Is school discipline policy effective? Recent events question effectiveness of approach

BY AHMED DARWICH

Due to recent disciplinary events, students have begun to question the disciplinary system and its effectiveness on the student body.

Most students at Wadsworth High are not familiar with the disciplinary system, but a very public display of actions that required disciplinary consequences has made students begin to question its effectiveness within the school.

Statistics show that the effects of expulsions and in-school detention often leads students down a criminal path. According to the Task Force on the Education of Maryland’s American Males, “high suspension and expulsion rates do little more than increase court referrals for minor misbehavior,” and those actions put “a child on the path toward delinquency or accelerates his journey there.”

Many students agree with this, such as Natalie Freno, 12, who said that the current system “doesn’t ‘fix’ [students], but does give them a fair punishment most of the time for what they have done. But, if you get expelled, you are most likely already heading down the wrong path.”

Cases of permanent expulsion and long lasting suspensions can alter a student’s life, as discipline is placed on permanent record and is seen by colleges and employers. A legitimate concern to members of the community for those who do not graduate high school due to disciplinary actions can offer little to their community.

Teachers often find flaws in the system as well. “It takes a village to raise a child- a school district, a home environment, as well as friends and peers. The current disciplinary system cannot effectively reform students because students are influenced not only by their school environment but also by their home and peers,” said Mr. Singleton.

Studies from Advancement Project have also shown that schools with high rates of exclusionary discipline have lower academic performance and school climate rating. These schools tend to score lower on state accountability tests and rank lower in the National Assessment of Educational Progress achievement ranking in mathematics, writing, and reading compared to schools with lower suspension and expulsion rates.

One of the most common forms of higher level disciplinary action is in-school detention. Students who are in in-school detention are being removed from the social aspect of the school environment. “Sometimes, it is necessary for students to be taken out of the school setting for the safety of all,” Mr. Moore stated.

But many students actually like having in-school detention. Micheal Callow, 12, says that “in-school is great. I get all my work done in the first hour and then mess around for the rest of the day playing games.”

While students question the discipline system, most administrators have strong confidence in it. For when it was created, the system was meant to reform students and provide consequences for violent actions and rule breaking. However, the administrators do not like expelling and suspending students, according to Moore.

Moore stated that the discipline system “doesn’t work for all, but most students. Most students want to follow the rules. We have this discipline to ensure that something bad doesn’t happen again.”

There are different options for disciplining students that show statistically better results. Employing student government and allowing students to decide disciplinary action for their peers occurs at many colleges and is proven effective. At one middle school in Maryland, discipline referrals were cut by ninety-eight percent in one year with the use of student government.

The denotation of discipline is training that reforms moral aspects of character. However, the connotation at many schools, including Wadsworth, has become “punishment” rather than “reformation.” This effectively creates the idea that students are just being punished for the sake of punishment.