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School discipline is the system of rules, punishments, and behavioral strategies appropriate to the regulation of children or adolescents and the maintenance of order in schools. Its aim is to control the students' actions and behavior.
An obedient student is in compliance with the school rules and codes of conduct. These rules may, for example, define the expected standards of clothing, timekeeping, social conduct, and work ethic. The term discipline is also applied to the punishment that is the consequence of breaking the rules. The aim of discipline is to set limits restricting certain behaviors or attitudes that are seen as harmful or going against school policies, educational norms, school traditions, et cetera.
School discipline practices are generally informed by theory from psychologists and educators. There are a number of theories to form a comprehensive discipline strategy for an entire school or a particular class.
- Positive approach is grounded in teachers' respect for students. Instills in students a sense of responsibility by using youth/adult partnerships to develop and share clear rules, provide daily opportunities for success, and administer in-school suspension for noncompliant students. Based on Glasser's Reality Therapy. Research (e.g., Allen) is generally supportive of the PAD program.
- Teacher effectiveness training differentiates between teacher-owned and student-owned problems, and proposes different strategies for dealing with each. Students are taught problem-solving and negotiation techniques. Researchers (e.g., Emmer and Aussiker) find that teachers like the programme and that their behaviour is influenced by it, but effects on student behaviour are unclear.
- Adlerian approaches is an umbrella term for a variety of methods which emphasize understanding the individual's reasons for maladaptive behavior and helping misbehaving students to alter their behavior, while at the same time finding ways to get their needs met. Named for psychiatrist Alfred Adler. These approaches have shown some positive effects on self-concept, attitudes, and locus of control, but effects on behavior are inconclusive (Emmer and Aussiker). Not only were the statistics on suspensions and vandalism significant, but also the recorded interview of teachers demonstrates the improvement in student attitude and behaviour, school atmosphere, academic performance, and beyond that, personal and professional growth.
- Appropriate school learning theory and educational philosophy is a strategy for preventing violence and promoting order and discipline in schools, put forward by educational philosopher Daniel Greenberg and practised by the Sudbury Valley School.
Throughout the history of education the most common means of maintaining discipline in schools was corporal punishment. While a child was in school, a teacher was expected to act as a substitute parent, with many forms of parental discipline or rewards open to them. This often meant that students were commonly chastised with the birch, cane, paddle, strap or yardstick if they did something wrong.
Corporal punishment in schools has now disappeared from most Western countries, including all European countries. Thirty-one U.S. states as well as the District of Columbia have banned it, most recently New Mexico in 2011. The other nineteen states (mostly in the South) continue to allow corporal punishment in schools. Paddling is still used to a significant (though declining) degree in some public schools in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. Private schools in these and most other states may also use it, though many choose not to do so.
Official corporal punishment, often by caning, remains commonplace in schools in some Asian, African and Caribbean countries.
Most mainstream schools in most other countries retain punishment for misbehavior, but it usually takes non-corporal forms such as detention and suspension.
Detention is one of the most common punishments in schools in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Singapore, Canada, Australia, South Africa and some other countries. It requires the pupil to go to a designated area of the school during a specified time on a school day (typically either recess or after school), but also may require a pupil to go to that part of school at a certain time on a non-school day, e.g. "Saturday detention" at some US, UK, and Irish schools (especially for serious offenses not quite serious enough for suspension).
In the UK, the Education Act 1997 obliges a (state) school to give parents or guardians at least 24 hours' notice of a detention outside school hours so arrangements for transport and/or childcare can be made. This should say why it was given and, more importantly, how long it will last (Detentions usually last from as short as 10 minutes or less to as long as 5 hours or more).
Typically, in schools in the US, UK, and Singapore, if one misses a detention, then another is added or the student gets a more serious punishment. In UK schools, for offenses too serious for a normal detention but not serious enough for a detention requiring the pupil to return to school at a certain time on a non-school day, a detention can require a pupil to return to school 1-2 hours after school ends on a school day, e.g. "Friday Night Detention".
Suspension or temporary exclusion is mandatory leave assigned to a student as a form of punishment that can last anywhere from one day to a few weeks, during which time the student is not allowed to attend regular lessons. In some US, Australian and Canadian schools, there are two types of suspension: In-School Suspension (ISS) and Out-of-School Suspension (OSS). In-school suspension requires the student to report to school as usual but sit in one room all day. Out-of-school suspension bans the student from being on school grounds. The student's parents/guardians are notified of the reason for and duration of the out-of-school suspension, and usually also for in-school suspensions. Sometimes students have to complete work during their suspensions, for which they receive no credit.(OSS only) In some UK schools, there is Reverse Suspension as well as normal suspension. A pupil suspended is sent home for a period of time set. A pupil reverse suspended is required to be at school during the holidays. Some pupils often have to complete work while reverse suspended.
Expulsion, exclusion, withdrawing, or permanent exclusion permanently bans the student from being on school grounds. This is the ultimate last resort, when all other methods of discipline have failed. However, in extreme situations, it may also be used for a single offense. Some education authorities have a nominated school in which all excluded students are collected; this typically has a much higher staffing level than mainstream schools. In some US public schools, expulsions and exclusions are so serious that they require an appearance before the Board of Education or the court system. In the UK, head teachers may make the decision to exclude, but the student's parents have the right of appeal to the local education authority. This has proved controversial in cases where the head teacher's decision has been overturned (and his or her authority thereby undermined), and there are proposals to abolish the right of appeal.
Expulsion from a private school is a more straightforward matter, since the school can merely terminate its contract with the parents if the pupil does not have siblings in the same school.
- Cotton (25 January 2009). "Schoolwide and Classroom Discipline". School Improvement Research Series (Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory) 5.)
- Efficacy of Class Meetings in Elementary Schools, Ann Roeder Platt, B.A., California State University, Sacramento. The University of San Francisco, The Effectiveness of Alderian Parent and Teacher Study Groups in Changing Child Maladaptive Behavior in a Positive Direction. Jane Nelsen
- Greenberg, 1987
- The Sudbury Valley School (1970). Law and Order: Foundations of Discipline, The Crisis in American Education — An Analysis and a Proposal. (p. 49-55). Retrieved 10 February 2010.
- Greenberg, D. (1987). With Liberty and Justice for All, Free at Last, The Sudbury Valley School. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
- Greenberg, D. (1987). Back to Basics, The Sudbury Valley School Experience. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
- Behaviour and discipline, ParentsCentre (Department for Children, Schools and Families), retrieved 25 January 2009
- Discipline Policy and Procedures, Delran Township School District, New Jersey, retrieved 25 January 2009
- Improving Behaviour and Attendance: Guidance on Exclusion from Schools and Pupil Referral Units, Teachernet (Department for Children, Schools and Families, England), retrieved 25 January 2009
- Arum, Richard (2003-10-30). Judging School Discipline: The Crisis of Moral Authority. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01179-3.
- Glasser, William (2001-05-15). Counseling With Choice Theory: The New Reality Therapy. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-095366-9.
- McIntyre, T. (2005) Assertive Discipline. Retrieved on 12 August 2005
- Tutorial: Guide to School Discipline MATHguide