaga Central Middle School on Friday night, with a list of 150 names highlighted in yellow marker, the names of students barred from the after-hours games, crafts and ice cream because of poor grades or bad attitudes.      Kenny Carthon, 13, a seventh grader at Cheektowaga Central Middle School waits as his teacher is called and asked about his eligibility status. “You’re ineligible,” Ms. Gladwell, a sixth-grade teacher, told one boy, who turned around without protest. “That happens. I think they think we’re going to forget.”     In a far-reaching experiment with disciplinary measures reminiscent of old-style Catholic schools or military academies, the Cheektowaga district this year began essentially grounding middle school students whose grade in any class falls below 65, or who show what educators describe as a lack of effort.     Such students — more than a quarter of the 580 at the school as of last week — are excluded from all aspects of extracurricular life, including athletic contests, academic clubs, dances and plays, unless they demonstrate improvement on weekly progress reports filled out by their teachers.      The policy is far stricter than those at most high schools, which generally have eligibility requirements only for varsity sports teams. It is part of a larger campaign to instill more responsibility in young adolescents in this town of 80,000 on the outskirts of Buffalo. Starting this week, the students also automatically get detention on any day they fail to wear their identification cards; 13 were punished on the first day of the new policy and 14 the second, including several repeaters.     And there are social rules that govern nearly every minute of the day, from riding the bus to using the bathroom, as part of a program known as “positive behavioral interventions and supports.” Students are required to keep to the right of the dotted yellow line down the middle of hallways. They are assigned seats in the cafeteria and must wait for a teacher to call them up to get food. If enough students act up or even litter, they all risk a declaration of “silent lunch” in the cafeteria.     “I’d like to go to a normal school,” said Anthony Pachetti, 12, a seventh grader who has been barred from activities for failing math, science and social studies. “It’s not doing anything for me except taking everything away.”  Read more.—Perhaps Liberty, Eldred and a few other schools across the state with riotous student populations could benefit.

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