Symposium 2015: Do schools need more authority to discipline students? If so, how do we accomplish this?

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Through a video watched on Facebook, I was quite appalled by the level of indiscipline in the classroom. Teachers have no authority whatsoever with regards to disciplining children. Students do absolutely whatever they want, even in the presence of their teacher. Also, think about the level of violence meted out to teachers daily. These include verbal and at times, physical abuse. Should we allow the morals of students to collapse in the classroom or do schools need more authority to discipline students?

Yes, schools need more authority to discipline students. This will teach them respect for their fellow classmates, teachers and those of the auxiliary staff. Additionally, the majority of students respond to discipline. However, as important as it is for schools to improve in disciplining children, how can this be accomplished?

To accomplish this, schools need to implement a punishment system. If there is a detention system in your school, ensure that the environment is unbearable. Detention should not be an area where students can sit and have the time of their lives. When the conditions during a detention session are made unbearable, students will learn not to behave unruly, as they’d dread going to detention.

Furthermore, students love the comfort of their smart phones. Take those away for the entire day and they’ll be like walking zombies. Schools should be given that authority to seize items, especially smart devices from students who misbehave. Though other measures can be implemented, that is dependent on the level of authority given to schools.


Owatanna, MN Correspondent-A recent incident in St. Paul, Minnesota, where a 16-yr-old student attacked and severely injured a teacher inside the school, illustrates the dilemma school personnel face of balancing their personal safety with maintaining control of unruly students. If not enough discipline is allowed, students start to believe they are immune from any serious consequences and will behave accordingly. If too much disciplining is allowed to the point of corporal punishment, the schools open themselves up to lawsuits from upset parents. Worse yet, unscrupulous or sadistic teachers or principals may physically abuse children if left unchecked.

Schools need more authority to discipline students. However, the discipline should not be corporal punishment of any sort. On the other hand, school personnel should be allowed to protect themselves from unruly or violent students.

Perhaps the immediate answer is to increase the number of school security personnel in each building. If a student is disrupting class, perhaps lashing out at other students or teachers, send in a security squad of several strong adults who will gently but physically remove the student from the situation and place him or her in an isolated room for a cooling off period. This isn’t good for the student, because he is removed from the learning environment, but it benefits the rest of the class, who are allowed to resume learning instead of witnessing a confrontation or fight.

The long term solution is to restore in parents the mindset that education is one of the most important things they can give their child and they need to become actively involved in preparing their children for learning, and stressing  proper behavior in class. It seems that many parents see schools as merely a long-term daycare solution and don’t much care what their child does in school. Reversing that trend may take several generations, but until parents teach and instill respect for learning and respect for teachers, school discipline will continue to be a major problem.


Gastonia, NC Correspondent-As the brother of a woman who has taught middle school classes in both private and public schools, and spent two years as the principal of an elementary school in the poorest part of Baton Rouge, I can say without equivocation that schools must be afforded more options when it comes to disciplining children.

In all social strata, it seems that parenting of the sort that teaches respect for authority and obedience to rules is becoming a vanishing thing.  Millennials are too busy teaching their little Jordyns and Braydens that they’re special little snowflakes to give them any sort of moral or civil instruction.  Gods forbid we bruise their little self-images, right?

The lot of them would be better off if their self-images and their hind ends got bruised a little more often.

This leaves teachers and school administrators in the untenable (and unenviable) position of having to try to discipline children whose parents will defend their spawn’s misdeeds as the justifiable questioning of an active mind and demand that the entire school staff undergo sensitivity training before so much as speaking to little Kathlynn or J’von again.

Corporal punishment is by and large a thing of the past in schools.  Having been on the receiving end of a wooden paddle wielded by a burly assistant principal more than once in my school career, I can testify to its power to right wrongs and set me on the straight and narrow.  Even if the blows themselves didn’t do the job, the smirks I got from my friends when I emerged from the office wincing did.

Suspension is a useless tool, as most parents allow their kids to treat it like a vacation, and since teachers are under such pressure to keep the average test scores up that they’ll bend over backward to make sure that the offenders get all the extra instruction time they need to keep from falling behind.

Perhaps some sort of in-school community service might be the answer.  I doubt that the class bully will strut quite so proudly when he’s spent three days wearing a hair net and serving lunch to his former victims in the school cafeteria.  The foul-mouthed malcontent who disrupts class will have plenty of time to scream obscenities into the ether while he’s mowing the athletic fields with a reel mower.  And the “Mean Girl” who delights in tormenting those who don’t fit in might find herself a bit more sympathetic after a week scrubbing floors and toilets.

Demeaning? Yes, absolutely. Punitive?  You bet.

Effective?  Could be …

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Schools do need more authority to discipline students.  Discipline and behavior problems are prevalent in American public schools today and are significant enough that they disrupt and jeopardize student learning. Teachers are leaving the profession altogether because of discipline problems  and they, along with concerned parents, have noted in national studies that  just a few trouble makers cause the  behavioral problems that affect a whole classroom.  The result is a tension filled environment of confusion, interruption, distraction and disrespect for the normal operation of a classroom and the learning process.  There is also awareness, from the teacher standpoint, that students and parents feel empowered to question and confront the decisions of teachers and threaten them with lawsuits and other actions.

A nonprofit research organization, Public Agenda, has found that many times teachers are operating in an atmosphere of constant challenge and anticipation, which affects their capacity to teach and keep order in the classroom.  Surveys through Public Agenda indicate that teachers have said that students readily remind them that they have their rights and that their parents can sue them.  Others indicated that they had been accused of disciplining a student unjustly, and more than half of teachers surveyed reported that their districts conceded to demanding parents, which caused even more discipline problems.

In order to accomplish discipline issues in schools, school districts must form their own coalitions comprised of teachers, parents, administrators and school board members who are ready to tackle the issues of discipline problems and resolve them in a firm and common sense manner.  The solutions needed to meet discipline problems head on should include strict enforcement of disciplinary measures already in existence in individual schools, and those discipline or behavioral measures should be consistent throughout a school district.  Also, alternative schools and discipline rooms within a school should be made available for habitually disruptive students.

Those disruptive students who refuse to leave a classroom on the spot, through a teacher request, must be taken to a discipline room by a school administrator, or accompanied by a school security official, where they receive school work to complete and other assigned tasks within the school itself, which makes them not only responsible for the consequences of their behavior but also makes them accountable to the school as well.   If those measures are ineffective and students refuse to do schoolwork or other assigned tasks, referral to an alternative school is made, with a suspension from the home school, until placement is made in the alternative school.

Another important issue linked with discipline involves aggressive parents who must be limited in their ability to sue schools over disciplinary actions, particularly when money settlements are involved.  Though most parents today take the side of their children in disciplinary proceedings, parents have to be involved in the disciplinary process in a more proactive way and own up to their children’s disruptive and damaging behaviors.  Parents must be part of any behavioral plan when their child has continuously created havoc in a classroom.  Follow up in the home environment with a behavioral plan is critical as well.

It is very apparent that school discipline has been a prevalent problem for some time.  Schools are up against the wall with a minority of students who do their best to consistently challenge rules and teachers, while preventing others from learning and teachers from teaching.   With the present sue happy climate in America, schools are at the mercy of parents, their lawyers and the courts, which weakens a school’s ability to maintain disciplinary measures in the classroom.  Without bold and tough rules and their strict enforcement, school systems will only continue to battle what seems to be an ever growing problem that needs to be ended before schools become behavioral treatment centers rather than centers of learning.

Cartwright—All of my colleagues here have hit on one important point, and that’s the lack of respect that kids today have for authority figures.  The school system suffers from the inmates running the prison.  That has to stop.  I’ve long advocated turning over the entire school system in the America to the military.  Let me be clear that I’m not saying we turn public schools into military schools.  I’m simply saying that the administration of the schools be run by the military.  Kids will be taught respect and manners, and if the parents need to be taught some respect and manners, they can be taught respect as well courtesy of America’s finest military personnel.  I think the military is pretty good at the whole discipline thing, don’t you?  Unruly kids in school would learn that their actions have consequences, and I don’t think they would want more than one dose of military discipline.  I think it would improve moral in the schools and make our schools safer for students, teachers, and administrators alike.  I think you would see an improvement in test scores because there wouldn’t be learning disruptions in the classrooms and habitually truant students would be getting paid a visit by a couple of MPs.

The fact is the public education system has no effective means of disciplining students anymore.  The only way to restore that is to have the system run by the military.  Good luck suing Uncle Sam if you feel your precious little child who has no respect for teachers or others has been mistreated if they have to peel potatoes or do pushups or if they get their ass whipped.  Many kids these days are being taught morals or values or respect in their homes so they need to get it somewhere else.  The schools have been emasculated when it comes to this, so let’s give a new approach a try.

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