Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thoughts on School Discipline

     I served as a School Resource Officer at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC for 8 school years.  Grimsley was one of the first schools in the state to introduce an International Baccalaureate program and has routinely appeared in the top 100 rankings of high schools in the country.  It is the oldest high school in Greensboro and since desegregation has a minority enrollment averaging in the 40 percentile.  Grimsley is a diverse school not only in demographics but also in educational opportunities such as Spanish Immersion, Army ROTC and many school sponsored extracurricular clubs and organizations.  It also is home to one of the largest attended Exceptionally Challenged children's programs in the county.
     When I arrived at Grimsley in the fall of 2006 the school was undergoing a transition period in their administration that fostered several violent incidents and a significant gang presence on campus.  Administrators worked tirelessly under County administration guidelines to remove those students that were causing these issues but seemed to not receive much help from "downtown".  The breaking point in my view came on December 14, 2007 when a neighborhood issue was brought to school that morning in the form of a riot in which investigation led me to charge 21 students.  8 of those were suspended long term and the others served punishments by the school administrators.
     The next school year Ms. Anna Brady took over as Principal.  After observing what she had inherited she instituted policies that provided consistent consequences for rule breakers and remained steadfast for her 3 school years served in position.  Ms. Brady and her administrative team worked tirelessly during her first year, long term suspending several habitually offending students and providing teachers with consistent support in removing problems from classrooms without the teachers having to become involved in verbal or physical confrontations.  I assisted in this process by providing consistent legal consequences for violent actions and threats of violence by students as well as refusal to comply with administrators directives.
     The results were an increase in suspensions the first year (2008-09) and approximately 1600 discipline referrals from teachers.  However, by remaining consistent with consequences for every student those referrals decreased by half the following year (2009-10) and significantly again in 2010-11.  Classroom achievement also increased with regards to test scores, attendance and lack of tardies during the three year period as discipline and suspensions decreased.
     In the 2007-08 school year I arrested students that participated in 38 fights as well as the 21 that participated in the riot and 198 total arrests for the year.  In 2010-11, those arrests had decreased to 10 total fights and 106 total arrests, 31 of those for charges of drug sales.
     These numbers indicate that structure, routine and consistent discipline over a sustained period of time relieves classroom issues that cause lack of achievement and disciplinary problems in schools.  All the money and well intentioned programs ever developed are doomed to failure if the teachers and students are not in an environment conducive to learning.  Parenting and home life do affect a student's perception of the educational world but these issues can be overcome if school administrators and politicians will stop making excuses for bad behavior.
     There are two cliches that were written about middle and high school students.  You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.  Five percent of the student population seemed to be responsible for the disciplinary problems in school.  Of those 5 of every 100 students, one would be a student that would not comply to school rules or even state laws regardless of the consequences or efforts to rehabilitate their behavior.  They welcomed suspensions and did not care about missing school.  The other four would be followers, friends or acquaintances that would become involved based on the influence of the one.  When the one was eliminated from campus the four would usually fall in line.  There are those that would argue that we must keep the one in school under any circumstances.  Is it worth losing the four to hang on to the one?  Should we allow the one to continuously disrupt classes or campus security thus enabling him to believe he can do anything he wants?  How is this preparing the one to adapt to life after school?  State laws do not include "love them and hug them".
     Give them an inch they will take a mile.  Patting the one on the head and leaving him to disrupt the school leads to a sense of "entitlement" and leaves this person in a position of leadership to drag the four in a downward trajectory with him.  This seems like a very high price to pay when you can save four by eliminating one.  Sociologists who seem to have infiltrated our school systems administrative offices with little educational background argue "what happens to the one if we kick him out"?  Life happens!  The one will either continue to not conform or he will reach a point where he realizes education is a necessity to save his life.  A GED is free to acquire at our state community colleges.  Allowing students to stay in high school until they are 21 years of age regardless of achievement or mathematical possibility to graduate by that age is ridiculous.  20 year old students with credits equalling freshman or sophomore status and repeating classes with 14 year old students represent a dangerous trend that negatively affects the entire school system.
     Everyone has a guaranteed right to have the opportunity to an education.  Going to school is a privilege and rules must be obeyed and enforced for the health and well being of the schools and their students.  Stop enabling trouble makers and our schools will improve dramatically.  I've seen it happen.


  1. Well said Marc. Having worked with you I know you had the best interests of the students at heart.

  2. You have mentioned the great scenario about discipline of school and why its importance and how it providing benefits for students that would help the individual to acquire knowledge, habits, interests and ideals.
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