Rethinking School Discipline

Published On: March 7th, 2016·By ·

Does your school discipline plan need re-working?

School discipline is a complex topic. There are tons of different ideas about it, so I took to social media to find what people are saying. I watch social media closely and it's my job to share some of the hot topics on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other outlets that teachers, principals, students, and parents are contributing.

School is a strange place to set discipline standards. On one hand, students go to school to learn, not just about history, science, and so on, but also how to work in groups, how to respect authority,  and so much more. Students are just figuring out (in life and in school) what everything means. They're learning how to become productive citizens. Learning means there will be mistakes. Dealing with a mistake on a quiz is much easier than dealing with a mistake when it comes to, say, respecting authority. A student who answers a quiz question wrong will only hurt themselves, but a student who is disrespectful could disrupt the whole class and perhaps, if it escalates enough, put others or themselves in danger. Things get even more complicated when you consider a student's home life. School might be their only chance to learn why they shouldn't bully someone and how to work through a disagreement peacefully. The problem is, how do you punish someone who is still learning?

How do you balance it? Obviously, punishment for bad behavior is a necessity. Sadly, avoiding punishment plays a large role in why many people don't break the law rather than strictly general goodwill. The question remains, how do you punish someone for getting something wrong who is still in the learning process? The answer lies in how severe the punishment is and how often an offense was done.

NEA Today posted an interesting article about how one middle school handled this issue. The school, Redland Middle School, managed to cut down discipline referrals by 98 percent in one year with their new way of disciplining students. In the past, they used to work in terms of absolutes. If a student broke one of their laws, they went straight to the principal's office. So the school decided decided to amend their policy. Instead of sending a student straight to the office, they started with a warning. The punishments slowly escalated, including calls to the parents, meeting with the teacher personally, behavioral plans, and other warnings. This gave educators (and parents) a chance to amend the student's behavior before giving out more severe disciplinary actions. It also gave students a chance to learn from their mistakes. In addition to the warning system, Redland Middle also increased the resources available to troubled students by training other students how to interfere during altercations and providing more counseling and tutoring options. You can read the article on how they re-thought their school discipline plan here.

school discipline

Not everyone is sold on Redland's disciplinary process. Some teachers argued that simply sitting down and talking to students just doesn't work. Someone specifically said that female teachers are at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to disciplining students if they were taught not to respect females at the home, which is at the heart of the biggest argument against the process. Teachers said a bad home situation or parents who did not get involved in their child's learning was the heart of the problem, not the discipline system in the schools. They claimed this process is focusing on the wrong issues. Others have said students spend a significant amount of time at school, so much that the damage done by a bad home could get reversed. Everyone seems to agree that trying to include parents in the discipline process is a good idea.

Where do you stand on school discipline? How have you dealt with a difficult student in the past? Do you believe severe punishment should be taken right away, or does talking to the student outside of class truly work? How do you work with parents who are not involved in their children's studies? How do you deal with students who learn bad behaviors at home?

Tori Pakizer is the Social Media Editor at She writes regularly about the use of educational technology in K-12 classrooms, and specializes in how teachers use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media. You can follow Tori and SimpleK12 on Twitter @SimpleK12. If you have ideas for using social media in schools, please send your information or tip to

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