- Schools are giving less punitive approaches to student discipline a test run as an increasing amount of research suggests that more positive approaches may help students over the longterm.
- Central High School in South Berwick, Maine, has adopted an approach that focuses on staff developing strong relationships with students and making students responsible for actively solving their own problems.
- The school did it in part by using a $10,000 anti-delinquency grant from the state and adopting methods based on research by psychologist Ross Greene.
The changes in schools are happening as federal officials begin to push for a dismantling of the “school-to-prison pipeline” and an end to corporeal and punitive school discipline. In 2014, President Barack Obama launched “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative intended to keep more students in school and out of jail.
Recent data from the U.S. Department of Education found that a seventh of America’s 49 million K-12 students had been suspended during the 2011-12 school year. Other data suggests that there are roughly 250,000 instances of physical punishment each year as well. And the effects fall most strongly on minority — especially black — students, who are suspended, expelled, and arrested at higher rates than their white peers.
The experience of schools like Central High School and the research behind their approach suggests that those discipline strategies fail to help students while increasing the chances of their entering the juvenile justice system and not necessarily making classroom management easier for teachers. Since implementing a more positive approach, the number of referrals and suspensions at Central High School has dropped.