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School behavior: reforming your discipline code

Date: July 31st, 2014
By: Polly Bath

Watch this video [2:38] for some tips on reforming your school discipline code.

People often ask me about reforming your school’s discipline code. Your school, your classroom, your hallways, your cafeteria, everyone should be on the same page and the only way to do that is to define those behaviors and the problems that they create.

If you’re going to talk about reforming your discipline code, one of the things we do as an exercise looks like this. Basically, take all those behaviors that you deal with. Let’s say kids are talking out, kids are swearing, kids maybe are fighting. An example there may be…define that, ask yourself, “What problem is created when a kid talks out?” Basically, it creates a disruption in the classroom.

If you’re swearing in the hallway, it creates a disruption in the hallway. Fighting, that’s a huge safety issue ‑ and that’s what we would call it, a “safety issue.”

So I wanted people to teach cause‑and‑effect to the children as well as have all of us adults defining things the same way.

Let’s say you have a child who doesn’t do the work. We call that “no work.” But the child who says “No.” What is that?

Ask yourself this question, “What problem is created when the child displays this behavior.” It’s out‑and‑out refusal and that’s what we’re going to call it.

These are our primary problems in some of our schools. If everybody calls it a disruption, or a refusal, or a safety issue, then we all can record it the same way. We have discipline data. It’s very consistent and we can respond to not only those frequent‑flyer children but the areas in our building that need the most attention.

Here’s a good example. How many of these do we battle with on a daily basis? What we’re battling with is not a cell phone because let’s face it, everyone has a cell phone and they’re going to continue to have cell phones.

The issue is if the rule states that you can’t use a cell phone while you’re in class, then the real problem is not the cell phone. The real problem is what we refer to as “refusal,” so if you’re dealing with a child for their misbehavior over a cell phone, this is what you target, not the actual object.

That defines it for them and for us, and keeps it very consistent.