Schoolwide Discipline: Rules and Consequences (page 2)
When developing universal interventions, schools must define, teach, and support expected student behaviors. To maintain discipline and to operate efficiently and effectively schools must have rules that regulate student conduct. This means that students should clearly know which behaviors are acceptable and which behaviors are prohibited. Schools recognize and reinforce students who follow the rules regarding acceptable behaviors. Additionally, if students violate reasonable school rules by behaving in ways that are prohibited, they should be held accountable.
Student accountability to rules implies that violators will be subject to disciplinary sanctions or consequences. School officials have long known that students are more likely to conduct themselves appropriately when they understand (a) the types of behavior that are expected of them when they are in school (b) the consequences of engaging in behaviors that meet these expectations, and (c) the consequences of engaging in prohibited behavior. A number of courts have addressed the issue of schoolwide discipline policies, tending to give great authority to teachers and school officials to write rules that govern student behavior when they are in school (Yell Katsiyannis, Bradley, & Rozalsh 2000).
When developing school policies regulating student conduct, rules and consequences should have a carefully considered rationale and a school-related purpose. This means that rules should be clear enough to allow students to distinguish permissible from prohibited behavior. Appropriate school rules are specific and definitive. School rules that are too vague or general may result in the violation of students' rights because students will not have a clear understanding of them. In fact, if a court finds that a school rule is so vague that students may not understand what behavior is prohibited, it is likely that that rule would be legally invalid (Corn, 1999). Thus, teachers and administrators must take care that their school rules are sufficiently clear and are communicated to students. Furthermore, rules must be school related; in other words, school officials may not prohibit or punish conduct that is not related to their school's educational purposes.
As previously noted, an important legal requirement for developing schoolwide discipline policies is that rules and consequences must be reasonable. From a legal perspective, this means that the rules should be rational and fair. Rules that are vague and consequences that are excessive and unsuitable to the particular circumstances may be legally invalid. Additionally, disciplinary procedures that are harsh or excessive are also likely to be ruled legally invalid if they are challenged in court. This means that school officials must use reasonable means to achieve compliance with a school's rules. Reasonable rules and consequences are rational and fair and not excessive or unsuitable to the educational setting.
When schools focus on improving the overall level of appropriate behavior by developing schoolwide rules and consequences, they can expect that problem behavior will be prevented in 80% to 90% of all students (Sugai et al., 2000). However, 10% to 20% of students will not respond to such interventions. For these students, more intensive interventions are required.
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