In a recent article, Chicago Public School teachers are voicing complaints regarding the new student discipline code. Many teachers are totally disgusted with the new codes. The new student discipline codes are designed reduce many of the teachers power in the classroom unless they transform the image that students have regarding their intentions.

According to the article, teachers at a West Town school say a revised student discipline code that scales back suspensions and expulsions has left them struggling to deal with unruly students.

“There were no structures put in place to support this code of conduct,” said Megan Shaunnessy, a special education teacher at De Diego Community Academy. “It’s just basically been a totally lawless few months.”

Teachers at the school say they have not been given resources to work with a revised Student Code of Conduct implemented this year by Chicago Public Schools. The goal of the revisions is to replace punishments that keep students out of classrooms with alternatives that encourage improved behavior.

But De Diego teachers said the school lacks a dedicated “peace room” where students can cool off if they’ve been removed from a class. They say the school does not have a behavioral specialist on staff to intervene with students, nor does it have resources to train teachers on discipline practices that address a student’s underlying needs.

Why is a “peace room” ineffective as part of the student discipline code process?

A peace room is paramount to in-school suspension. In-school suspensions allow students to remain in schools with the potential of continued engagement. Suspending students from schools denies teachable moments such as connecting with student to build relationships and communicate that school is a good place for them. However, in school suspension can be parallel to holding a child in jail cell. Most in-school suspension programs are not conducive to learning and under staffed which inhibits that child’s learning instead of enhancing their learning.

Why is the student discipline code ineffective with unruly students?

The major complaint that the De Diego teachers voiced is that the new student discipline code does not empower the staff to effectively deal with unruly students. Students either become unruly because of what is going on inside the classroom or outside of the classroom. Teachers can command and dictate what happens in the classroom.

Many of the students have a high level of distrust for teachers due to their past experiences. We find this evident in the statistics that reveal that Black students are over disciplined by teachers. For example, according to the United States Office of Civil Rights, the process for over disciplining Black students begins in preschool. Black preschool children represent 18% of enrollment, but 48% of preschool children receiving more than one out-of school suspension. While White preschool children represent 43% of enrollment but only 26% of the children receiving more than one out of school suspension.

This pattern continues as a result of student discipline codes. Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than White students. On average, 5% of White students are suspended, compared to 16% of Black students.

This pattern of student discipline codes has created the school to prison pipeline for which continues to devastate not only the Black community but the United States in the area of the income inequality gap.

The term “school-to-prison pipeline” is a phrase that is used by education reform activists and organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Justice Policy Center, Advancement Project, and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) to describe what they view as a widespread pattern in the United States of pushing students, especially those who are already at a disadvantage, out of school and into the American criminal justice system. They argue that this “pipeline” is the result of public institutions being neglectful or derelict in properly addressing students as individuals who might need extra educational or social assistance, or being unable to do so because of staffing shortages or statutory mandates. The resulting miseducation and mass incarceration are said to create a vicious circle for individuals and communities.

The school-to-prison pipeline operates at all levels of US government (federal, state, county, city and school district) both directly as a result of zero tolerance policies, and indirectly due to exclusion from the school system. 

The Chicago Public School teachers will have to respond to unruly students differently. On way to change that response is to transform the perception that the unruly students have regarding your intentions. Teachers can accomplish this by promoting positive racial teacher student classroom relationships which will eventually render any teacher anxiety regarding the new student discipline code ineffective.

Related Articles

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012


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