Effective Discipline Interventions for Unacceptable Peer to Peer Behavior (page 2)

By — Stop Bullying Now!
Updated on Feb 25, 2009

Applying these nine principles should not mean that all students’ actions lead to exactly the same response by administrators. The following are proposed guidelines for modifying discipline approaches in individual situations:

  • I believe it is not productive to hold different behavior goals for different students. For example, we might say that a student who has certain handicaps or a student with a difficult family situation can’t help hitting others, and that others should learn to avoid being hit by this student. In my view, if we do so we avoid our responsibility to teach these children to flourish in an adult society which will not take these issues into account. We also invite backlash against these students from their peers and their peers’ families because of the accurate perception that these students are
    allowed to hurt others. I believe that holding different behavioral goals for students based on class, race, or other family or cultural backgrounds is similarly unfair to those students, who will have to meet mainstream cultural and workplace expectations as adults.
  • Having said that, some students will benefit from different disciplinary strategies than we use for the majority of students. In helping these students reach the same behavior goals that we hold for every other student, we may use a very different mix of teaching and counseling strategies, positive reinforcement of many different kinds, immediate small consequences like removal from situations, and skill training. We will need to learn more about the meaning of the behavior to a student and to work in creative ways to help the student build more positive responses to situations. Students who need to learn to manage their own behavior positively through different interventions may be on a modified behavior plan from the beginning, or we may create a plan with them after they have not changed their behavior after following three steps of the school wide behavior plan. In either case, we can outline specific predictable outcomes of positive and negative behaviors for these students within their behavior plans, so they can learn to link their own choices
    with the outcomes of those choices. Structured individual plans should be created for students in four categories, as described below:
    • For students who have Individual Educational Plans under special education or 504 plans based on behavior impairments, the PET or 504 meeting should decide on the best approach to work toward the school wide behavior goals. This discussion may lead to an individual plan or may lead to the student following the school wide behavior rubric for peer to peer behavior.
    • We should develop individual intervention plans for students whose unacceptable behavior toward peers continues after three rubric-based interventions. If our best judgment is that these students are continuing these actions because of impulsivity or skill deficits in anger management or social skills, plans should mix immediate consequences with intensified skill-teaching and recognition of positive choices. If the unacceptable behavior seems to be consciously chosen by the student, individual plans may lean toward in-school suspension and the classes-only consequence described in my book.
    • Students under severe stress may have difficulty controlling their behavior and choosing positive actions. If we can identify that a student is experiencing severe family stress our intervention may likely involve smaller consequences and more counseling and emotional support than would otherwise be the case.
    • Students who have been treated badly by peers without effective intervention by the school may see no other option than retaliation. If it is clear that the school has not acted properly to protect students who then retaliated, the retaliating student may receive a written warning or a lighter consequence than would otherwise happen. This one time reduction in consequences should then mobilize more effective protective interventions. It is important here to recognize that students who have initiated negative action toward peers often falsely claim that they were only responding in self-defense to the actions of others. In addition, students may choose retaliation rather than reporting negative behaviors to adults, and this action cannot be encouraged. In neither of these cases should consequences be reduced. It is only if the school should have known what was going on or has not responded effectively to reports of ill-treatment that consequences should be minimized for retaliating students (depending on the form that the retaliation took)––and the adjustment in consequences should be coupled with efforts to protect them and other students more effectively in the future.

This summary of techniques is a work in progress and I welcome your thoughts.

Stan Davis Wayne, Maine, October, 2007

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