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Law and School Discipline 1. Variation in court decisions 2. Legal consciousness, legal mobilization and institutional practices 3. Moral authority and.

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Presentation on theme: "Law and School Discipline 1. Variation in court decisions 2. Legal consciousness, legal mobilization and institutional practices 3. Moral authority and."— Presentation transcript:

1 Law and School Discipline 1. Variation in court decisions 2. Legal consciousness, legal mobilization and institutional practices 3. Moral authority and youth socialization 4. Law, Discipline and Social Inequality

2 Justice Stephen Breyer on school discipline (2007) Students will test the limits of acceptable behavior in myriad ways better known to school teachers than to judges; school officials need a degree of flexible authority to respond to disciplinary challenges; and the law has always considered the relationship between teachers and students special. Under these circumstances, the more detailed the Courts supervision becomes, the more likely its law will engender further disputes among teachers and students. Consequently, larger numbers of those disputes will likely make their way from the schoolhouse to the courthouse. Yet no one wishes to substitute courts for school boards, or to turn the judges chambers into the principals office. [Source: Morse v. Frederick (2007)]

3 Justice Antonin Scalia on school discipline (10/19/06) The founders considered discipline to be a necessary part of education, Scalia said, because it taught respect for the rule of law. Swift and effective punishment of even a non-physical sort, has been all but banished from today's public school classrooms, he said. This resulted from the court's application of due process to school affairs and the increasing role of litigation in society. [Source: Georgetown Blue and Gray; 10/20/06]

4 The founders on school discipline It is by respecting the school rules that the child learns to respect rules in general, that he develops the habit of self-control and restraint simply because he should control and restrain himself…. It is essentially an instrument – difficult to duplicate – of moral education. What lends authority to the rule in school is the feeling that the children have for it, the way in which they view it as a sacred and inviolable thing quite beyond their control; and everything that might attenuate this feeling, everything that might induce children to believe that it is not really inviolable can scarcely fail to strike discipline at its very source. - Emile Durkheim (1903)

5 Political-institutional context of student rights contestation ( ) Culture of Youth Rebellion: Question Authority Rise of Rights-Based Public Interest Advocacy Law –NAACP Legal Fund successes –Warren Court ( ) sympathy –Elite Foundation support for expanding youth rights Federal Government Role: War on Poverty –Expanded interest and involvement in local public school affairs –Establishment of OEO Legal Services Program with an institutional mandate to promote law reform and challenge local public service providers [JSD]

6 Political-institutional context of student rights contestation ( ) Culture of Youth Rebellion: Question Authority Rise of Rights-Based Public Interest Advocacy Law –NAACP Legal Fund successes –Warren Court ( ) sympathy –Elite Foundation support for expanding youth rights Federal Government Role: War on Poverty –Expanded interest and involvement in local public school affairs –Establishment of OEO Legal Services Program with an institutional mandate to promote law reform and challenge local public service providers [JSD]

7 Landmark Supreme Court cases ( ) In re Gault (1967): Granting of procedural rights to youth in juvenile courts – prelude to expansion of student rights. Tinker (1968): Granting of free speech rights to students. Students suspended for wearing arm-bands protesting the Vietnam War. Goss v. Lopez (1975): Granting of rudimentary due process rights to students facing even minor public school discipline. Students suspended for ten days without due process for involvement in disruptive school protests. Wood v. Strickland (1975): Establishes liability for public officials knowingly and willingly violating student due process rights. Students sue administrators and board members over being expelled for spiking the punch at a Home Economics extra- curricular school event. [JSD]

8 School discipline court case data ( ) State and federal relevant appellate level cases involving the rights of public K-12 schools to discipline and control students (excluding pure free speech and teacher dismissal cases) Content-coding includes: –Type of student misbehavior –Disability status –Direction of court-decision –Identification of school

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11 Prevalence of legal challenges Dispute pyramid: Threats of legal challenges relatively common (11% of teachers, 55% of administrators, 73% of administrators with 15 years experience - experienced threat of suit) Actual legal suits considerably rarer (14% of administrators with 15 years exp.)

12 Law and Organizational Practices Policies and practices adopted to limit professional discretion of educators administering school discipline Increasing adoption of highly bureaucratic, formal legal processes (including increasing role of police, security personnel and zero tolerance policies).

13 New York City School Discipline Handbook: The Right to Due Process 1. be provided with the Discipline Code and rules and regulations of the school; 2. know what is appropriate behavior and what behaviors may result in disciplinary actions; 3. be counseled by members of the professional staff in matters related to their behavior as it affects their education and welfare within the school; 4. know possible dispositions and outcomes for specific offenses; 5. receive written notice of the reasons for disciplinary action taken against them in a timely fashion; 6. due process of law in instances of disciplinary action for alleged violations of school regulations for which they may be suspended or removed from class by their teachers; 7. know the procedures for appealing the actions and decisions of school officials with respect to their rights and responsibilities as set forth in this document; 8. be accompanied by a parent/adult in parental relationship and/or representative at conferences and hearings; 9. the presence of school staff in situations where there may be police involvement; 10. challenge and explain in writing any material entered in their student records.

14 New York City School Discipline Handbook: The Right to Due Process (cont.) In addition, compliance required with… –Chancellors Regulations (referenced in the document): A-412, A-420, A-421, A-443, A- 449, A-450, A-750, A-801, A-820, A-830, A- 831, A-832 –State Education Law and Federal Laws

15 Individual Rights Consciousness in Schools All Students Teachers & Admin. Minor discipline – Cant happen 19% In-school suspension10% Grade reduction15% Extra-curricular suspension11% Minor discipline – Formal due process (for those believing it can) 51% In-school suspension36% Grade reduction33% Extra-curricular suspension34% Minor discipline – combined constraint 59% [AEMT]

16 Individual Rights Consciousness in Schools All Students Teachers & Admin. Minor discipline – Cant happen 19%49% In-school suspension10%3% Grade reduction15%48% Extra-curricular suspension11%4% Minor discipline – Formal due process (for those believing it can) 51%53% In-school suspension36%38% Grade reduction33%32% Extra-curricular suspension34%35% Minor discipline – combined constraint 59%79% [AEMT]

17 Student perceptions of legal entitlements and fairness of school discipline [AEMT]

18 Perceptions of rights, discipline and student educational commitment [AEMT]

19 Social dispersion of legal challenges Court cases more likely to emerge from schools with more privileged students –3 percent administrators in high poverty schools (>50 percent) have been sued, compared to 11 percent elsewhere –Characteristics of schools linked to court cases: fewer non-white students and greater school resources

20 Educator Fear of Legal Challenge Index: To what extent does fear of legal challenge affect your willingness or ability to… Teachers (participate in extracurricular activities; comfort or console students; maintain order in the classroom; give honest and candid evaluations of students; deal with unreasonable demands by parents; create a good learning environment. Administrators ( fire a bad teacher; deal with unreasonable demands by parents; deal with student discipline; create a good learning environment; try new reforms or ideas; maintain order in your school) [AV]

21 Educators fear of legal challenge [AV] Controlling for school characteristics (percent poor, school size, elementary/secondary, region) and individual characteristics (gender, race, age, educational work experience, educational attainment).

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23 Conclusion Increasing school discipline litigation over time Successful litigation and increased sense of legal entitlements associated with decrease in school discipline, declining moral authority of educators and lower educational performance. Effects of adversarial legalism have exacerbated existing social inequalities in schools.


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