Another Way to Address School Discipline

Schools in the United States suspend millions of kids every year. In 2006, 3,328,750 were suspended according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Yesterday, in Denver, a child was suspended for three days for saying "I'm sexy and I know it", a quote from a LMFAO song.

By keeping children out of class, they are left behind while their classmates advance ahead of them. Suspending children, thereby prohibiting them to learn, is not the correct solution with regards to discipline.

In Walla Walla, Washington, Lincoln High School has implemented a new practice to deal with children who misbehave - talking to them.

The article from Aces Too High News, describes an incident:

A student blows up at a teacher, drops the F-bomb. The usual approach at Lincoln – and, safe to say, at most high schools in this country – is automatic suspension. Instead, Sporleder sits the kid down and says quietly:

“Wow. Are you OK? This doesn’t sound like you. What’s going on?” He gets even more specific: “You really looked stressed. On a scale of 1-10, where are you with your anger?”
The kid was ready. Ready, man! For an anger blast to his face….”How could you do that?” “What’s wrong with you?”…and for the big boot out of school. But he was NOT ready for kindness. The armor-plated defenses melt like ice under a blowtorch and the words pour out: “My dad’s an alcoholic. He’s promised me things my whole life and never keeps those promises.” The waterfall of words that go deep into his home life, which is no piece of breeze, end with this sentence: “I shouldn’t have blown up at the teacher.”


The teacher successfully got to the root of the problem by asking the student what was going on in his life. Children that act out often have issues at home and/or outside of school. To suspend a child, we only push them further away and pass on addressing the real problem at hand.

I applaud Lincoln High School's new approach to behavioral issues. I urge other schools to look into doing the same.

One of our fellows, Gregg Volz, has created an alternate approach to school discipline in Chester Upland County by implementing Youth Courts. You can read more of his work here.

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