In response to a national discussion about school-led punishments last week, Laura Bornfreund posted a response on the National Journal experts' blog describing the implications of overly aggressive discipline policies at all levels of schooling, including the early grades of elementary school. She writes:
Aggressive discipline policies are not just out of control in high schools -- they are a problem in elementary schools, too. In the past year, a California school suspended a 6-year-old for brushing against his friend's groin while playing; a Florida 8-year-old with special needs was arrested and charged with aggravated-assault for throwing a piece of a pipe at his teachers; a school in New York City suspended a 9-year-old boy for two days for putting a "kick me" sign on another student; and in the Washington, DC metro area young children have been suspended or expelled for fighting, throwing tantrums and disrupting the class. These are just a few examples. Younger children often do not understand why they are being suspended. Instead, consequences should be directly connected to a child’s misbehavior. If children throw food in the cafeteria, they should be required to help clean up after lunch.
The summer can be a good time for school leaders to re-evaluate their discipline policies and make strides to start the new year on a new note. Let's hope that principals and district leaders come back in August and September with discipline policies that don't lead to children receiving mixed messages about infractions and less school time when they need it most.
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