Schools Using Virtual Learning as a Form of Punishment Has Raised Concerns on Students’ Academic Progress

The trend of using virtual learning as a disciplinary tool in response to student misconduct has raised concerns about the academic progress and well-being of affected students.

According to The Hechinger Report, the virtual learning programs, which nearly all schools developed to teach lessons online at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, only worked well for a few students. Most of those enrolled struggled to learn at the pace they experienced in the normal classroom environment and schedule.

While the school districts found it easier to suspend kids from classrooms and put them into online learning programs, parents criticized the new form of punishment. They cited concerns about the method’s effectiveness, which they say resulted in the affected students falling behind their in-person classmates.

Students Risk Getting Stuck in their Studies

Ventrese Curry’s granddaughter is one of the victims of virtual learning as a form of punishment after she reportedly disrupted her class multiple times and confronted teachers with curse words.

While the school used to issue a traditional suspension letter, indicating when she could return to normal classes, the seventh grader was instead suspended and put on virtual learning indefinitely.

Curry said the mid-schooler was issued with a school tablet and left to undertake her class work on her own, with the tablet sometimes even locking her out.

“They’d rather send her home than work on the issues she was going through,” said Curry, blaming the teachers for not using alternative means of punishment.

“She missed out on a lot of work, a whole lot. It makes me feel bad. The way they were treating her wasn’t fair at all,” she added.

According to advocates and lawyers from across the country, the new trend is troubling and can “deprive students and their families of their due process rights.”

Additionally, students punished through online learning risk getting stuck in the virtual learning program for weeks or months without getting the assistance they need to stay on par with the in-classroom learning.

Virtual Learning in Response to Bad Behaviour

Although a 2020 report revealed a massive loss of learning due to the use of virtual learning platforms during COVID-19, many districts across the country still put students on virtual learning in response to misconduct.

Other schools view it as an alternative measure to discipline instead of making it the only form of discipline.

For instance, Clayton County School District in Atlanta, Toppenish School in Washington State, and Jennings School District in Missouri have policies allowing temporary virtual learning for misbehaving students. The duration of classroom suspension can last from a few hours to weeks, depending on the type of offense.

According to Paula Knight, superintendent of Jennings School District in Missouri, putting naught students on virtual learning is a “game changer,” giving them “an opportunity to cool down or cool off” and restore desirable behavior.

Most Schools not Able to Track Students’ Progress

Many schools lack well-organized virtualization programs where teachers closely monitor the performance of students put on online learning alongside their peers in physical classrooms, leading to inconsistency in their academic performance. 

Some schools that use virtual learning as a disciplinary tool, for instance, Clayton County district, lack clear records on the number of students subjected to involuntary online learning since the policy was implemented.

According to the report, this can be attributed to the lack of separate records for suspension and virtualizations to avoid accountability, with parents’ complaints regarding how their children are treated when under virtual learning.

Rosalind Crawford, a mom of five boys going to Jennings, and Ventrese Curry, whose granddaughter was kicked out of a school in St. Louis, Missouri, raised concerns over their children falling behind fellow students in school since they are not tended to properly. The parents, meanwhile, have to beg teachers for their kids’ learning package.

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Devastation of Academic Progress

Crawford told The Hechinger Report that her children never had an instructor in their virtual learning, nor were any structured assignments prepared for them. As a result, they were left to struggle on their own, and even parents’ pleas for their children to be given assignments bore little fruit.

“Virtual learning is basically putting the kids somewhere [that the school doesn’t] have to deal with them,” she said.

Ventrese Curry’s granddaughter says she also faced the risk of falling behind due to the enormous amount of classwork she missed.

“They never gave her homework. I was calling every day asking if they could give me a package of her work,” she said, adding that the school told her the student might have to repeat the same grade to cover what she missed during virtualization.

Students may also face isolation and other unfriendly measures when they return to school before they can fully catch up with the rest of their peers.

While kicking students out of school for their misbehavior and pushing them into less organized virtual learning may serve teachers’ convenience, the report reveals such a form of punishment may have devastating effects on the student’s academic progress.

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This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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