School Discipline: Have we gotten too soft with students?
The teachers' role for disciplining kids at school: Should we be taking the place of the parent in discipline? What is best for the other students when a student misbehaves? Have we gone too far with political correctness?
Let's have an impartial look at what's best for everyone involved.
Everybody agrees that the old days of physical punishment (the strap) is unacceptable and frankly, probably illegal. But what is the best way to deal with behavior issues in schools today? What we can agree on, is that school bullying and disrespect and even violence by students is at an all time high, so whatever the policies are today, they are not working!
So, let's examine what these policies are and what is different today than in the past.
Let's keep in mind that the biggest change in the past decade has been the widespread adoption of allowing smartphones into the schools and classrooms. This is a monster that we have created, and as everyone knows, it is very difficult to "put the toothpaste back in the tube".
Policy #1 - A Hands off policy for discipline
This first policy is designed to protect the students from a teacher physically assaulting them. However, who is protecting the other student(s) that the aggressive student? It has go to the point where a teacher is afraid to break up a fight between 2 students because they are worried about being sued for physically touching the aggressors.
There has to be a point where the teachers get legal protection that allows them to physically restrain students to protect other students, and stopping a bad situation from escalating. As a teacher for 29 years, I have seen the teachers slowly hesitate to intervene in a student argument or fight due to the laws (or lack of them) to give a teacher immunity from prosecution. Now, almost no teacher will intervene (and the students know this).
Policy #2 - Suspensions for Students
A suspension from school is the most common form of punishment for student violence. The problem is that this is more of an incentive for students to misbehave (in many instances), as most bad students (in terms of behavior), generally have chronic absenteeism. They view a suspension as a legal reason to be absent (and as a reward, not a punishment). Due to the fact that the same students are usually repeat offenders, it is clear that the suspension from school is not a deterrent
"School suspensions are simply not an adequate punishment for unacceptable student behavior, and can even be viewed as a reward by the student" - TCT Poll
Policy #3 - Calling the Students' Parents
This has been a policy at my school for a long time, but it is becoming less effective every year. There are multiple problems, the first one being that getting in touch with the parents can be difficult. In most families, both parents work and voicemails are common. Some parents may call the school back, but more and more do not, so they just hear their kids' side of the story after school.
The second problem is that even though they may hear from the teacher or the vice-principal (or even principal), mre parents are becoming combative with the school authorities and continue to defend their childs' (unacceptable) behavior). This is partly due to the fact that we live in a society where everyone is entitled to their opinion and there is there is no respect for authority institutions (schools, police, etc)
Policy #4 - Meetings with the Parents and Student
You have probably heard that "talking things out" is a great way to solve problems. However, in these cases, it just gives a forum for the student to justify their behavior and is not a punishment for their actions. Perhaps a meeting should be held "after the punishment" is served, in order to develop a plan for the future. However, the meeting should not REPLACE the punishment.
Possible Solutions - A Tangible Consequence for the good of All Involved
So far, I have listed the issues with some of the methods by which schools deal with bad student behavior, but what can we do instead?
By talking to several teachers, here are a few suggestions that may work better (it seems like they can't be worse)
1) A Law which gives immunity to school employees who restrain students for the protection of themselves and others.
2) IN-SCHOOL suspensions instead of "SENT HOME" suspensions. Schools will argue that they don't have the staff to supervise these students or a place for them to work (they should be doing their school work while on suspension, especially IN-SCHOOL). The counter argument is that students will not like being IN-SCHOOL for their suspension, so it will cut down on repeat offenders and eventually lower the number of suspensions to a trickle. Problem solved.
3) Have a parent meeting (with the student present) after the suspension is served and make it a requirement (before the student can return, otherwise they continue their IN-SCHOOL suspension).
4) Behavior management courses (online or in-person) for the student to complete during their suspension (students would not like this requirement).
Don’t Forget to Add a Closing Statement
Lastly, there has to be better ways to keep the student behavior in school from spiraling put of control, which it seems to be doing these days. Ultimately, kids want real consequences (even if they say they don't), and if we allow the watering down of these consequences, the behavior is just going to escalate.
So let's put some real common sense rules in place, It's only fair for the other students, teachers and then the students who misbehave, may actually start respecting everybody again.