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Does “discipline” really stop bullying and other anti-social behavior

There have been a couple of interesting blog posts lately about the issue of whether suspension, expulsion or other strong disciplinary measures actually help deal with bullying and other problem behaviors.

My co-director, Anne Collier’s What school suspension ‘accomplishes‘ post in NetFamilyNews reports on a study of nearly a million students from Texas who were followed for at least six years. The study, as Anne pointed out, “found that suspension or expulsion greatly increased a student’s risk of being held back a grade, dropping out, or landing in the juvenile justice system.”

An excellent Huffington Post piece from famed children’s rights advocate Marian Wright Edelman branded Zero Tolerance Discipline Policies: A Failing Idea. Edelman, who is president of Children’s Defense Fund, wrote “New research analyzing the data from the 2009 – 2010 school year in Massachusetts found nearly 60,000 school expulsions and suspensions. Just over half of them were for “unassigned offenses” – nonviolent, noncriminal offenses, which can include behavioral issues such as swearing, talking back to a teacher, and truancy” and pointed out that “Added together, the tens of thousands of suspensions—many for minor infractions—have an enormous negative impact.”

Neither of these studies suggest that schools should avoid disciplinary actions on kids who abuse others, but both point to the fact that a “zero tolerance” approach can backfire and that school officials need to be sensitive in how they approach issues such as bullying and cyberbullying.  A one-size fits all approach simply doesn’t work.

Also see

When schools can discipline off-campus behavior

Rethinking Zero Tolerance

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