How the pandemic has altered school discipline — perhaps forever

By: | February 22, 2021

For teachers around the country, school discipline during the pandemic has been confounding. Few have received much guidance from administrators on how to handle discipline issues that arise in remote learning and in school buildings where education has been reshaped by new health and safety guidelines. In many districts, like Brevard, which this school year has conducted a mix of virtual and in-person instruction, the pandemic appears to have brought new challenges for teachers trying to keep themselves and their students safe.

At the same time, with fewer children in school, in some districts the number of students being referred to the justice system by school administrators has fallen, prompting advocates and lawyers to wonder if schools will permanently reconsider their role in criminalizing student behavior.

But they also worry that if students don’t receive adequate counseling and other support to cope with emotional challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, there will be a surge in behavioral issues and punitive discipline when more children return to classrooms. “I predict there will be a train wreck if we don’t staff up and provide the services, especially mental health services … to all the kids who may need them,” said Dan Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.

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