September 4, 2018

Chalk Talk: Tynisha Jointer

In her 10 years as a social worker and currently as the Behavioral Health Specialist for Chicago Public Schools, Tynisha Jointer has learned that there is no such thing as a bad kid, but rather a need and opportunity to teach new behaviors.

“Trauma greatly affects student behavior, even making it impossible for any student to sit criss-cross-apple-sauce,” said Tynisha. “And in the schools I work in, most students have faced traumatic experiences, many of them on a daily basis. This isn’t an excuse for misbehavior, but you can’t teach a child unless you can reach a child.”

"You can’t teach a child unless you can reach a child." - Tynisha Jointer, #E4ECHI member

That’s where Tynisha comes in. Her job is to help educators supplant harsh discipline practices, such as suspensions, with non-punitive approaches to address the social-emotional causes of misbehavior. To take on this difficult mission, she has relied on federal school discipline guidance that protects students’ civil rights

But now that Secretary Betsy DeVos said she may rescind this guidance, Tynisha’s work could be stopped dead in its tracks.

So, after a decade of protecting vulnerable students in Chicago, Tynisha flew to Washington, D.C. with six of her colleagues to meet with Secretary DeVos and defend every student in the nation.

During the meeting, Tynisha aimed to connect with DeVos as a human being, sharing her experiences and those of her students. “Suspensions put a Band-Aid on our problems. But this guidance has allowed educators to make leaps beyond discipline, using restorative justice to hold students accountable to repair the harm they have caused while addressing their own emotional issues.”

Tynisha then gave DeVos a handwritten note inviting her to come to CPS. “I welcome her with open arms to see how these guidelines shape our discipline actions.”

Despite Tynisha’s efforts, the fate of the guidance is still uncertain. But you can join Tynisha in making a difference. Tell Secretary DeVos to keep the federal discipline guidance and ask your colleagues to do the same.

Because, as Tynisha often says, “Our children are our future, let’s nurture them today.”