Police in Schools

With Discipline as With So Much Else in Education, Choice Is the Answer

Forget the national debate over zero tolerance vs. reform; let families pick what works for them.

|

"It is absolute chaos," former teacher Jasmine Kettler wrote on her blog in the wake of student discipline reforms in western Washington's Highline School District. Voicing a sentiment endorsed by some other local educators, she added, "students feel unsafe at school. I felt unsafe at school. Fighting, harassment, and incited aggression are present during passing periods, after school, and at-lunch."

Ketter wasn't alone when she quit. This summer, three years after the school district that until recently employed her eased punitive sanctions and opted for more in-school suspensions over booting kids out, more than 200 teachers resigned. Many of them signed a letter pointing to the discipline changes as their reason for leaving.

What's interesting is that the eased discipline policies driving the Highline resignations are themselves being adopted around the country in response to years of complaints about zero tolerance policies and rigid discipline. Parents and students have increasingly protested harsh penalties for kids "guilty" of throwing snowballs, failing to carry ID, and keeping a pocket knife in a car parked on campus. Their experiences made them no happier than Kettler was with hers.

It's almost as if one-size-fits-all discipline policies applied across the board to different students in diverse circumstances are as bad an idea as inflicting cookie-cutter curricula and teaching styles on kids with widely varying interests and talents.

The Highline School District controversy comes in the midst of a national debate over appropriate discipline policies in schools. Educators, administrators, policy makers, and families can't quite agree on the proper balance between maintaining order in schools and allowing kids to be kids without fear of an officially sanctioned stomping. Everybody has an opinion, and a litany of stories to tell to support their position.

"Research and data on school discipline practices are clear," The School Discipline Consensus Report, published by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, announced in 2014. "Millions of students are being removed from their classrooms each year, mostly in middle and high schools, and overwhelmingly for minor misconduct. When suspended, these students are at a significantly higher risk of falling behind academically, dropping out of school, and coming into contact with the juvenile justice system."

"Coming into contact with the juvenile justice system" is what the National Education Association [NEA] and others call the "school-to-prison pipeline" with reference to the higher crime rates prevailing among young people who don't earn high school diplomas. "In 2010, more than 3 million students were suspended from school, or double the level of suspensions in the 1970s," noted neaToday. "Meanwhile, more than a quarter-million were 'referred' to police officers for misdemeanor tickets, very often for offenses that once would have elicited a stern talking-to."

But Kettler and company weren't just talking about minor pranks. A few months before their resignations hit the news, the Seattle Times reported that "kids from Highline are packing the roster of murder-case prosecutions." None of the crimes occurred on campus, and district officials said kids were removed from class if they were arrested for breaking the law. But they obviously had their hands full.

So, which is it? Are school discipline policies too lenient? Or are they too harsh?

Maybe the answer is a bit of both – and, more importantly, that discipline policies don't seem to be applied with any reference to judgment or good sense.

In her widely circulated blog post, Kettler complained that teacher reports of misbehavior were often buried or modified by administrators to shield students from consequences. She cited the case of a student who was sent back to gym class despite violent outbursts and reports that she was dangerous; she ultimately beat and badly injured a classmate. But contrast that with the autistic 11-year-old boy charged by Virginia authorities with felony assault after struggling against a school resource officer who grabbed him. Or the Florida 7th-grader who was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery after bopping a buddy with a Tootsie Pop. Then there's the Georgia high school senior who faced felony charges because the tackle box in his car contained knives.

There's plenty of stupid to go around in public schools with the application of all flavors of discipline policies. The commonality here isn't lenience or rigidity—it's the government-run monopoly that still prevails for many Americans, despite growing options.

Advocates of educational choice have long argued that families are best served when they can pick among educational approaches. The idea is that some kids learn best when they pursue their own interests at their own pace, while others thrive in a structured environment. Some kids take in information best from lectures, while others soak up knowledge from the printed page. Solitary learners need one setting, and others do well in groups.

The number of children who are homeschooled in various ways and attending any number of different kinds of charter schools has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, suggesting a large constituency for choices. That's no surprise since, when asked, Americans rank public schools—the only education option everybody is forced to support—at the bottom of the list of alternatives. When allowed to, many parents are eager to seize the opportunity to pick what works for them and their kids.

Is there any reason why discipline wouldn't be among the things that should vary according to student, situation, and circumstance? It would seem that a national debate on the one "right" discipline policy is as misplaced as a hypothetical argument over making all kids learn according the Montessori approach or in a traditional academy. Any variable may be right for some kids and wrong for others.

No kid should be forced into an inappropriate educational environment. That's as true with regard to discipline as with any other factor.

NEXT: 3 Ironclad Reasons Gary Johnson Should Be in the Presidential Debates (+ 2 for Jill Stein)

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The major problem with school discipline is not lack of parental choice, it’s parents who don’t give a shit and wouldn’t no matter where their spawn went to school.

    1. Mt mother-in-law is a hall assistant climate monitor at a Philadelphia public high school. Most of the kids are little more than wild animals. They’re either fighting or fucking at any given time and actively drag down any kid that wants to better themselves.

      1. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,

        ——————>>> http://www.highpay90.com

      2. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail,,,.,.,.,

        ——————>>> http://www.4cyberworks.com

    2. Start working from home! Great job for students. stay-at-home moms or anyone who needs an extra income… You only need a computer and a reliable internet connection.. Make $90 hourly and up to $14000 a month by following link at the bottom and signing up… You can have your first check by the end of this week..Go to the website and click to tech tab and start your work…. this website…. http://goo.gl/C6c5YF

  2. I’m available for spanking at a reasonable fee! 20% off if you’re wearing a cheerleading outfit!

      1. RC Dean’s Iron Law applies here.

        1. You Get More Of What You Huckleberry?

        2. Iron Law or Iron Discipline, you little worm

        3. The less you know about something, the easier it looks?

        4. Me today, you tomorrow?

          1. RC Dean will be very put out with all of you.

            1. I’m not sure how i feel about that masturbation euphemism.

        5. Are you implying that I don’t know what it’s like to be spanked while wearing a cheerleaders outfit, and I assume it is easy work? I will have you know being spanked while wearing a cheerleader’s outfit is how I put myself through dental hygienist school.

          1. While i’m not surprised that your daily life involves reaching into other peoples’ mouths, i am disappointed to discover that you are paid for it.

  3. So today Politico is touting a story on how George HW (aka the First) told some spawn of the Kennedy’s that he is going to vote for Hillary. In the end they touted members of George the Lesser’s administration who have endorsed her. It seems odd to me how triumphant the left is to get endorsements from former Bush officials and neocons. 8 years ago, these people were all literally Hitler to them and America was a fascist police state. Today, they are happy to have them supporting their awful, cankled presidential candidate.

    Just a reminder of how most of the outrage people have on politics is completely bogus. It’s not about what is happening, but who is in charge when it happens.

    1. It’s about discouraging the Republican base from voting at all, which is quite a cunning strategy actually.

      1. Its the only one they’ve got. Suppress GOP turnout down to Dem levels or lose.

    2. That right there is also the reason for Trump’s being the nominee. The Republican base was fed up with the Republican establishment acting more like Democrats than Republicans. I don’t think this really helps Hillary like they think it does.

      1. The Republican base was fed up with the Republican establishment acting more like Democrats than Republicans.

        So they nominated a Democrat.

        *goes back to beating head against wall*

        1. They threw a tantrum and nominated an outsider who sounded like a populist and said things they wanted to hear.

        2. What I keep hearing them say is, “Screw the politicians. Send in the clown.”

      2. No kidding. It sends a strong message that their support was earned by devotion to systemic power, not the TEAM ideals and loyalty they’ve been peddling.

        It’s an anti-establishment election, is that really the message one wants to send?

        1. It’s an anti-establishment election

          I’ll give that a 50. HRC is the ultimate establishment candidate. Trump, yeah, not political establishment, but firmly established in the crony class.

          1. Well, he was firmly established in that class. The thing with Trump is that unless this is a mass conspiracy to get Hillary elected (they probably grossly underestimated how incompetent Hillary is), he’s burned too many bridges to go back to that. And I think he’s a fraction as wealthy as he says he is. I think he started as a joke and his ego took him the rest of the way once he realized people were buying this shit.

            More balls than Howard Stern had.

            1. And he’s not a loser, so once it occurred to him that he could actually win, he probably can’t quit.

            2. The thing with Trump is that unless this is a mass conspiracy to get Hillary elected (they probably grossly underestimated how incompetent Hillary is), he’s burned too many bridges to go back to that.

              First, I’m still not convinced that his candidacy isn’t all a ruse to help get Cankles elected.

              Second, even if it’s not, he knows that if he loses, everyone has their price – especially Shrillary. A couple of donations to the Clinton Foundation and all will be forgiven.

              1. “A couple of donations to the Clinton Foundation and all will be forgiven.”

                You mean-the cankles admin will give Trump exclusibe rights to open casinos on Indian Reservations and USAID grants to open them in developing countries, as well as forgive Trump any back taxes. She will be the one who owes him if she wins.

    3. Hillary is the 5th term of George the Lesser…

  4. You can’t give parents choice in their kid’s education. They might make the wrong choice and then where would we be as a society. We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

    1. You can’t give parents choice in their kid’s education. They might make the wrong choice and then where would we be as a society.

      Paraphrasing Napoleon?

  5. No kid should be forced into an inappropriate educational environment.

    “But force is all we understand”: every gov’t lackey ever.

  6. Government is exceptionally ineffective at almost everything, but the exact opposite paradigm is what we call public education.

  7. Welcome back Too Chilly. I read your book, you magnificent bastard!

  8. It is amazing to me that people don’t realize that having choices for everything is good.

  9. bopping a buddy with a Tootsie Pop.

    These euphemisms…

  10. Facebook gives you a great opportunity to earn 98652$ at your home.If you are some intelligent you makemany more Dollars.I am also earning many more, my relatives wondered to see how i settle my Life in few days thank GOD to you for this…You can also make cash i never tell alie you should check this I am sure you shocked to see this amazing offer…I’m Loving it!!!!
    ????????> http://www.factoryofincome.com

  11. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,
    ——————>>> http://www.highpay90.com

  12. What’s the common factor between irrationally harsh and irrationally lenient discipline policies? They’re both driven by politics. When school shootings are in the news, politicians jump on it and vow to prevent more shootings. When “institutional racism” is in the news, politicians jump on it and promise to “fight racism” by imposing de facto racial quotas and forcing schools to tolerate violent students.

    Notice how Tuccille writes an article on school discipline and avoids mentioning race even once. Because we have to kiss up to blacks and jump on the BLM wagon, or they won’t like us.

  13. I am making $89/hour working from home. I never thought that it was legitimate but my best friend is earning $10 thousand a month by working online, that was really surprising for me, she recommended me to try it. just try it out on the following website.

    ??? http://www.NetNote70.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.