OPINION: What Schools Are Getting Wrong on Discipline

Discipline is an integral part of a student’s education, shaping their behavior and instilling values that will carry them throughout their lives. However, many schools have been getting it wrong when it comes to managing discipline, resulting in negative consequences for students and the education system as a whole.

One of the biggest issues in schools today is the overreliance on punitive measures. Instead of focusing on preventive and restorative approaches, schools often resort to harsh disciplinary actions such as suspensions and expulsions. While these punishments may seem like a quick fix to address behavior problems, they fail to address underlying issues and can disrupt a student’s learning and social development.

Another issue is the inconsistent application of discipline. Students from marginalized communities, such as students of color and those with disabilities, are disproportionately targeted for disciplinary measures. This not only perpetuates existing inequalities but also creates a hostile and unwelcoming environment for these students, hindering their academic success.

Moreover, schools often neglect to provide adequate resources and support for students who may be struggling with behavior issues. Instead of offering counseling, mentorship programs, or restorative justice practices, schools may simply label these students as “troubled” and push them further into the disciplinary system. This approach fails to address the root causes of misbehavior and denies students the opportunity for personal growth and rehabilitation.

Schools need to shift their focus from punishment to prevention and intervention. Instead of solely relying on punishments, schools should prioritize the implementation of preventative measures such as social-emotional learning programs and positive behavior support systems. These approaches teach students essential skills like self-regulation, empathy, and conflict resolution, fostering a positive school climate and reducing the likelihood of behavioral issues.

Restorative justice practices should also be embraced as a viable alternative to traditional disciplinary measures. This approach brings together all affected parties to repair harm, find resolutions, and restore relationships. By involving students, teachers, and parents in a respectful and collaborative process, restorative justice promotes empathy, accountability, and personal growth.

In addition, schools must address the systemic biases that perpetuate inequities in discipline. Implementing comprehensive professional development programs for educators can help them recognize their own biases and respond to behavioral issues in a fair and equitable manner. Schools should also collect and analyze discipline data to identify and address any disparities in disciplinary actions.

Overall, schools need to reevaluate their approach to discipline and prioritize strategies that promote prevention, intervention, and equity. By shifting the focus from punishment to support, schools can create a nurturing and inclusive environment where students can thrive academically and socially. It is time for schools to acknowledge what they have been getting wrong and take active steps towards creating a better disciplinary system that benefits all students.