School Discipline Policies

Examine the various discipline methods being put to use in public schools. From detention to expulsion, spanking to handcuffing, school discipline can often be controversial. Does spanking work? Do police belong in schools? Learn more about what is being done to punish out of control students.
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Updated March 29, 2015 |
Schools Demand Students' Social Media Passwords
Recent legislation that allows Illinois public schools to demand students’ social media passwords has renewed the debate about students’ right to privacy at school.
It is a story that is all too often in the news: A child is subjected to torturous cyberbullying by his or her peers via social media. Threatening messages sent on Facebook, humiliating comments about their appearance on Twitter, and other such nonsense drives the student to lash out, possibly hurting themselves, their peers, or both.
 
Schools no doubt serve a protective function and are charged with ensuring students have access to a free, appropriate education in an environment that is safe, secure, and nurturing. To help achieve that end, some states are taking strong measures to bolster the authority and power of school districts with regard to investigating instances of bullying, even if such negative behaviors do not occur on school property or within the bounds of the school day.
 
The Illinois Law
 
In an attempt to curb cyberbullying behaviors, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law, enacted January 1st of this year, that allows public school districts to demand access to students’ personal social media accounts if the student is suspected of violating school rules.
 
A letter sent home to parents in Triad Community Schools in Illinois, obtained by Motherboard, outlines the new policy:
“School authorities may require a student or his or her parent/guardian to provide a password or other related account information in order to gain access to his/her account profile on a social networking website if school authorities have reasonable cause to believe that a student’s account on a social networking site contains
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Updated March 03, 2015 |
Teachers in 19 States Allowed to Physically Punish Students
As of 2014, nineteen states still allow corporal punishment – spanking and paddling the most common choices – in their public schools. However, some argue that not only are these punishments physically harmful, they also are disproportionately administered to students of color. As a result, House democrats have taken up the issue in a new bill that would ban all forms of corporal punishment nationwide.
Inmates in America’s prisons are protected from corporal punishment, yet it is a system of discipline that still exists in public schools in nineteen states. Teachers and principals are allowed to strike a child, either with a paddle, an open hand, or in some cases a ruler, in order to punish them. Students may be struck on the bottom or the upper thighs. Generally speaking, students are directed to bend over a desk or chair while a school official administers the punishment. For safety purposes, it is usually witnessed by another school official, but sometimes the punishment is neither discussed with, nor approved by, the child’s parents.
 
The vast majority of states that still allow these punishments are in the Deep South, where large populations of students of color – especially African-Americans – comprise the student bodies of public schools. Texas leads the way with over 10,000 cases of spanking or paddling each year. However, some states in the West, including Wyoming, Idaho, and Arizona, also allow corporal punishment.
 
While these states still allow corporal punishment, many of their school districts have taken it upon themselves to ban the practice. However, many school districts persist in using spanking and paddling as punishment. In fact, according to the Department of Education, each year, hundreds of thousands of students are subjected to corporal punishment. While some districts in larger, urban schools still employ the practice, it occurs mostly in smaller, rural communities. The Department of Education reports that of these students, an
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Updated March 03, 2015 |
Students of Color Disproportionately Disciplined in Schools
Research shows that students of color face a disproportionate number of disciplinary actions in U.S. public schools. Learn about these disparities, as well as the policies that fuel them. Also learn about suggested measures to address this problem.
According to a 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office, widespread racial disparities exist in terms of how schoolchildren are punished. The longitudinal study looked at data from the past 15 years and found that minority students face a disproportional number of disciplinary actions in schools across the country, from those in affluent suburban neighborhoods to those in the poorest urban areas.
Graph from HechingerEd
These disparities have been known for some time in middle schools and high schools, however, this report reveals that unfair discipline procedures begin as early as preschool. The data, which was collected from 97,000 public schools from across the country, paints a troubling picture:
  • Black and Latino students are consistently punished more severely than white students for the same infractions.
  • Nearly 50 percent of preschool children who are suspended multiple times are black, yet black children represent less than one-fifth of the preschool population.
  • Black students are far more likely to be referred to law enforcement or arrested for a school-based offense than white students or other students of color.
  • Black girls are suspended at a much higher rate than girls of any other race.
  • Students with disabilities, who represent only 12 percent of the public school population, account for almost 60 percent of students who are placed in seclusion.  
Zero-Tolerance Policies
 
Many students who are suspended or placed in involuntary seclusion are put there because of zero-tolerance policies that schools have put in place over the last two decades.
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Published September 21, 2013 |
The Look of Public Schools Post-Newtown: More Armed Guards Greet Students
Students have headed back to school across the country, but are greeted by new security technology and armed security guards. We take a look at Post-Newtown public education.
As students head back to school this fall, things may look a little different in some locations. In the aftermath of the Newtown Elementary tragedy, many districts across the country are looking for ways to beef up security procedures to keep students and staff a little safer. In light of those efforts, students may be greeted by new security devices, safety measures and even armed guards at some schools.
 
Debates Over Best Security Options
 
The Courant reports that as schools weighed their options in new security procedures, debate over the best way to protect students and faculty ensued. Armed police guards are often the center of that debate, with some school officials in favor of the action and others opposed. Other issues that have been argued in recent months include arming school administrators and security personnel and allowing teachers to bring guns to school.
 
Carl Sferrazza, police chief for Enfield, Connecticut, is one who agrees armed guards are the best way to keep students safe. Sferrazza told the Courant, “These people are homicidal and suicidal individuals. Their intent and their planning is all geared toward killing as many people as they possibly can.”
 
However, others liken placing armed guards at the entrances of schools to creating a prison-like atmosphere for students. Nate Quesnel, superintendent for East Hartford, told the Courant, “We don’t necessarily believe that having an armed guard in front of a school is the most productive way to make a school safer, for a variety of
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Published June 25, 2012 |
Zero Tolerance Policies: A Path to Safer Schools or Recipe for Disaster?
Do zero tolerance policies in public schools work or simply create more problems for educators and the communities at large? We explore this challenging question and examine the current research available.
With the alarming rise in violence at public schools across the country, zero-tolerance policies have become the norm. In theory, these policies should lead to safer schools, since they offer school administrators the ability to deal with infractions promptly and decisively. However, the practice of zero-tolerance policies is showing significant flaws in the system, and many are demanding a reform in the rules that have proven to hurt students more than they protect them in some cases.

The Purpose of Zero-Tolerance Policies
 
The establishment of zero-tolerance policies began in the 1980s. At the time, these policies primarily dealt with major offenses involving weapons and drugs. The term was first introduced by the Reagan Administration when the President launched his War on Drugs. When the federal government passed the Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Act of 1989, zero-tolerance policies became the law.
 
According to the Detroit Free Press, zero-tolerance policies expanded with the federal Gun Free Schools Act of 1994, which mandated that any student caught bringing a gun to school would be expelled for one year or longer. Students accused of violations were also to be referred to local law enforcement agencies. However, it wasn’t long before that zero-tolerance policy was expanded to encompass a host of infractions, from dress code violations to assaults on another student. At that point, many began to question the effectiveness of zero-tolerance policies, particularly in situations where the policy began to override common sense and the best interests of the students involved.
 
The
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