Is detention, suspension, or expulsion a proper way to help an undisciplined or troubled student? I don’t find these solutions worthwhile from an institutional or individual viewpoint. It’s essentially a lose lose situation. For instance, what if the student is the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg? The school might lose out on the potential of the student. On the other hand, the student might miss out on future educational and employment opportunities because of the expulsion. The issue of school discipline has come into sharp focus following last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The shooter was expelled from the school a year ago. In this op-ed for Time Magazine, author Ross Greene, makes a case for why students like the shooter shouldn’t be expelled from school.
Greene pinpoints what he views as the primary reasons why students like the shooter are often ostracized and alienated to the margins in our schools:
-Standardized Testing--most teachers today feel their sole purpose is to teach to the test. As one of the most important change agents in society, the job of today’s educators has come to depend on how their students score on standardized exams. Therefore, teachers are focusing less on building relationships with their students, especially those with behavioral and other problems.
-Zero tolerance policies-research has shown that things have become worse under this policy. This policy focuses solely on the student’s behavior and apply a tough adult like consequences to those behaviors. Greene notes that public schools across the country “dole out about 100,000 expulsions, 3 million out of school suspensions, 3 million in-school suspensions, and millions of detentions every school year.”
So, what is the remedy? According to Greene, schools that have been successful at changing school culture involve students in highlighting and ultimately solving the problems that cause unaccepted behavior. This enables the students to be part of the mainstream school culture rather than placement in a special program, which could further add to isolation. He encourages educators and administrators to focus on models that are effective at teaching students the social skills some lack. Additionally, schools should focus on facilitating classroom communities in which students learn to help, embrace their individual differences, and collaborate.
I attend a small all-boys Catholic high school. There is a general thought that school discipline is unique only to public schools, especially those in the inner city. However, there have been many instances during my time at the school where we’ve had to stay after school for detention due to class rowdiness or other unexpected behaviors. My school preach a collectivist approach to school discipline: if one students disrupts the classroom, the entire class must suffer the consequences. A knock-on effect of this policy is the social pressure on the unruly student from his peers, which might propel them to behave in an acceptable manner.
How did your K-12 school deal with student behaviors and were it successful?