School Discipline: Different Approaches to Having a Well Behaved Student Body

Association of Educators
October 18, 2013 — 885 views  

Over the years, many approaches have been tried towards school discipline. It is a rather old and tested area of practice for many school counselors. Student discipline was perceived to be a problem of behavior modification in students. But now it is perceived to be a problem of environment. The key focus now is on providing a safe environment for students to study in. Out of the many approaches, some have worked, but some have not.

Zero Tolerance Policy

This policy mandates the use of heavy punishments to act as a deterrent against disruptive students. Even small transgressions are punished heavily. It is assumed if small misbehavior is not corrected, then later more severe misbehavior might become more common.

But it has been observed that this method does not create a safer environment at schools. This policy also results in negative consequences such as higher rate of school dropouts. This policy unfairly targets minority students and students from weaker economic backgrounds.

Proactive Approach

In this approach, the students are given an opportunity to forge a relationship with caring adults, and the curriculum is made more engaging. The discipline that is maintained strives to be fair and equal. Several therapeutic activities are conducted. It tries to reduce the amount of student alienation.

This approach aims at early intervention. The problems that students face are considered seriously before they develop into major problems. The main goal is violence prevention at an early stage.

Progressive Discipline

In this method, the administrators make expected behavior and unexpected behavior very clear to the students in advance. Any transgressions of behavior are dealt with reasonably, consistently and fairly. Anticipated behavioral problems are corrected in advance.  The uniqueness of each student is respected.

Positive Approach

In this approach, the various disruptive actions by students are categorized into several levels. Level 1 contains minor disruptions. Level 2 contains moderate disruptions. Level 3 contains serious disruptions. The goal is to prevent the disruptions from reaching a higher level. Another goal is to reduce the incidence and frequency of disruptive behavior in general.

The students are provided with several support structures. These include peer helper systems, circuit team, educational support team, and an adult mentor. The student is encouraged to reach out to each of these support providers if he needs any help.

School-wide Approach

This approach mandates instituting processes that target the entire school of students and not just the students who have behavioral problems. The entire school should be put under a single standard of behavior. All students should be made to follow this standard. No separate action needs to be taken for individual cases of misbehavior.

If and when a student misbehaves, the case should be gradually escalated from lower level authorities to higher level authorities. The expected reaction should be made clear to all stakeholders in the process.

Over the years, the approach to school discipline has varied a lot. It has gone from a zero tolerance approach to a more positive approach. It has gone from an adversarial system to a more welcoming and open system. And all this has happened because of the observations of researchers who made their suggestions. These suggestions, when implemented, provided major improvements in several schools.

Association of Educators