Valley Voices

Students, discipline and why parents must step up more than ever

By Jill Simonian

Several weeks ago, I had a field day on Facebook with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent signing of Senate Bill 419 into law — a law that will soon ban public and charter schools from suspending disruptive students from dindergarten through 8th grade. (Spoiler: I think this is dangerously irresponsible and absolutely absurd.) No rules, no respect, no consequences ... no problem, kids! And we wonder why so many of our California schools are struggling to hold onto quality teachers and keep quality families enrolled in public education.

Before you start wielding accusations using words like “ignorant” and “incompassionate,” I’ll offer this reality: Our school districts, communities and social structure simply cannot afford to collectively raise more young people who aren’t held to consequences for poor choices and bad actions.

“It’s the parents’ job to discipline children!” many point out. Yes, it is, except many parents don’t. Many parents fail to realize they’re lacking significant skill for raising kids who show reasonable respect for others, for authority, for public places. I chaperoned one of my daughters’ field trips this past week and I will be blunt — most of the students were acting like wild cats and dogs. Running. Screaming. Completely unaware and colliding with elderly people trying to walk past our motley crew.

But not my group. My group of five second-graders were civilized, respectful and an absolute joy. Why? Because I flat-out told them, before we even set one foot off the bus, that I had rules: “If you run around or run away from me... you will not be going back to school because you will be lost (at the museum) forever.” Their eyes got wide and they all looked at each other. Then I smiled. “That’s my only rule — can you follow it?” (They all nodded.) “We will act like nice, polite people because this is a public place. Let’s have a great time.” And then we all high-fived. And then we went exploring. And then I continued to firmly remind them of their promise throughout the day as needed.

Meanwhile, practically every other student in our second-grade group sprinted from place to place and embarrassed our top-notch, by-all-accounts-privileged school ... and none of the other parents said or did one thing to stop the mortifying madness. When I’d instruct a child to sit down, get in line, pay attention or just stop running, I’d get looks of shock and confusion from other chaperones.

They’re surprised that I’m telling kids to be respectful? Then I felt shocked.

My opinions about how destructive California’s aforementioned new law is were confirmed: If most kids aren’t getting active and ongoing guidance from home about respecting authority, and we’re now beginning to prohibit our educators by law from saying, doing or acting on disciplinary action they see appropriate and/or effective to enforce (in the name of establishing and teaching societal rules and consequences, to raise productive young adults), then society as we know it is doomed. Doomed.

Because the children who talk back, yell at and/or strike teachers outright (yes, it happens) need to learn consequences if their parent isn’t holding them to any... before it’s too late and too dangerous. It takes a village, remember?

Jill Simonian was born and raised in Fresno and is creator of She is a Los Angeles based TV/media contributor and author of book 'The FAB Mom's Guide' for first-time pregnancy.