Breaking Down the Most Successful Student Discipline Practices

A school administrator's job in the realm of student discipline is much like the combination of judge and jury. A school administrator listens to all the evidence and makes the best possible decision that he or she can make in handing out a reasonable consequence. Unfortunately, there is not always a clear cut answer to what may be the best way to handle a certain student discipline case. A good administrator will carefully examine and weigh all evidence and make what they feel like is the best possible way to deter the student from making the same mistake twice. An overview of eight of the most common student discipline practices is discussed in this article.

Verbal Warning

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There are cases of student discipline where a simple verbal warning could be issued to rectify the problem. This could be for minor violations of school policy particularly if it is a student who never or rarely gets into trouble. A verbal warning should include what your expectations are concerning that behavior and the next step of action should they violate the same policy a second time.

Parent Conference

A parent conference can be used to include the parent in the process of disciplinary action. Involving the parents lets both the student and parents know that poor choices will not be tolerated. It also allows a school administrator to present all evidence to the parents with the student present so that facts are not distorted. A parent conference will probably lead to further consequences for the student who has violated a policy.


Detention is a staple in many school discipline plans. The terrific thing about detention is that it is variable in many aspects including the time of day, days spent serving, and tasks they are required to complete. Many schools use a combination of detention variables depending on the policy infraction committed by the student. Possible detention times include before school detention, recess detention, lunch detention, PE detention, and after school detention. Tasks could include but are not limited to writing sentences, picking up trash, working on homework, reading a book, or simply sitting quietly for the required time. Detention is mostly used for smaller policy infractions, and the time spent in detention is often representative of what policy was violated.

Saturday School

Saturday school can be used as a slightly harsher form of detention. Saturday school can be used as both a disciplinary consequence and academic assistance for struggling students. No student wants to come to school on a Saturday, so having this as a possible consequence could significantly deter a targeted set of actions that are problematic for your school. An obvious drawback for holding Saturday school is that it requires an administrator or teacher to be there to run it. If it is a disciplinary consequence, then Saturday school could be used similarly to community service where the student or students do particular work like picking up trash, cleaning up storage space, etc. The amount of time spent at Saturday school is up to the individual school but four hours from 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. would be ideal. One way to offset that is to offer the person volunteering to monitor Saturday school compensation time for their time spent.

In-School Suspension

In-School Suspension (ISS) is sometimes referred to as In-School Placement (ISP). This consequence is effective for mid-major infractions and/or for temporarily removing a student from the general population who has become a disruption. ISP keeps a student in isolation on school premises during the school day allowing the student to complete all school work, but separated from all other students while monitored by school officials. Many schools have a certified teacher who monitors all students serving ISP helping them with any school work related issues, keeping them on their required schedule (including bathroom breaks), and enforcing the rules associated with being in ISP. The most effective ISP programs are the ones with the most structure. ISP should not be a place that students enjoy being in. ISP can range from a short period of time (1-2 days) to a long period of time.

Out-of-School Suspension

Out-of-School suspension is a disciplinary consequence for more serious offenses. Students who are given out-of-school suspension as a disciplinary consequence either serve a short-term suspension (less than 10 days) or a long-term suspension (more than 10 days). A student who receives a long-term suspension must be placed on a plan of study to meet their academic needs if they are a special education student on an Individual Education Plan. Schools are not required to allow suspended students assignments to work on, but some schools do choose to go ahead and accommodate students in this manner so that they do not fall too far behind. A long-term suspension should be used as a last resort in most cases. Students who are serving a suspension must remain at home during school hours, or they could face truancy charges.


Expulsion is used for extreme violations of school policy including the possession of weapons, assault on a school employee, drug possession and/or use, etc. Most schools have a hearing before the school board to determine whether the expulsion is the appropriate consequence. Most expulsions last for a full calendar year, but the members of the board can make changes to the length of the expulsion on a case by case basis. The board must offer an alternative education opportunity to any student under 16 and students between ages 17-18 must also be given that opportunity unless it is weapons or drug-related.

Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment is a controversial form of discipline that is banned by many school districts and several states. Corporal punishment advocates argue that it is an effective form of school discipline that discourages students from violating school policy. Opponents of corporal punishment believe that it does more harm than good and in many cases damages a child's self-esteem. Schools that approve this form of discipline have rules in place to protect the person administering the corporal punishment. Parents often have to give the school permission in writing, and the school will also call the parent to get verbal permission before administering corporal punishment. Typically a school will only give a student between one and three swats for a discipline infraction.

Wrapping It All Up

It is important to note that the options highlighted above are only the most common student discipline practices. There are many more options available to school administrators. Some of the greatest deterrents are often those considered to be outside-the-box. A school administrator should understand the student they are dealing with and make the most appropriate discipline decision taking into account past history, the nature of the issue, and how it impacted others.