At Potterville Middle School there's a controversial system for disciplining students. It's a system of privileges. and of punishments.It's a system school administrators say is working for them, but parents like Kathy Stimer say goes too far because kids in trouble have bathroom privileges taken away.
"That especially bothers me because my kids do have issues where they need to go to the bathroom. We know as adults we can't always hold it either, and it's not always convenient at the times we have to go," said Kathy Stimer, Mother of Potterville Students.
Here's how it works. 7th and 8th graders are placed on one of three levels. Those on the gold level are allowed to leave the classroom without a pass, to use the restroom. Those on maroon level must have a paper pass to go to the bathroom or roam the halls. And those on blue level they're not allowed to ask to go to the bathroom or get a drink at all.
"I feel that my child is being degraded. His self worth is being taken away," Stimer.
And on more than one occasion, Stimer's son has had his bathroom privileges taken away, too. To be placed on blue level, a student must first violate the school's code of conduct three times. After that, a student can then be placed on blue level for three days at a time for late assignments, tardies, absences or behavioral issues. If, during that time, the child does ask to go to the bathroom during class, they're placed on blue level for an extra day. In addition to losing bathroom privileges, the child is given assigned, quiet seating for lunch, they're not allowed to participate in after school activities, and their name is written on white boards in classrooms.
"Everyone knows. The teachers. The kids. Every kid in the classroom knows. My son has been teased... oh, you're a blue level kid. That's wrong. It's really, really wrong," said Stimer.
It may seem wrong to some parents, but does the school's policy actually break any laws? I spoke with the Director of School Support Services at the Michigan Department of Education who told me the policy is unconventional, but not necessarily illegal. He told me the state has very little control over how schools choose to disciple children.
"A lot of those decisions are made at the local level, so you see a smattering across the state of how schools deal with the same type of behavior, honestly," said Kyle Guerrant, Michigan Dept. Education.
And Potterville believes this policy is the best way to deal with behavioral issues. Potterville Schools Superintendent Tim Donahue did not want to speak on-camera, but when we talked on the phone. He told me the policy is very effective and supported by most parents and staff members, but Kathy Stimer and other parents I spoke with say they know the school must discipline students, but they hope there's a different way to do it.
Potterville Schools Superintendent Tim Donahue told me that the policy has been around for a few years, and the school has to plans to remove it or change it. It is outlined in the school's student handbook, which parents have to sign and return at the beginning of the year. Kathy Stimer refused to sign the handbook because she doesn't agree with the policy. She still hopes a change will happen before her other three children enter middle school.