David Palmer & Dr. W.A. Kritsonis, postmodern law

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David Palmer & Dr. W.A. Kritsonis, postmodern law

  1. 1. School Discipline, Zero Tolerance Reform, Postmodernism and Law David M Palmer BSc (Hons) M.Ed PhD Student in Educational Leadership College of Education Prairie View A&M University William Allan Kritsonis, PhD Professor and Faculty Mentor PhD Program in Educational Leadership Prairie View A&M University Member of the Texas A&M University System Visiting Lecturer (2005) Oxford Round Table University of Oxford, Oxford, England Distinguished Alumnus (2004) Central Washington University College of Education and Professional Studies Abstract There is a need for educational reform of zero-tolerance policies in school disciplinary management procedures. The phenomenon of unacceptable behavior among youth has permeated culture and language creating subtle structures that deprecate the three modern movements in education: - multiculturalism, character education and postmodernism. Students, who differ from the conventional, both physically and culturally often find themselves at odds with the schools and the law then the issues of misperceptions and proportionality become paramount. With the keen anxiety over school safety and the advent of state supported "zero tolerance" regulations, the risk of unethical and unfair practices for students from poor and minority groups increase drastically. These more regimented and harsh policies mean that schools, parents and community have an even greater responsibility to ensure that rules are administered so that they do not further repress the most vulnerable segment of our population nor be an excuse for students to be indiscipline. ___________________________________________________________________________ 1
  2. 2. Introduction There is increasing interest in the quality of children's character. School authorities have a responsibility to develop and preserve a learning environment in schools (Chapter 4, Texas Education Code, 2004). Conduct codes that include appropriate disciplinary measures and due process procedures should be developed and administered to address the mission of schools, especially to ensure a campus atmosphere conducive to teaching and learning (McCardy, 1998). Discipline applied fairly and appropriately, can positively sway character development and craft an environment of safety in the school community (Feldman, 2000). As such, there is a need for educational reform of zero tolerance policies in school disciplinary management procedures. A postmodernism approach is an option with a critical mind-set toward knowledge and behavior. Zero tolerance policies are rigid mandates of preset consequences for specific student misconduct. Common sense and fairness are not necessarily served by the use of rigid disciplinary rules that do not address the circumstances of particular situations. According to Kritsonis (2009) unless rules are enforced, they lose their influence as behavior guides. School administrators encounter practical and legal difficulty when they inconsistently enforce rules. This does not mean that a “zero tolerance” policy is the only way to go; the application of “zero tolerance” policies has led to some embarrassing situations for school administrators (Kritsonis, lecture notes, fall 2009). In the post modern era discipline is not reacting to bad behavior but mostly what you do to encourage good behavior that will develop inner controls that last a lifetime. Discipline is based on building the right relationship with a learner more than using the right technique. Discipline is everything you put into children that influences how they turn out which includes sensitivity , sense of humor , confidence and solid self-esteem , ability to focus on goals , 2
  3. 3. wisdom to make right choices , honesty, integrity , ability to form intimate relationships , healthy sexuality , respect for authority peers, environment and property, a sense of responsibility , skills to solve problems and a desire to learn (Sears, 2005). Purpose The purpose of this article is to describe how meaningful disciplinary management and school- widediscipline could be achieved with interventions for all students and targeted interventions for students who exhibit the most severe problem behaviors without zero-tolerance approaches but rather a paradigm shift in discipline education skewed by postmodernism. Discipline and Postmodernism A postmodern epistemology on non zero-tolerance disciplinary insight requires a radical paradigm shift but will bring epistemological, methodological, and dogmatic issues to the fore on how we set rules and discipline in our schools and who if any is left at risk. We know in a postmodern era that greater student misbehavior relates only to increased use of aggressive strategies. In a study of 21 elementary and 21 secondary schools, teachers are seen by students to react to classroom misbehavior by increasing their use of coercive discipline, which inhibits the development of responsibility in students and distracts them resulting in more rowdiness. Unfortunately, teachers fail to increase their use of more productive techniques, such as discussions, rewards for good behavior and involvement in decision-making (Lewis, 2001). For the purpose of this article disruptive behaviour can be viewed using the following five categories: aggressive and violent behaviour (e.g. hitting, wounding, injuring, pulling hair, kicking, pushing, using abusive language); physically disruptive behaviour (e.g. smashing or damaging or defacing objects, throwing objects, physically annoying other pupils); socially disruptive behaviour (e.g. screaming, running away, exhibiting temper tantrums); authority- 3
  4. 4. challenging behaviour (e.g. refusing to carry out requests, exhibiting defiant verbal and non- verbal behaviour, using pejorative language) and self-disruptive behaviour (e.g. day-dreaming, reading comics under the desk, (which although not disruptive to the teacher or other pupils, interfere considerably with the pupil’s academic attainments) (Sears, 2005). It is reasonable to assume that sound student-discipline practices and methods of alleviating deviant behavior are grounded in a sound philosophy. Developing individual locus of control through comprehensive methods is a proactive approach to encouraging behavior modification in or outside the school building. This approach is consonant with the philosophy espoused by pragmatists such as John Dewey and several scholars of motivational theory. Discipline: Laws and Regulations The most widespread authority for overseeing student discipline is a locally adopted discipline management plan, sometimes called a student code of conduct or a disciplinary code. Such plans are governed by and frequently are a meld of federal, state, and local laws, together with local school district policy. For example, the Texas Education Code (TEC) 37.001 requires school boards of public schools to develop a student code of conduct that specifies misconduct and corresponding consequences (Chapter 37, Texas Education Code, 2004). The same chapter in the Texas code mandates certain consequences for certain misconduct, but also allows local districts to determine consequences for other misconduct within certain parameters. Thus, the required disciplinary code will encompass both state law and local policy. School disciplinary systems that include mandatory disciplinary consequences should temper the harshness of such mandates by allowing discretion in administering the discipline. The Texas Legislature embraced this concept by mandating expulsion for certain misconduct [TEC 37.007(a)], but giving the chief administrative officer of the local district the discretion to set the 4
  5. 5. period of expulsion [TEC 37.007 (eXl)l (Chapter 37, Texas Education Code 2004).The disciplinary management plan should also address Fourteenth Amendment due process issues. In 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case Goss v. Lopez set the bar for when removal from the educational setting as a disciplinary measure infringes on a student's substan- tive due process property and liberty rights to the degree that the procedural due process right to a hearing is required prior to the administration of the discipline measure. The court stated: The total exclusion from the educational process for more than a trivial period, and certainly if the suspension is fourteen days, is a serious event in the life of the suspended child. Neither the property interest in educational benefits temporarily denied nor the liberty interest in reputation, which is also implicated, is so insubstantial that suspensions may constitutionally be imposed by any procedure the school chooses, no matter how arbitrary (Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565, 1975). At the very minimum, therefore, students facing suspensions and the consequent interference with a protected property interest must be given some kind of notice and afforded some kind of hearing (Kajs, 2006). When an application of a zero tolerance policy produces an overly harsh result, arguably the policy is irrational and therefore a violation of procedural due process. Further, zero tolerance policies that by definition disallow mitigating factors in determining discipline may create an irrefutable presumption, also a violation of procedural due process (Alexander & Alexander, 2005). While laws and regulations exist to address school discipline, there is a trend to impose zero tolerance disciplinary policies, thereby impeding the application of administrator discretion to student infractions. Consequently, zero tolerance policies can seriously restrict the appropriateness of the punishment to the offense (Black, 2004). Discipline and student with disabilities 5
  6. 6. Functional behavioral assessment (FBA) of aggressive and negative behaviors that lead to suspension and expulsion is mandated for students with disabilities in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997. Prior federal legislation (i.e., Public Law 94-142) sought to ensure that students with disabilities receive a "free and appropriate public education" (FAPE) in the "least restrictive environment" (LRE). With the IDEA '97 comes a shift from accessibility of general education classroom placement to account-ability of academic instruction and accountability for positive behavioral interventions, strategies and support (Hendrickson, Gable, Conroy, Fox, Smith, 1999). Thus, a major goal is to assure that instruction of students with disabilities produces positive academic and behavioral outcomes. Other noteworthy changes include the expectation that IEP teams reference student objectives to the curriculum of the general education classroom, that general educators participate in the IEP process, and that once a student with a disability is 14 years old his individualized education program (IEP) must contain a transition plan. For students with emotional and/or behavioral disorders (EBD), the most dramatic change in IDEA '97 may be the stipulation that schools address the relationship between problem behavior and the classroom learning environment. This is to be accomplished through functional behavioral assessment (FBA), behavioral planning as a component of the IEP process, and the establishment of positive behavioral intervention plans and supports (Hendrickson & Gable et al., 1999). Accordingly, the expected competencies of IEP teams as specified in IDEA'97 span several areas: functional behavioral assessments, behavioral intervention planning, documentation of the appropriateness of programs, manifest determinations (whether a behavior is linked to student's disability), and the identification of alternative educational settings when needed (Smith, 1998). With the requirement of FBA, education personnel can no longer simply 6
  7. 7. attempt to suppress unacceptable student behavior. Now they are expected to determine "why" the student is motivated to engage in that behavior (Gable et al., 1999). Based on knowledge of the function(s) of behavior, IEP teams must design programs to reduce future occurrences of the behavior while teaching the student more socially acceptable replacement behaviors--behaviors that in some way serve the same functions as the challenging behavior but do so in a more acceptable fashion (Hendrickson, Gable et al., 1999). According to IDEA '97, schools must introduce FBA to address serious and persistent student problems, behavior that involves drugs or weapons or that represents a physical danger to the student or others. In many cases, standard disciplinary practices may fail to eliminate the problem behavior or may even exacerbate it, substantiating the need for an FBA. Unfortunately, such assessment can be a complex and time-consuming proposition (Conroy et al. 1999). Therein lies a major test, namely, how to muster support for a mandated policy, FBA, that is antithetical to the current discipline practices (e.g., quick and efficient suspension, expulsion for serious or zero tolerance behaviors) of most local education agencies. Where can the change begin? The problem of disruptive behaviour in schools may have been around for some time, but it has recently resurfaced as a major social, political and legislative issue. As public concern has risen, so have expectations that this problem area should be managed more effectively by school staff. Marzano (2003) posits that schools must also give teachers time to analyze and discuss state and district curriculum documents. More important, teacher conversations must quickly move beyond “What are we expected to teach?” to “How will we know when each student has learned?” (DuFour 2004). School officials needto implement family and community involvement activities to 7
  8. 8. reduce the number of disciplinary actions and to ensure a school climate focused on learning. Using longitudinal data from elementary and secondary schools, analysts indicate that regardless of schools’ prior rates of discipline, the more family and community involvement activities were implemented, the fewer students were disciplined by being sent to principals’ offices or given detention or in-school suspension. Activities for two types of involvement, parenting and volunteering, were most predictive of reducing the percentages of students who were subject to discipline. Also, schools that improved the quality of their partnership programs reported fewer students in need of discipline. The results suggest that creating more connections and greater cooperation among the school, family, and community contexts may be one way for schools to improve student behavior and school discipline (DuFour 2004). Postmodernism embraces leadership that is committed to a just and equitable school. Schools are not just bureaucracies but places of character building for the different social and cultural groups whose children are educated there. If schools are places of possibility rather than merely preservers of the status quo, then leaders must immerse their institutions in social and cultural change as Kent State Professor James Henderson suggests. He purports that it is the school’s responsibility to work for the empowerment for all, while advancing a wholesome and holistic environment (Henderson & Kesson 1999). A postmodern approach will replace dumbing down curriculums and replace it with one immersed in pragmatic constructivism as an embrace to good discipline. Postmodernism requires high teacher efficacy to reach all children without teaching to low expectation. Postmodern leadership must address the need of the ‘whole’ child because a good principal may well be the only or last chance many of them may have. Post modern implementations do not just lead through structures and systems, but enroll the entire school community to ‘feel’ the leadership. 8
  9. 9. A postmodern approach helps students build better critical thinking skills because of the constructivism approach to pedagogy. Critical literacy reinforces students’ awareness, social justice, discipline, responsible citizenship, and a reasoned template for problem solving and conflict resolution. Postmodernism can help students examine their underlying views about subjectivity, the good life, and ethics, and how these views ultimately sustain their youthful investment in purposed learning and good behavior. Postmodernism helps students to avoid ethnocentrism, to think globally, and to become more culturally competent and resilient people. Concluding remarks In conclusion, based on the increasing incidents of violent behavior in schools, educators are being asked to make schools safer. Schools receive little guidance or assistance in their attempts to maintain proactive discipline systems. One area of need lies in direction for use of existing discipline information to improve school-wide behavior support. The applications of fairness and consistency cannot be overstated in the disciplinary process and the need for educational reform in school disciplinary management procedures. In developing zero tolerance provisions in their student discipline management plans, school districts exclude pertinent explanations and common sense solutions to address student infractions. Zero tolerance decisions can have serious consequences, in particular for first-time offenders—consequences that impair academic progress, reputation, career opportunities, and emotional development especially with regard to trust in the educational system. Administrator discretion in the application of disciplinary actions can better address many circumstances. REFERENCES 9
  10. 10. Alexander, K. & Alexander, M.D. (2005). American public school law, 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co Black, S. (2004). Beyond zero tolerance American School Board Journal, 191(9), 62-64. Retrieved 12 /1/09 from http://wwwsharedwork.org/15567/files/16789/4345/ZeroToleranceshortcomings.pdf Dewey, J. (1916 1927). The public and its problems. Athens, OH: Swallow Press. DuFour R. (2004). Schools as Learning Communities. Leadership & Professional Dev. 61(8) Retrieved 11/ 26/ 2009 from www.houstonisd.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/Home/PDS Divisions/Administrative Leadership/Leader Feldman, S. (2000). Let's stay the course. American Teacher, 84(6), 5. Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975) U.S. Supreme Court. Landmark decision of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Retrieved 12 /1/09 from http://supreme.justia.com/us/419/565/case.html Henderson, J., Kesson, K. (1999). Understanding democratic curriculum learning: A practical guide to empowering students and teachers, Thousand, J.S., Retrieved Nov 26/ 2009 from www.brooklyn.liu.edu/education/home/.../kesson_bio.html Henderson, J., & Kesson, K. (2004). Curriculum wisdom: Educational decisions in democratic societies. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall. Retrieved 11/ 26/ 2009 from http://www.brooklyn.liu.edu/education/home/.../kesson_bio.html 10
  11. 11. Hendrickson J.M., Gable, R.A. Conroy, M.A., Fox, J., Smith, C. (1999) Behavioral Problems in Schools: Ways to Encourage Functional Behavior Assessment. Education & Treatment of Children, Vol. 22, 1999 Kajs, L.T. (2006). Reforming the Discipline Management Process in Schools: An Alternative Approach to Zero Tolerance: University of Houston-Clear Lake Kritsonis, W.A (2009). Student Discipline In Schools - School Law Presentation Transcript Lewis, R. (2008). The developmental management approach to classroom behaviour: Responding to individual needs. Melbourne: ACER Press. (Republished by Routledge USA as Understanding Pupil Behaviour) Lewis, R. 2001 Classroom discipline and student responsibility: The students’ view; Graduate School of Education, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC 3083, Australia Retrieved 11/ 26/ 2009 from http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0742051X00000597 Marzano, R. (2003). What works in schools: Translating research into action. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. McCarthy, M. M., Cambron-McCabe, N. H., & Thomas, S. B.(1998). Public school law: Teachers' and students' right(4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon Sears W. (2005) Discipline and Behavior: Sears Pediatric Newsletter. Camino De Estrella, Capistrano, CA Retrieved 11/ 26/ 2009 from http://www.askdrsears.com/html/6/t060200.asp 11
  12. 12. Texas Education Code (2004): Chapter 4. Public education mission, objectives, and goals Retrieved 11/ 26/ 2009 from http://law.justia.com/texas/codes/ed/002.00.000004.00.html Texas Education Code (2004): Title (2): Public Education. Subtitle A -General Provisions. Chapter 4. Public Education Mission, Objectives, and Goals Texas Education Code (2004): subtitle g. Safe schools. Chapter 37. Discipline; law & order. Subchapter A. Alternative settings for behavior management Texas Education Code. (2004). Chapter 37: Discipline: Law and order. Retrieved 11/ 26/ 2009 from http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/statutes/docs/ED/content/htm/ed.OO2.0O.000O37.00htm 12

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