In states across the country, school discipline in K-12 schools is at an all-time low, and state and local lawmakers can’t seem to figure out how to address the problem.
In Wichita, Kansas, the vice president of the local area’s teachers union, Kimberly Howard, said the problem is getting so severe in Wichita that teachers are quitting in droves.
“We have teachers getting hit, shoved, even bitten by students,” Howard said, according to a report by the Wichita Eagle. “Staff should not be going home with bruises.”
“We have kids that know to cover their head when their classmate gets worked up and starts throwing things … and tipping over tables and desks,” Howard continued. “These behaviors are disrupting the learning of other students in that class.”
Steve Wentz, the president of the teachers union, said the root of the problem is administrators aren’t willing to properly discipline children.
Wichita school board member Joy Eakins said she believes the problem is present throughout the country.
“We are hearing from teachers that there is more destructive behavior in the classrooms,” Eakins said. “Our community—not just Wichita, but our culture in our country—is really struggling.”
In Nebraska, state Sen. Mike Groene, who serves as the chairman of the state’s Education Committee, offered legislation on Monday that would allow teachers in classrooms to use force against unruly students under certain circumstances.
“I brought this bill in response to many conversations I’ve had with parents, teachers and administrators about the breakdown of discipline in the classroom,” Groene said, according to NetNebraska.org, a website run by the state’s Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio. “The fear of being assaulted, the fear of lawsuits if they act to protect students or other teachers or themselves. Parents’ concerns about violence toward their children.”
According to Groene, 82 percent of teachers in Nebraska said in a survey discipline problems are worsening.
Groene’s bill was tabled for consideration at a later date.
Citing racism, many activists have said in recent years school discipline is too strict, especially for Latino and African-American boys.
In Colorado, legislators recently tried to pass legislation that would have severely restricted school suspensions and expulsions for students in kindergarten through third grade. Some have been concerned current discipline policies lead to minority students being punished more often.
According to the Denver Post, “The original bill would have curbed out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for students in kindergarten through second grade, as well as preschoolers in state-funded programs. It would have permitted out-of-school suspensions only if a child endangers others on school grounds, represents a safety threat or if school staff have exhausted all other options.”
Republicans in the legislature killed the bill in committee, citing concerns it would lead to further discipline problems.
“Our teachers need the tools,” said Republican state Sen. Vicki Marble, who represents Fort Collins. “I would say give them a bar of soap and let them use it when they need it.”
Lawmakers and school officials don’t seem to have an answer for school discipline. What do you think would be the best solution?