The puzzle for improving school discipline continues to mystify school officials with no end in sight. School efforts seem to have mixed results leaving the community to wonder if administrators should receive monetary rewards for a problem that appears unsolvable. Schools will need to do a better job at eliminating the student and staff values that continue to contribute to disproportionate school discipline.
Schools continue to have mixed results for improving school discipline for students of color. A prime example is the Kern High School District located in Bakersfield, CA. The school officials reported that they have implemented new discipline practices that focus on minimizing punitive measures such as suspensions and expulsions that are replaced with the restorative justice approach that address student behavioral problems. The outcome of their strategy has resulted in 0.8 percent drop in suspensions for all students. Also, African American student suspension rates dropped 3.5 percent. While suspension rates dropped, student expulsion rates increased. The number of expulsions remained the same for African American and Hispanic students. However, White student expulsions increased by 150 percent from six to nine expulsions.
Schools districts have failed to accept that one plus one equals two rather than one plus one equaling one. School officials continue to believe that the student discipline problem rest only with the students. They have effectively implemented procedures that place blame on the student rather than placing blame on both the student and the staff member involved.
Furthermore, schools must remember that any investment in improving school discipline must be invested in the staff members rather than students. It is the equivalent of having soldiers on the front line and instead of providing them with the tools necessary to complete the task you provide them with tools that only provide opportunities for failure.
It must also be remembered that students do contribute to the school discipline problem through their beliefs. For example, many students believe that school is detrimental to their identity. If they continue with this belief, then they will exhibit behaviors that are counterproductive to the mission of the school.
Teachers also contribute to the challenges associated with school discipline. Researchers have reported that teachers contribute through racial biases which have resulted in teacher discrimination and discrimination in the classroom. Teachers discriminate against students by stereotyping according to ethnicity. This creates challenges with improving school discipline because teachers are more likely to have negative academic and behavioral expectations regarding Black students when compared to the expectations of White students.
Schools also have tendencies that detract from improving school discipline. Distrust between schools and Blacks results from hostile treatment of Blacks and discrimination in schools. Employment discrimination is the primary source of Black student opposition to schooling. Blacks believe schools ineffectively prepares Black children with the same skills that enable White middle-class persons to attain good jobs and wages. Blacks discourage school success as a cultural goal and respond by developing survival strategies that contribute to school failure as well as conflict with the schools. This conflict spills over into the classroom. It results in cultural classroom clashes between teachers and students resulting in reduced academic achievement.
Improving school discipline begins with empowering teachers to improve the school climate by promoting positive racial teacher student classroom relationships. Empowering teachers is important for several reasons. First, empowering teachers does not shift the classroom power relationship that many other programs propose as an alternative solution. When there is a shift in the teacher student power relationship, it results in a disgruntled teacher. Many teachers will under perform or leave the teaching profession when they feel disgruntled. If they decide to leave this can create a teacher shortage in that school district.
Secondly, empowering teachers to improve school discipline helps schools to become more productive. Empowering teachers increases quality of work because in organizations that provide employees with the freedom and flexibility to make a difference, employees feel empowered to deliver high quality work. Schools that provide teachers with the freedom and flexibility to improve school discipline will help teachers to deliver higher levels of quality work with their students.
All the best,
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
• Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
• Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
• The Raccelerate Formula App
• Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
• The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Racism Management
“Dr. Campbell did his part and now all we have to do is run with it.”
~ Tom Coleman ~
Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools
“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.
~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”
~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President