The following is a synopsis of two practitioner-oriented articles that discuss school discipline alternatives to suspension and expulsion, which often lead to student drop-out and involvement in the juvenile justice system. The authors both focus on support, rather than punishment:
In “Rethinking Our Approach to SCHOOL DISCIPLINE” and in “A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline” the authors encourage schools to shift away from school disciplinary policies that suspend and expel students and instead move toward creating a more supportive environment for students and staff. While both authors recognize the desire of teachers and school staff to have control over their classroom, they each believe that there are proportionate and fair ways to maintain control.
In “Rethinking Our Approach to SCHOOL DISCIPLINE” the author recognizes that teachers are under “pressure to remove disruptive students from the classroom,” yet stresses that policies which remove students from the classroom are very harmful, as they increase a student’s risk of dropout and of getting involved in the juvenile justice system.1 Instead, the author highlights alternatives that many districts and schools have been using, such as giving more resources to school staff and providing students with supports and services, such as mental and behavioral health supports, that will help students positively integrate into the school.1 The author of “A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline” agrees, stressing that removing students from the classroom should be “a last resort” and should be proportional to the misbehavior.2 Instead of removing students from school, the author argues that schools should have social emotional learning programs and mental health professionals so that students who have struggled can learn the skills they need in order to “engage and thrive” in the school environment.2
In both articles, this importance of a supportive, rather than punitive environment is emphasized. Additionally, both articles stress that discipline must be fair. In “Rethinking Our Approach to SCHOOL DISCIPLINE” the author discusses how suspensions and expulsions are disproportionately applied to minorities and students with disabilities and how this fact should encourage schools to refrain from using such policies.1 The author of “A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline” agrees, arguing that school disciplinary policies must be clear, fair, and establish proportional punishments.2 Fairness, according to the author, constitutes responses that are “without regard to a student’s personal characteristics.”2
Lastly, both articles stress the importance of involving families, students, staff, and the community in the process of creating a positive school climate and in drafting disciplinary policies. Such involvement, according to both authors, also necessarily includes “professional development and training opportunities for all staff”2 which would necessarily include “educators, specialized instructional support personnel and school resource officers.”1
For the full articles, click on the links below: