Education Letter to the Editor

New Discipline Strategies Are Unlikely to Pay Off

January 08, 2008 1 min read

To the Editor:

It’s impossible for anyone who has not taught in a public school to understand the effect that disruptive students have not only on teachers, but on other students as well (“Ed. Schools Beef Up Classroom-Management Training,” Dec. 12, 2007). While it is encouraging that schools of education are working to develop strategies to address the problem, it’s unlikely that these will pay off in the way their designers hope. That’s because the strategies will unavoidably divert teachers’ time and energy away from instruction, contributing to burnout and shortchanging what other students learn.

Unlike private and religious schools that have the freedom to admit and expel whomever they choose, public schools are bound by state education codes, board of education policies, and court decisions. As a result, elaborate documentation is required whenever students are disciplined. This necessity alone acts as a deterrent to taking action.

The authority of teachers to act in loco parentis, which for generations was the basis for disciplining students, was effectively gutted by the student-rights revolution of the 1960s. This means that teachers and administrators have been put on the defensive whenever they single out miscreants.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the January 09, 2008 edition of Education Week as New Discipline Strategies Are Unlikely to Pay Off