By implementing an after school academic detention program, teachers and administrators will be better equipped to handle willful defiance without the adverse perceptions associated with the school-to-prison pipeline, while students will transition their behaviors into socially acceptable responses to authority. Student responses to authority have caused many challenges for school officials. In part, the challenges are associated with the definition of willful defiance.

The law defines willful defiance as “disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials, or other school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties.” However, African American students are three times more likely to receive a consequence for willful defiance when compared to other students. This trend has caused outsiders to believe that teachers and administrators are racist towards African American students.

Both African American students and White teachers contribute to challenges associated with willful defiance. Researchers have reported that teacher-student conflicts result from a difference in desires, and even though this difference may be reduced, it remains in schools (Waller, 1932). According to Collier and Powell (1990), “cultural background affects attitudes, beliefs, and values about education, ideas about how classes ought to be conducted, how students and teachers ought to interact, and what types of relationships are appropriate for students and teachers” (p. 334). The classroom conflict between teachers and students results from the different cultural contexts that students and teachers bring to the classroom (Hall, 1989; McDermott, 1977).

In addition, some minority students believe they cannot trust White institutions (Ogbu, 1992). Adolescents may develop oppositional social identities that are contrary to the social expectations of mainstream society when they experience racism and respond with anger and rebellion (Comer, 1976; Ogbu, 1988). Black students are convinced that White teachers are racist and prejudiced (Gay & Abrahams, 1972) and reject White teachers’ authority due to their experience with racism, and Black students who reach school develop a sharp distinction between acting Black and acting White (Ogbu, 1987).

The first step, in handling willful defiance, is to develop consequences that will eliminate the perception that the consequences do not contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund depicts the pipeline as “funneling of students out of school and into the streets and the juvenile correction system perpetuates a cycle known as the ‘School-to-Prison-Pipeline,’ depriving children and youth of meaningful opportunities for education, future employment, and participation in our democracy”.

Many schools have opted to provide students with the alternative of an in-school-suspension program as a way of avoiding the stigma associated with the school-to-prison pipeline. However, an in-school-suspension program is expensive and at times ineffective. This program requires additional space and additional personnel. Therefore, driving up the cost for the program as well as depleting the school budget.

Another challenge with an in-school-suspension program is the academic focus. Normally, when a student is assigned to the program, their teachers are required to send academic activities for them to complete. This normally does not happen. The ending result is that students sit in a room for the entire day with no academic focus. This scenario is consistent with placing a student in jail.

Another challenge with an in-school-suspension program is that unsuccessful students are required to finish their consequence as an out of school suspension. An out of school suspension only contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline.

A better program for willful defiance is an after school academic detention program. When a student is assigned a consequence, the student must attend after school has ended. This program can be facilitated by one staff member for a very short period. It becomes a behavioral deterrent because most students want to go directly home after their day in school.

The program should be housed in the school’s library. The school library is a central hub that can support every student and staff member, as well as by combining academic resources, and space. The school library has a better chance at setting the tone for learning in this case versus an ordinary classroom.

A classroom has the central components for learning. However, the library provides alternative for learning that may not exist in the classroom. For example, if a teacher is unable to provide the student with assignments for that academic detention session, the school library has an assortment of resources that the student can use.

Most school libraries also contain technology. If a school is using online programming to enhance student learning, students who do not have an assignment can participate in that program.

In this sense, the library will also have the resource for different types of students. If students are other than regular education, students can continue their learning with the alternative resources that exist in the library.

Finally, a library is known to be student friendly. Libraries are known to provide an atmosphere that has an academic focus. Is has an academic focus where students can complete homework or make up test which helps to deter behaviors associated with willful defiance and increase the student’s academic progress.

Related Articles

California law banning suspensions of disruptive kids could have a big impact in Sacramento

LAUSD suspensions down 75% in wake of willful defiance ban

L.A. Unified’s ban on willful defiance suspensions, six years later

All the best,

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034

(856) 566-3267

Author of:

  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
  • The Raccelerate Formula App
  • Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
  • The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Racism Management

“Dr. Campbell did his part and now all we have to do is run with it.”
 ~ Tom Coleman ~
Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools

“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.

~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor

“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”

~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President


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