Volume 3 Issue 1
Did you know that children growing up in poverty are 3.4 times more likely to be expelled from school? Have you ever wondered what happens when a child gets expelled?
I didn’t … until recently.
This June, “LeRoy” started coming to our Saturday Bible Club. We had heard that he had quite an elementary school rap sheet – swearing, fighting, sassing his teachers, etc. That was not our experience. In August, when school started, he came to our tutoring program. He would quietly eat his snack, sit down and then promptly do his homework. When he was done with his homework, he would do his additional New Hope homework. By the end of September, he had memorized all his multiplication flashcards.
“LeRoy” was always respectful. He was never in a fight. He never uttered a curse word. He always said, “Yes sir” and “No ma’am”. Then, one day he didn’t come. Later, we discovered that he had been expelled from school. He had been in multiple fights on the playground and generally uncooperative at school. The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back came when he dropped a series of f-bombs on his teacher. The school had had enough.
Surprisingly, the Lafayette school system does not provide transportation to the alternative school. Most of the students in the alternative school are from low-income families. Like many other low-income families, “LeRroy’s” family does not own a car. Here is a fifth grader that must take the city bus all by himself to attend school! After a few days of his city bus adventures, he moved in with his grandma, who lived closer to the alternative school. Two weeks later, his entire family was evicted from their apartment. We don’t know the reason for the eviction. Unfortunately, as a result of his expulsion and his family’s eviction, we have lost touch with “LeRoy.”
I recently spoke to a middle school principal regarding another one of our students who is currently one write-up away from expulsion. I asked him what he thought a student’s prognosis for success was in the alternative school. “Not very good, but it is the only option available to the school. If you were to give me another option, I would take it,” was his reply.
So why was “LeRoy” so different at New Hope in comparison to school? Why would the same child behave so differently in two different environments? Is he a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Or is there something else at work here?
While I was pondering this question, I met a 50-year old man, named “Freddy.” “Freddy” had grown up in a tough Lafayette neighborhood and attended a poor performing elementary school. In 5th grade, he was a “D” student, with significant discipline problems.
Then, something happened – forced busing. He was bused to a high performing middle school. At first, there was no change in his behavior. He got into plenty of fights and plenty of trouble. Then he realized, “Hey, I am the only one acting stupid here.” Eventually, because of positive peer pressure, he decided to change his behavior. Then he realized that everyone else actually understood what was going on in class; but he didn’t have a clue. He told me, “I decided I didn’t want to be stupid. I studied hard. I began to teach myself how to read, and if I came across a word I didn’t know, I would stop and ask someone, ‘Hey, I dunno know this word. What does it mean?’’
Freddy graduated from high school, and today, he has a good job in the oil service industry. He realizes he was very lucky. He told me, “Most of my friends stayed at the old school. Today, they are either dead or in prison. I was one of the only ones to get out.”
Same kids, different environment, different results. The difference is the environment.
Our environment, our family, our friends, and our schools, can either draw the best out of us, or the worst. Environments do make a difference!
At New Hope, we know that one of the environmental factors required for success is having a low student-mentor ratio. Our kids need individual attention, encouragement and help. Initially, we started with a 5 to 1 ratio. It was a disaster. Today, our ratio is 2 to 1. Having a high mentor to student ratio is important because each child needs to know that they matter and that someone cares about them. Many of our students are significantly below grade level and they need extra help. Environment isn’t the only factor, but it certainly is an important one.
New Hope continues to strive to create an environment that helps children reach their God-given potential. Thank you for your support and helping to make that possible.
John & Kris