Discipline in Schools

Consistency, fairness, and follow-through reduce classroom disruptions

Schoolboy (11-13) sitting on chair in corridor, side view

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Schools should provide students with the educational foundation to build successful, independent lives. Classroom disruptions interfere with student achievement. Teachers and administrators must maintain the discipline to create an effective learning environment. A combination of methods used in a consistent and fair manner typically offers the best approach to classroom discipline.

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Increase Parental Involvement

Boy (9-11) with father and female teacher, sitting at desk in classroom

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Parents make a difference in student achievement and behavior. Schools should institute policies requiring teachers to contact parents periodically throughout the year. Half-term or end-of-term reports are often not enough. Calling takes time, but parents can often provide solutions to difficult classroom problems. While not all parental involvement will be positive or have a measurable effect on student behavior, many successful schools use this approach.

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Create and Enforce a Schoolwide Discipline Plan

Discipline plans provide students with acknowledged consequences for misbehavior. Effective classroom management should include the dissemination and use of a discipline plan. Teacher training on implementation along with periodic reviews can encourage the consistent and fair application of behavior standards.

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Establish Leadership

The actions of the principal and assistant principals form the basis of the overall mood for the school. If they consistently support teachers, fairly implement the discipline plan, and follow through on disciplinary actions, then teachers will follow their lead. If they slack off on discipline, it becomes apparent over time and misbehavior typically increases.

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Practice Effective Follow-Through

Consistently following through on the action plan is the only way to truly foster discipline in schools. If a teacher ignores misbehavior in the classroom, it will increase. If administrators fail to support the teachers, they could easily lose control of the situation.

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Provide Alternative Education Opportunities

Some students need controlled environments where they can learn without distracting the wider school community. If one student continually disrupts a class and shows an unwillingness to improve his behavior, he might need to be removed from the situation for the sake of the rest of the students in the class. Alternative schools provide options for disruptive or challenging students. Moving students to new classes that can be controlled at the school level can also help in some situations.

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Build a Reputation for Fairness

Students must believe that teachers and administrators are fair in their disciplinary actions. While some extenuating circumstances require administrators to make adjustments for individual students, in general, students who misbehave should be treated similarly.

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Implement Additional Effective Schoolwide Policies

Discipline in schools can evoke the image of administrators stopping fights before they begin or dealing with hostile students in a classroom setting. However, effective discipline begins with the implementation of schoolwide housekeeping policies that all teachers must follow. For example, if a school implements a tardy policy that all teachers and administrators follow, tardies will likely decrease. If teachers are expected to handle these situations on a case-by-case basis, some will do a better job than others and tardies will have a tendency to increase.

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Maintain High Expectations

From administrators to guidance counselors and teachers, schools must institute high expectations for both academic achievement and behavior. These expectations should include messages of encouragement and means of support to help all children succeed

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Additional References

  • Osher, D. et. al. Addressing the Root Causes of Disparities in School Discipline: An Educator’s Action Planning Guide. Washington, D.C: National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, 2015. 
  • Slee, Roger. Changing Theories and Practices of Discipline. The Farmer Press, 1979.
  • South Carolina State Department of Education. Best Practices for Supporting Educators with Discipline. 2019.
View Article Sources
  1. Joseph, Philip. “The Role of Parents in the Dynamics of School Discipline.” SSRN, 23 Jan. 2013.

  2. Griffith, David and Adam Tyner. Discipline Reform through the Eyes of Teachers. Washington, D.C: Thomas B. Fordham Insitute, 30 July 2019.

  3. Nelson, Faye. A Qualitative Study of Effective School Discipline Practices: Perceptions of Administrators, Tenured Teachers, and Parents in Twenty Schools. Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 718, 2002.

  4. Sharkey, Colin. “Developing a Total School Discipline Plan.” NWPE Vision.