Disciplining Ourselves

Public Agenda just published a study on discipline in schools in cooperation with Common Good, Phillip Howard’s legal reform organization. Not surprisingly teachers and parents see discipline as a major issue and a major problem (one in three teachers said it was the top problem at their school) although they blame a small minority of students for most of the problems. However, in terms of solutions the devil is very much in the details. Respondents favored “zero tolerance” policies, for example, but wanted such policies to also include “common sense”. Of course, one person’s common sense is another’s inconsistent discipline policy. Common Good undertakes important work to rein in our lawsuit culture and we should wish them success. Schools have been forced to adopt uniform policies in part because of lawsuits. Uniformity not discretion is a foil against litigation and until the current climate changes it’s hard to blame the schools for protecting themselves.

It’s all worth reading — particularly the raw data in the back.

Current Event Afterthought: One concern raised by teachers in this study was discipline for special education students. Both the House and Senate IDEA reauthorization bills include changes to IDEA’s discipline provisions. The House language, however, is stronger. Look for that to be an issue in conference.

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