Emma Lord
March 18, 2015 10:23 am

If it seems like your school is being a lot more lenient with infractions than it was in the past, it might not be all in your head. A lot of schools are shifting away from “zero tolerance” policies, which happen when a teacher or school official suspends a student for committing behavioral offenses on school grounds. These suspensions could cover everything from mouthing off in class to throwing a brick through the window, and are meant to be harsh to discourage the behavior from happening again. But in light of recent studies revealing that progressive schools with a more hands-on, relationship-based form if discipline tend to create more well-adjusted students, public schools are finally taking note and starting to shift in their direction.

While this is not any means a thumbs up to go get your bricks-a-flyin’, it is good news for the school environment as a whole. Not only do crack-down disciplinary policies lead to maladjusted students, but these punishments carved away valuable learning time, already putting them at disadvantage against their peers and setting them up to misbehave again. It makes perfect sense, if you think about it — if a student lashes out when they’re frustrated, and a punishment only maximizes that frustration by setting them behind, why wouldn’t the pattern of lashing out just continue?

The new kind of disciplinary action that schools are phasing into the system are much more personal in their approach. Rather than sending students away, they encourage them to engage more in the learning process, and have one-on-one sessions with them. Students feel heard and acknowledged, and don’t fall behind in the process. Imagine if all of your teachers were as understanding as Mr. Schuester and Ms. Pillsbury on Glee, minus all the random bursting into show tunes, and that’s basically what this new idea of tolerance is going for.

“When kids are struggling, it’s not that they don’t want to learn; it’s that they are missing some set of skills that are preventing them from learning,”  said Patrick Finley, a leader at a progressive school in Queens, in a statement to The Atlantic. “Removing them from the classroom is not building those skills.”

Here’s hoping that many more public schools will see their success and follow suit.

(Image from here.)

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