Memphis Academy for Health Sciences

Charter School Discipline: Memphis Academy for Health Sciences discipline practices questioned (WREG-TV, February 25, 2009)

Fast Facts:
  • Parents say Memphis Academy for Health Sciences disciplines unfairly
  • MAHS paddles students who act up in front of assembly of student body weekly
  • Charter school board member says discipline keeps school safe
Antonius Hart and his wife, Rachel wanted a good learning environment for their sons so they chose Memphis Academy for Health Sciences, a charter school. However, they're wondering if the charter school system, one that allows each individual school to set their own rules, is a good one and if more oversight isn't needed.
"It's been ran like he's a dictator, an enforcer," said Hart, the student's father.
The Harts 9th grade son was told to leave the school for good after he threw an obscene finger gesture at a teacher. First, he was paddled during what's called chapel. That's when every Friday students who misbehave are brought into an assembly and disciplined before the entire student body.
Hart said, "I guess its like some kind of primitive humiliation type thing. They whoop them in front of all of them. I guess this is to show if we enforce this right here, this is what's going to happen to you."
After the paddling, the school decided that wasn't enough. The principal sent Hart's son a message on the son's personal cell phone. The message said, "Tomorrow you will be suspended as a result you will have to transfer from MAHS. I still can't believe what you did. It cannot be justified."
The Harts say the school should have called a parent. Plus, they say he'd already been punished once.
The director of the board for MAHS wouldn't give us an on camera interview because he says this is one situation that involves one set of parents and in doing so, it would overshadow all the good things his school is doing.
In a telephone interview Bernal Smith II told News Channel 3, "We tell our parents up front. Corporal punishment is a part of our discipline program. It's a part of what allows us to keep a safe sound environment in our school."
As for as paddling students in front of the student body, Smith said, "We use that so the rest of the students that witness that, it's a deterrent for them not to behave in the same way."
The Harts believe because they have spoken out against the charter school's discipline practices, their other son, a special needs student at the school. He is currently suspended for hitting another student in the back. The Hart's says their son denies hitting anyone.
Smith won't talk about specifics concerning the Hart children but he says it is unconscionable to think anyone at the school has an axe to grind with any student.
News Channel 3 has called the Tennessee Department of Education to find out how much autonomy charter schools have when it comes to discipline. We were told the person we needed to talk to was in a conference all week. News Channel 3 will keep you posted about what they say.


Unknown said...

I don't know the students in question, nor their individual situation, but I am familiar with the school. My daughter is a 4th year student there, and I think overall they are doing a great job. I think no one institution will please every parent, but I feel their method works. When I grew up corpal punishment was in effect, and school seemed to be a safer place. In fact its biblical. As I stated before, I feel Mr. Weathers, Mr. Alexander, and Mrs. Biles are operating in the best interest of the students as a whole, and are acting out of love and general concern

dymphna said...

Public humiliation and inflicting pain is about control, not about student welfare.

These poor kids are getting Bully Lessons. The more sensitive ones will become victims, the more aggressive kids will graduate into Professional Bullydom.

There is too much violence in our culture already. "Paddling" kids teaches them nothing they don't already see outside school.

This is a disgrace.

Unknown said...

I attended M.C.S.for 12 years when C.P.was used,and we did not have all the discipline problems with the students dis-respecting the teachers like they do now days...Why?..because we knew the paddle could be used on us,and our parents didn't run up to the school and make a big stink about it either,I might add!...I remember in the 7th grade,we had this one white girl named Lisa,and everyday she'd bully all of the girls,and the teacher could not teach for the girl talking over her,and this went on for over a week,then one day the principal happened to be walking down the hallway,and heard her big loud mouth talking and cursing...Lisa,..Does your Mother know you are behaving like this at school?..How about you come with me over to the office,so that we can call your Mother?...Well,the girl stood up and went with the principal to the office only about two doors down,and we all said..Ut-o?..And we all kind of thought that we knew(and hoped)what was about to happen,but after about 5, minutes of not hearing anything,the teacher began teaching,and about another 5 minutes later,..We all heard the very loud smack of the wooden paddle being used,followed by 9 more loud smacks in a row,as we all stopped and listened quietly,along with our teacher who was standing up at the black-board,then after the paddling was over with,the principal brought Lisa back to the class-room in tears,and she squirmed around in her desk,and smelled of wet pee,and I know it's not nice to say,but all of us hearing her get paddled 10 times,and having to sit there and smell her strong odor of wet pee for the whole rest of the day made all of us behave good(including Lisa)for the remainder of the school year,and none of us had to be paddled again,so let the others say what they want to say,but paddling is a very effective way to make students obey the rules,and that is why I think it's a good disciplinary tool for all of the schools to keep order in the class-rooms!

Bob Jameson said...

My son has attended this school for 4 years now and let me tell you, you'd be hard pressed to find another school in the city with fewer discipline problems than this school. In the four years my son has been there, he's only seen ONE fight. In today's school, that is unheard of. As much as some of you want to call it bullying, I call it tough love. Those teachers work 9 hour days and attend school one weekend out of the month. Many of them participate in extra curricular activities that add on to their long days, and they do it out of love. How many bullies do you know who are willing to stay after hours tutoring and mentoring kids. I understand everyone is going to have their opinion, and some people just won't ever agree with it, but in my eyes, its the ideal school and if you have concern about your child's safety, this is the school for them.