For years, Franky Price terrified his teachers.
As a third-grader, he pantomimed killing other students by sliding his finger across his throat. In fourth grade, he swore at anyone who angered him. The worst moment came one month into fifth grade, after Franky wrote down his violent fantasies.
He never planned to act on any of them, but the behavior alarmed educators enough to get him suspended from elementary school, then expelled — placing him among the thousands of children statewide and across the country who are removed annually from elementary-school classrooms.
To Franky, the punishments barely registered. Raised in a family of drug users and dealers, he wandered with them from one dingy apartment to the next. Often, there was no bed to sleep on and nothing but plastic covering the windows.
Franky never told anyone. He knew it would mean foster care.
Instead, he acted out, finally scrawling his inner world onto a piece of notepaper that another student showed their teacher.
“He took one look at me and said, ‘You need to go,’” recalled Price, now a senior at Chief Sealth High School. “Honestly, I’m surprised [Child Protective Services] wasn’t called — how does a fifth-grader even know about the things I was writing? I wish someone would have pulled me aside and asked: ‘Why do you feel this way?’ I mean, I was only 10 years old. But it was just ˜Go, get out of here.’”
Franky’s experience is not uncommon. In Washington, school suspension starts with kids as young as 5 years old, often beginning a downward spiral. Data show that certain children are punished again and again — missing weeks of class without a noticeable change in behavior. A third-grader from Seattle’s Highland Park Elementary, for example, was suspended nine times last year.
Such trends, only recently tracked, are raising serious concerns among legal advocates, parents and others who say schools rely too often on punitive discipline, especially for the very young.
To read more about Franky and the shift to Positive Approaches click here: Moving from punishing students who misbehave to understanding the causes