Is there too much or too little discipline? How can schools get it right?

UPDATE Tuesday: Interesting related story today by my AJC colleague Molly Bloom, who reports:

Want to win your teachers back? Try reducing student discipline problems.

Addressing discipline was the top item teachers who left Atlanta Public Schools in the past year or so cited as a change that would convince them to return to Atlanta schools.

Among other top changes teachers said would lure them back: increasing involvement of teachers in decision making and increasing administrative support.

 

Original blog:

My AJC colleague Eric Stirgus reports the state Board of Education approved a reversal of a disciplinary action imposed by Gwinnett County Schools on a Dacula High sophomore charged with striking a classmate.

Stirgus reports:

The state’s school board, in a rare rebuke, has reversed Gwinnett County’s year-long suspension of a high school student, citing a “multitude of errors” the district made in handling the case.

The student, according to state records, conceded he struck another student, but his family argued Gwinnett officials didn’t give him a proper opportunity to defend himself against the suspension.

“This board concludes that the multitude of errors, by the Local Board was harmful to the Student’s interest, and that the Local Board did not have justification for the delay,” the state wrote.

The AJC news story prompted reader comments, including:

“The problem isn’t what happened after the suspension, the problem is a sophomore was suspended for a whole year for a punching a student. He should get 5 days out of school suspension, 10 days max.”

“That’s what happens when you enact a zero tolerance policy.”

Discipline is one of the most complex and divisive issues in education. Schools routinely get accused of either doling out too little or too much discipline.

Repeated research studies show discipline is not fairly applied, with minority students experiencing the brunt of suspensions. I know there are skeptics on the blog, but federal analyses of national school district data find minority kids earn more extreme punishments than white classmates for the same offenses.

That has led schools to pressure teachers to refer fewer offenses to the office, telling teachers to resolve discipline problems in the classroom and keep students in class. Teachers say such policies result in troublemakers remaining in class disrupting everyone else’s learning.

I once spoke to back-to-back middle school classes as a member of a career day panel. Both classes had around 30 students. The first class was taught by a young teacher who seemed at the mercy of the students, several of whom walked into class late without any explanation or apology. The harried teacher spent the period dealing with stragglers and misbehaving students, which cut into the time for the panel.

In the second classroom, a veteran teacher didn’t tolerate even a pencil drop during the panel. Kids who arrived late were banished if they didn’t produce a late slip, and the two or three kids who talked were slapped with an instant “no field day” penalty.

I have no doubt the second teacher sent far more kids to the office over the year, but I also suspect her students learned more because less class time was lost to disruptions.  I was surprised at the severity of the punishments she handed out; missing field day seemed a high price for talking during class. However, I didn’t know the history. The students may have been chronic chatterboxes and this was the final straw.

I’ve noticed a difference in discipline standards in school districts. I visited a suburban district on pep rally Friday. Athletes, cheerleaders and dance squad members were allowed to wear their uniforms so the class took on the feel of a costume party. I was struck by the informality with which students spoke to teachers. They could offer comments without raising their hands and could chat among themselves without fear of reprimand. I would describe the atmosphere as casual.

Contrast that with an inner city school I visited two months later; the school had a lock-down feel with watchful teachers silencing classroom or hallway conversations. There was little informality; school and learning seemed like serious business, and teachers were on guard for the first hint of disengagement.

I am not sure which model works better. I certainly know which I would have preferred as a student.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

20 comments
J L Marketing
J L Marketing

I think that family's move to the Burbs thinking the schools are better and. Later realize the schools main goal is to break your child down. Jim Crow is running wild in GCPS and the educators are 100% out of control... Thanks for story.. Parents talk with your students.. If your student was harassed by the educator, you should report them to the OCR or Justices... GCPS has several educators having sex with students.. hire ups need to be fired.. 2017 well over 5 teachers busted for having sex with students.. Tax the parents and screw our kids out of there education. Attorney Up you are correct!! Stranger bullies are in the building with our students and we know nothing about them.. #attorney up..

This man had sex with 20 students:

.http://www.ajc.com/news/local/gwinnett-teacher-quits-amid-inappropriate-student-relationship-claim/1bxwsyEB2EQ3KeqIr2NTJJ/

quickdigits
quickdigits

I went to school in the 1950's and 60's....paddling, including a slap across the wrist with a ruler, Was allowed. If a student talked back to a teacher or got into a fight with a teacher was quickly disciplined at Home and the parents Agreed with the Teacher's actions!  We All went on to be healthy, happy and productive citizens....not One criminal in the bunch! We All respected authority throughout our school days. How many classes of students now days have such a clean record? These days, a teacher who disciplines a child in Any physical way is fired or at least suspended and the child's parents blame the teacher, instead of attacking the behavior of the child!! We All come into this world as little, undisciplined animals! It is the parents' responsibility to instill respect for authority into each child.

insideview
insideview

You really aren't qualified to comment on school discipline unless you work there...

Starik
Starik

@insideview No. The schools don't exist to provide jobs for teachers and bureaucrats, they're supposed to educate the kids.

Educator4Life
Educator4Life

There isn't just one solution that will alleviate the issues. It will take a culmination of strategies to solve discipline problems. Schools need to offer conflict resolution throughout the year so students can learn how to resolve conflict with each other. As far as classroom management is concerned, setting the tone at the onset is huge! Once students know they can't demonstrate disrespect, teaching and learning can occur.

Starik
Starik

If I respond to one of the facebook posts does the poster see my response?  Why do we have to deal with facebook? I like newspapers, don't you?

Starik
Starik

If you have the misfortune to live in DeKalb the part of the county you live in is irrelevant.  The school system provides transportation and permission for anybody, regardless of age, gang affiliation, juvenile (or adult) criminal record to transfer to a better school. This does not improve the receiving school.

Kathy Brown
Kathy Brown

Let's start out with EVERYONE knowing that the compulsory school age is 6 yrs. to 16 yrs.old. ANything before and/or after is up to the family, the student, and taxpayers. Schools should NOT be created to house juvenile delinquents. Make sure EVERY child and their parents have the same information as to what OPPORTUNITIES are available to EVERY student. SCHOOL CHOICE, real choice means parents and the student have chosen a particular school, NOT forced to be at a school they don't trust just because they live in a certain part of the county

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Just got this from Rice University: 

Age and disciplinary incidents are the factors most likely to impact a student's decision to drop out of high school, according to a research brief from the Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC), part of Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research.                                                                  

The researchers examined factors that might influence high school dropout rates while accounting for sex, race, free-lunch qualification, socio-economic advantage/disadvantage, English proficiency, disciplinary issues, test scores, previous grades and these issues within the whole school district.

The researchers found that students who were older than the typical age for their grade at the beginning of high school (16 or older at the beginning of ninth grade) had 336 percent higher odds of dropping out in any given year of high school. In addition, students who experienced a disciplinary incident in the eighth grade had 124 percent greater odds of dropping out during high school.

 You can read the study here:  http://bit.ly/1T47dNf.

bu22
bu22

Zero tolerance policies aren't "too much" discipline.  They are discipline applied without common sense.  As for the young teacher, classroom management is a critical skill.  Probably should be a full semester course in college combined with student teaching.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

How about calling in the police for every assault?  In the real world, when you assault someone, what happens is you get charged with assault.  Don't worry about being suspended!


Gum chewing?  Speaking out of turn? Wearing a see-through blouse?  Cussing a teacher?  Those are not crimes (unless there are fighting words used, I guess.).  THOSE should be handled in-house, with appropriate, timely responses by the school.


My opinion is my local schools are too lax.  Many things that contribute to lack of learning are not handled strongly enough.  Persistent disruption of class should be handled as theft--the misbehaving student is stealing from classmates and the taxpayers!

Astropig
Astropig

" As for the family in this story that lawyered up, they are what they are."


In my mind,what they are is smart.They insisted on due process.Teachers,principals and even college professors are entitled to and demand due process all the time.We don't know the context here-first time in trouble? Harassed and bullied until he broke? Who knows? Even if we are told by the school,can we believe their version? With every educrat in the chain practicing "CYA", sometimes a resort to the legal process is all a student has.There are students accused of transgressions every day by school employees with an agenda that can range from personal vendetta to outright jealous resentment and the vast majority just take it and move on. Sounds like this kid felt he was being treated poorly and had the good sense to stand up for himself because of an inconsistent application of discipline.The higher ups agreed.Good for him.

redweather
redweather

Teachers, whether disciplinarians or not, must have the active support of the school administration. As for the family in this story that lawyered up, they are what they are.

Niobe
Niobe

What do I think? I think those suburban kids are far, far more likely to go home each night to a home with a mother and a father. 

While most of the inner-city school kids can only dream of doing so.

Therein lies the problem.

sptchr
sptchr

@Niobe I teach in a rural high school.  I have been here for 17 years, moving from Gwinnett County schools. The school climate has changed drastically. Talking while the teacher is talking is almost epidemic.  When students are told to be quiet, at least one always has a comeback. Disrespect is rampant.

When a student hits a student, there is usually two sides to the story and it is usually more than one punch.  Was he a first offender or a repeat offender? That makes a difference on consequences.  Many students are not in school to get an education.  They come for various reasons; to get away from a home situation, to eat, to be somewhere warm, to see friends, etc.  The assumption that suburban or rural kids go home to a loving two parent family is ludicrous.  Many students live in situations that some of cannot comprehend.  The situations that students share with me are heart breaking.  I provide a listening ear and if there is something that can be done through social services, I report it.  If I lived in the environment some of my students live in, I would not get out of bed in the morning.

Kodie56
Kodie56

@Niobe Things have changed in suburbia.  You would be surprised at the number of students living in single parent homes.  Any school with a large number of apartment complexes will tell you there is a large turnover during the school year as parents move on a regular basis in search of the apartment complex with the best deal on rent.  


Michael Tafelski
Michael Tafelski

Many school districts are getting it right - although not in Georgia. School districts need humility and self-awareness that punitive policies have proven to be ineffective. There must also be a willingness to accept the abundance of research that evidences that race matters and that discrimination exists in school discipline. Finally, there must be an overhaul of the discipline process in Georgia which is a sham and does not demonstrate to our children that we live in a country founded on justice for all.

Shira Newman
Shira Newman

thank you. this is taking so long to get to the schools...

Ann Strickland Dempsey
Ann Strickland Dempsey

Neither classroom described sound like PBIS which is the required Georgia discipline/intervention plan.