Fear of being seen as ‘racist’ may work against good behavior in Madison schools

Karen Rivedal:

A tendency by staff to let the small stuff slide — perhaps due to fears of appearing racist — is only contributing to bigger disciplinary problems down the line in Madison public high schools, Superintendent Jen Cheatham said.

As the Madison School District grapples with a rise in suspensions, fights and classroom disruption that officials say is caused disproportionately by minority students, this “failure to warn,” she said, can be the first step on a slippery slope of escalating bad behavior that ultimately harms misbehaving students as much as anyone else.

“We’ve got this issue of students being able to kind of get away with some of the small things and then all of a sudden they escalate into things that will result in suspendable behaviors,” Cheatham said. “I hear everyone (citing concerns about) the bigger behaviors, the students who desperately need our intervention. But we also have to figure out how to address the smaller behaviors.”


Gangs and school violence forum.

Madison spends more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.