School discipline refers to the rules and strategies applied in school to manage student behavior and practices used to encourage self discipline.
School discipline addresses schoolwide, classroom, and individual student needs through broad prevention, targeted intervention, and development of self-discipline. Approaches to school discipline range from positive (e.g., schoolwide school climate improvements, use of restorative practices) to punitive (e.g., suspension, expulsion, corporal punishment). How school discipline is handled has a great impact on the learning environments of schools.
Students who have been suspended are significantly more likely to drop out of school and become involved in the juvenile justice system than their peers. Students of color, especially boys, and students with disabilities are disproportionately punished. Suspensions are often subjectively applied in such cases. For example, a significant percent of suspensions and expulsions are for trivial or minor offenses (e.g., "being disrespectful" or violating school dress code). Schools that approach school discipline punitively affect the overall school climate, creating a more negative environment for all students, including those without discipline issues.
Establishing and maintaining a positive school and classroom climate allows a school community to proactively prevent discipline issues by increasing the strength and the quality of classroom activities. Implicit in this approach is the assumption that participating in well-managed classroom activities encourages self-discipline by teaching students about what is possible through cooperation and coordination with others. It also provides the essential conditions for caring, support, clear expectations, and guidance that nurture healthy student development and motivation.
A positive approach to discipline shifts the focus of discipline from punishment to restoration of relationships and restored understanding of and commitment to rules and order. The purpose of discipline then becomes the teaching of civility and interpersonal skills and the reconnection of alienated children. Preventive methods and multi-tiered models can provide pre-planned responses to disruption/violence, laying the foundation for positive discipline methods to be successful in creating the appropriate conditions for teachers to instruct effectively and for students to learn.
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