2019 School Discipline Getty
What Americans have said

What teachers said: How should public schools handle discipline?

In addition to the traditional PDK poll of Americans, PDK convened online focus groups with public school parents and public school teachers, thanks to funding support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. These comments are drawn from those two groups.

School discipline is too lenient because of political correctness that has now invaded the schools, along with government intrusion into the public schools. The teacher has very little control regarding classroom discipline. It has become a huge problem for the teacher and the students in the room who are being cheated out of academic learning time. The fear factor for lawsuits, the cry for discrimination and political correctness is starting to erode the entire school climate in many buildings. The fear factor is huge and is playing a very large role in what can be done to control unruly students.

Jean, 60, mixed-race high school teacher in suburban Delaware

Students should be disciplined for behavior that occurs away from the school. If they represent their school district and commit an offense, they should be disciplined accordingly. By law, if an employee commits a crime away from their job, the employer has the right to fire the worker without penalty. With that said, when these student incidents occur over the weekend or off-campus, students return to school causing chaos and disturbances as they share and recall the disruptive incidents with their classmates.

Moniqua, 45, Black middle school teacher in urban Michigan

The key to discipline is preventing the misbehavior in the first place whenever possible. However, it seems like we are busy putting out fires all over the school instead of getting in front of the discipline problems.


Shawna, 43, Black kindergarten teacher in urban Maryland

I would like to add some sort of mental health support services and community service offered to those students as they are suspended. I think there needs to be a plan to integrate students back into school as well.

Sara, 27, Black early elementary teacher in urban Minnesota

Our current policies are very lenient, especially towards violent students. I am a big advocate for zero tolerance policies. Once again I believe rules like these deter certain behaviors in a school setting. More intervention specialist such as mediators need to be brought back into the schools.

Colleen, 41, Black high school teacher in suburban Georgia

Violence is one of those lines in the sand that should have some strict policies around it. A pocket knife? Probably not. A gun? Yeah, totally. Marijuana? Probably not. Heroin? Yeah. Getting in a fight with a friend, and it turns physical? No. Full-on assault, or sexual assault? Yeah. There are lines. Establishing those isn't easy, but it is necessary.

Schools should be a safe space for all learners first and foremost. Our current focus is on restorative justice at the school, and that’s gone a long way to overall curb the flow of discipline issues by actually addressing root causes and teaching communication. Changing the paradigm from punishment to an opportunity for growth is vital.

Jed, 35, White middle school technology teacher in rural Washington

We aren't allowed to touch the children in any manner to correct their behavior. We have to be careful what we say and do. If a child is biting or spitting, and attacking, which I have seen, if you touch them wrong, you can lose your license or even face criminal charges.

The system in place puts the needs of the one above the many. One child's so-called rights are put above the well-being of the teacher and the entire rest of the class. And it ends up being the worst-behaving child against all of them because they need so much more correcting, the more obvious it is they aren't getting it and the biggest effect it has on the education of everyone else.

Trisha, 36, White 1st-grade teacher in rural New Mexico

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