School Discipline

Table of contents

No school administrators in their right mind would ignore school discipline as one of their most important responsibilities. Nearly every survey of school administrators in recent years lists school discipline and school safety as one of or their most important areas of emphasis. Although serious acts of crime and violence are relatively rare in schools, fighting, bullying, acts of disrespect, and insubordination still remain as problems faced by school administrators every day.

A study by Public Agenda (Johnson, 2004) indicated that seven in ten middle and high school teachers surveyed say their schools have serious problems with students who disrupt classes. Most experienced school administrators in charge of school discipline would say that students who continually disrupt classes make up less than 5% of students enrolled, but that 5% of enrolled students can take 90% of their time.

School Discipline Introduction

The word discipline is a strong word for most of us. It carries with it some preconceived description words such as “weak,” “strong,” “good,” and “bad”. It is a word that has serious ramifications for all those who are engaged in the field of education. Having “good” discipline is a goal of every classroom teacher. Principals never want the reputation of having “weak” discipline at their schools. The public demands that schools be places of effective discipline that create environment where teachers can teach and students can learn. Discipline; From the Latin term disciplina, meaning:

  •  A branch of knowledge or learning;
  • Training that develops self-control, character, orderliness or efficiency;
  • Strict control to enforce obedience;
  • Treatment that controls or punishes;
  • a system of rules. It is interesting that the definitions of the term suggest that discipline can have quite different implications for schools.

The component of the definition that relates to teaching seems much more positive than the components that include the negative expressions such as punishment and strict control. Rosen, 5)

The Strict Control to Enforce Obedience

There is no doubt that someone needs to be in charge of our schools. As long as schools are composed of hundreds or thousands of students who are required by law to reside in an institutional setting for several hours a day, several times a week, there must be someone in control. Control does not mean being a warden at a prison. It means maintaining order and discipline. One needs only a short time at a school campus to determine whether or not someone is in control.

Someone is in control of school when:

  • Students are where they are supposed to be at any given hour the school day.
  • There are few interruptions of class time.
  • The campus is clean and free to graffiti.
  • Campus visitors are screened and required to wear a visitor’s badge.
  • Communication devices are visible and readily available.
  • Supervisory personnel are visible.
  • Students, teachers, and administrators have a good working relationship.

Discipline: Ex-pupils’ observations.

There are many views about school discipline, varying from those held by the freedom advocated like A. S. Neil and his discipline to the grinding regimentation of Mr. M’Choakumchild and his factotum Mr. Gradgrind. It would, however, be agreed that a good discipline in a school would be such as to be accompanied by reasonable orderliness, respect for others and their property—not forgetting school property—and a pleasant atmosphere, which means among other things that there is no feeling of rebelliousness against what are felt to be unnecessary regulations.

There will sometimes be conflict between the head’s idea of what is satisfactory discipline and that of the pupils; if he pushes too hard to reach unreasonable and maybe unattainable standards of obedience, the school either starts to resemble a prison or his most unreasonable laws are broken by all sundry, and later his reasonable rules are also endangered; if alternatively he is too lax the pupils are educated into wrong attitudes to the school, to schoolwork and even to society, and poor educational progress is one of the least of the prices to be paid.

So the head and staff have to steer a middle path between the extremes, and this is concerned with whether this is more easily attained—for whatever reason—in a co-educational school rather than a single-sex one. For the most part it presents the point of view of mature and responsible ex-pupils, especially of those who have attended schools of both types and can look back and compare their experiences in the two schools.

Their conception of discipline will not only be that of pupils, because they are all learning how to teach in schools themselves, and their views will certainly be colored by what they as beginning teachers consider to be good discipline. (Dale, 156,616) Research indicated that more teachers leave teaching because of discipline problems than any other reasons. Losing good teachers is a serious problem for all schools, be they public or private. A troublesome student can cause many a good teacher a loss of sleep and aggravation.

Teachers enter the teaching field because they are interested in teaching not wrestling with students who continually disrupt classroom time. School administrators need to be a supportive tool of teachers in their classroom management routines and practices. Helping teachers to have good classroom management practices has become an important part of the school disciplinarian’s role. Disciplinary Traditions It is difficult to generalize about the differing models of discipline applied within schools throughout the world.

Taking a very broad perspective, it could be argued that discipline models reflect the way a society sees education as meeting either collective or individual needs. For example, in china there has been a tradition that child should be socialized as early as possible to confirm the cultural expectations. This meant that in China, not only was attendance compulsory but so also was achievement. Disciplinary practices have been undertaken in a collectivist spirit with the intention of forming “good” behaviors.

In countries such as China and India there are strong masculinist traditions in the teacher-pupil relationship, and yet this field of research, school discipline and gender, is still to be fully developed. (Kramarae, Spender, 395)

The term punishment is usually related to some type of suffering or derivation. To be realistic, people must admit that punishment exists because of the expectations of society. This is particularly true in schools. When students misbehave, adults expect them to be punished.

The degree of punishment may depend on the community in which the school is located. For example, in the southern part of the nation, corporal punishment is much more acceptable than in other parts. In 1993, there were 613,514 instances of paddling reports in United Stated. Most of those paddling cases occurred in southern states. Corporal punishment is still legal in 26 states. Corporal punishment may not only be accepted but expected in Deep South, but in Rhode Island, administrators can lose their credentials if they strike a student for any reason. (Rosen, 5)


“Discipline is not the art of rewarding and punishing, of making pupil’s speak and be silent; it is the art of making them perform, in the most appropriate, easy, and useful manner, all the duties of the school. ” The definition of “school discipline,” by the Conference Society of Capelian, is evidently too broad. “The elementary school ought, by the spirit ruling within, and by its instruction, so to operate upon the children that they shall receive a preparation, adaptation to their ages and capacities, for temporal and eternal life. ” (Sabin, 181)

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