Discipline dive: Students brawl, teacher attacked and elderly bus driver punched

"Nobody cares that our kids are so used to the violence at this point," said one concerned parent. "Their mental health is worth everything."

Mean world syndrome: You may have heard of it before, but in case you don’t know, it’s the belief that the world is harsher and more violent than it really is, a perception that stems from overconsumption of news across all platforms. Educators and administrators may suspect they’re dealing with that very phenomenon, considering the headlines lately. But in reality, school discipline certainly has become, and remains, an issue.

81% of district leaders agree that student behavior is worse than it was before the pandemic, according to EAB’s recent “2023 Voice of the Superintendent” survey, more than one-third of whom say it’s gotten “significantly worse.” As a result, we’re seeing education leaders and policymakers coming together to find new ways to curb student misbehavior because traditional methods have clearly worn out.

In Kentucky, a new bill seeks to place the power back in the hands of teachers, allowing them to remove misbehaved students from the classroom with no possibility of returning for the day without permission from the teacher and an administrator. In Texas, state Republicans have been discussing zero-tolerance discipline policies following the Uvalde school shooting, but advocates worry it will result in increased school suspension or long periods of alternate schooling.

Surely, something has to be done, right? Student mental health has reached unprecedented levels. Educators are burnt out from the impossible task of keeping students in line. Even district leaders are planning their resignations within the next three years. But is it really that bad? Let’s take a look at some of the most concerning headlines surrounding student behavior this week:

  • 10 arrested after huge brawl at Louisiana alternative school – AP News
    • Nearly 200 parents and students entered a brawl resulting in the hospitalization of a Baton Rouge police officer and 10 teenage students arrested. A loaded gun was also found in the grass outside the school, according to Casey Rayborn Hicks, a spokesperson for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office.
    • “I had a deputy punched in the face and possibly bitten,” according to Hicks.
  • Parents sound off on concerns over discipline problems in Wauwatosa schools – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
    • After another fight broke out at a Wauwatosa high school, parents brought their concerns directly to the school board. This fight, however, was between a parent and a student. According to one parent, her daughter and friends took shelter in a boiler room.
    • “They had located a ladder… and if they heard gunshots, they were ready to climb for their safety on the roof of Tosa West,” she said. “I was dying as a parent inside, as I had to coax her through that it was going to be OK.”
  • 84-year-old bus driver attacked by student on North Carolina school bus – Fox 8
    • It’s unclear what sparked the incident, according to authorities. The bus driver was simply waiting for students to get off the bus that morning.
    • “You’re sitting there; you’re a sitting duck,” said one parent.
    • The noble bus driver said the incident has not stopped him from doing his job.
  • Matanzas High School teachers’ aide files injunction against a student accused in attack – The Daytona Beach News-Journal
    • The teacher’s aide suffered two broken ribs and multiple bruises, according to a petition for an injunction for protection she filed. She wrote that he became irritated after she asked why the student had a video game out in class and began calling her vulgar names. As she left the room to head to the dean’s office, she was attacked.
    • The student, 17, was charged with aggravated battery on a school board employee, a first-degree felony that can result in up to 30 years in prison.

For district leaders, this is a time of uncertainty and fear. Only time will tell how schools can address student discipline. For now, consider the efforts being made by your closest peers to teach students the consequences of their actions and give them direction. Here are some examples:

  • Clayton Schools taking a new direction on discipline, student activities – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    • According to the new initiative, misbehaved students will automatically become virtual students until the district feels their behavior is under control.
    • “We’re going to be tough on our students in terms of their behavior,” said interim Superintendent Anthony Smith. “Teaching and learning are at the core of what we do. We are not a social services organization.”
  • Orange County schools form disciplinary task force over student behavioral issues – Click Orlando
    • Student misbehavior has become a growing problem in the classroom, the district says. The task force, which includes district staff, parents and community members, aims to address this issue.
    • “My biggest motivation, honestly, is I want to change the world,” according to one member. “When I see a student as a problem, if you will, I look at that kid and think, ‘That’s why I’m here.’ That’s what I need to fix.”
  • Midland ISD addresses discipline problems – Midland Reporter-Telegram
    • The district issued a letter this past week detailing its commitment to improving campus safety.
    • According to the letter, students who engage in disruptive behaviors, such as fighting, cursing or aggression, may be moved to a disciplinary campus for at least one month.
    • “This behavior will not be tolerated, and disciplinary actions are outlined in the Student Code of Conduct,” the district said.

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Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttps://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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