Discipline in Schools? Who Needs Discipline in Schools?

New discipline-free zone?

by James A. Bacon

Speaking of legislation that never made it out of committee in the past but now could be unleashed upon Virginia (see previous post), there’s HB 256, a bill that would modify the state statute on disorderly conduct so that it does not apply on school property or in school buses.

This bill, introduced by Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, and passed by the House in a 61-to-37 vote, continues the trend of undermining the ability of public schools to maintain discipline. Undoubtedly the bill’s backers can cite anecdotal examples in which disorderly conduct represented overkill. Perhaps school districts need to review such cases and adopt policies to prevent abuses. But that’s no reason to categorically deprive schools of a disciplinary option for preventing violence.

Let’s remind ourselves of the definition of “disorderly conduct”:

A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:

engages in conduct having a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person or persons at whom, individually, such conduct is directed; …

Willfully or while intoxicated, whether willfully or not, and whether such intoxication results from self-administered alcohol or other drug of whatever nature, disrupts the operation of any school or any activity conducted or sponsored by any school, if the disruption (i) prevents or interferes with the orderly conduct of the operation or activity or (ii) has a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person or persons at whom, individually, the disruption is directed.

Without deleting any of the previous language, the bill would add this:

The provisions of this section shall not apply to any student at any elementary or secondary school if the disorderly conduct occurred on school property, on a school bus, or at any activity conducted or sponsored by any school.

So, the revised disorderly conduct law would forbid behavior potentially leading to violence at schools except…. at schools.

What folly is this?

It’s already state policy to discourage truancy, to prevent dropouts, and to make kids who otherwise have no interest in attending class park their bodies in school whether they learn anything or not. It’s a safe bet that kids who have low interest in participating in class — possibly because they have fallen so far behind academically that they don’t understand anything — are more likely to get frustrated, get resentful, and get disruptive. Now this bill would compound the problem by making it impossible to charge them, in extreme cases, with disorderly conduct.

Question #1: What’s the alternative? Restorative justice? If a kid gets rowdy and violent at school, are teachers and counselors supposed to appeal to his reason and empathy for other students? Really?

Question #2: How will troubled students respond when they realize there are no sanctions? If they want to rumble with a classmate, will they conclude, quite logically, that the place to do it is at school?

Here’s the likely progression:

  1. Schools lose options for dealing with severe disciplinary behavior
  2. Severe disciplinary behavior gets worse. (The metrics may not get worse because school administrators are incentivized to repress undesirable data, but the actual behavior itself gets worse.)
  3. Disrupted classrooms interfere with teaching of other students.
  4. Other students suffer declines in standardized test scores.
  5. The impact is most evident in schools with larger minority populations.
  6. Progressives blame racism.
There are currently no comments highlighted.

14 responses to “Discipline in Schools? Who Needs Discipline in Schools?

  1. So, I can’t bully you on a Metro bus but I can bully you on a school bus?

    Liberalism is a mental disorder.

  2. You missed: 7. Private schools continue to flourish, expand and – wait for it – diversify! Parents who can will move their kids out.

  3. Only someone with [insert name of unpleasant substance here] where their brains are supposed to be would consider supporting this. And it horrifies me to even speculate as to the contents of the skull of the person who introduced this bill.

    If this gets signed in to law our public schools will be like zoos where all the animals are in the same enclosure; and all the “anti-bullying” lip service in the world will not prevent the terrible things that are going to happen to the decent, responsible, students who actually want an education (and who are in the majority).

    I guess I’ll just have to thank God my youngest child graduates high school this year.

  4. Wow! Private schools will have no trouble filling up their classrooms now. HB 256 is a recruiting poster for private schools. If you are a school teacher like me there can only be one conclusion to draw: Appomattox! We lost!

  5. Is this something being imposed on the schools against their will or is this something the schools support?

    • I don’t know, but I can’t picture very many teachers supporting it.

    • I have not been in committee to see this, and that’s where the most witnesses would be. There are lobbyists for the school boards association, for the teachers association, the PTAs, advocates for children and then groups such as the Family Foundation from a conservative POV. They could be all over the map on this one. Alot of voices claim to speak “for the schools.”

      • But the schools themselves – the school boards and district administrators – do they want this or are the opposed.

        I know about the “voices for the schools” but some of them are not really from the schools themselves point of ivew.

        It makes a difference whether the schools themselves support this or not and why.

        I really don’t care as much what the other folks are saying “in support” or “in opposition” until I know what the schools themselves want.

        They are the ones who have to actually deal with the issue.

        Most schools these days DO have law enforcement on site – usually called School Resources Officers or similar.

        Young folks often have no idea of the thresholds for criminal code or the consequences and repercussions downstream.

        We usually cut them some slack unless or until they have a clear pattern of problems.

        I’d be in favor of “warnings” as well as a mandatory course for first time offenders to inform them of the consequences of continuing to tangle with the law.

        I’m NOT in favor of Draconian measures driven by outside folks with ideological agendas.

        • Mr. Herring will simply sue the school boards that do not comply with the law.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            How does he sue citizens for protecting innocent children from harm, and threat of and/or actual mayhem?

            This is a law that will enforce a lawless state of anarchy and chaos in schools, school grounds, and school buses,

          • johnrandolphofroanoke

            Chaos and disorder are already present. Last year when I cleared all of the vaping out of my high school single handed by catching and yanking kids out of the bathrooms I was nearly crucified and declared a troublemaker. The truth was this: I was the high school hero teacher because I had the guts to do what must be done. 95% of the student body was so thankful. Standing ovation at the last pep rally of the year. Scorn, reprimands, and cowardice is all the administration gave me.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Your comments confirm my suspicions stated many times on this blog, but never so vividly and well as your comment above, is that our leaders of public education are directly responsible for its disastrous impact on our children. Why? and How? are the questions we must focus on to fix problems.

  6. I wonder how this proposed bill might work in connection with the goals and mission of Virginia Department of Education, for example:

    “A Note from the Director of Equity and Community Engagement at the VDOE

    Dear Colleague-

    The Commonwealth is committed to ensuring that its public education system is positioned to achieve equitable academic outcomes for all students. As such, #EdEquityVA is defined as our commitment to eliminating the predictability of student outcomes based on race, gender, zip code, ability, socio-economic status or languages spoken at home. This vision of equity requires that ALL students have access to high quality learning programs that enable them to maximize their potential.

    Imagine a Virginia where test scores in third grade no longer predict future academic or life successes. Picture a Commonwealth where the language your family speaks at home, the amount of money you are born into, or the color of your skin does not correlate to graduation rates, college attainment, employment status or wages. Envision a state where an individual’s beginnings in life does not dictate his or her future opportunities, a state where every family can access the resources and supports necessary to maximize each child’s potential. That is the goal of #EdEquityVA.

    The Office of Equity and Community Engagement leads these efforts and is strategically focused on the following priorities:

    Increasing the Cultural Competency of Virginia’s Educator Workforce
    Eliminating Disproportionality In Student Outcome Data
    Closing Opportunity Gaps Among Marginalized Student Groups

    Together with our partners, our #EdEquityVA vision will become a reality. Our work is strategic and intentionally focused on establishing equity targets, measuring equity outcomes, providing tailored assistance to schools and school leaders and implementing systemic policy and regulatory changes. American Education scholar Earnest Boyer once said, “To push for excellence today without continuing to push for access for less privileged students is to undermine the crucial but incomplete gains that have been made. Equity and excellence cannot be divided.”

    Thank you for joining us in our pursuit of #EdEquityVA excellence.

    Yours in Service,

    Leah D. Walker, MPA”

  7. Jim says:

    “This bill, introduced by Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, and passed by the House in a 61-to-37 vote, continues the trend of undermining the ability of public schools to maintain discipline.”

    Jim is right as far as he goes. But he does not go far enough as this bill passed by the house also undermines the ability of Virginia schools, school employees, and police from protecting kids on or in school property from the threat of emotion and physical harm, including rising threats of violence against those kids.

    Why would the Virginia House pass such a bill by a vote of 61-to-37? Why would 61 house members pass a bill that surely will increase the harassment and reckless endangerment of innocent children?

    Why would those delegates work to insure that those innocent kids remain vulnerable?

    Why? Surely there is a discernible reason for their votes to pass such a pass that harms kids. What is it?

Leave a Reply