Recent studies regarding disciplinary programs in the nation’s schools include a popular program known as “restorative justice.” This is an alternative to traditional methods of punishment such as suspension. According to a recent discussion among educational leaders published in Educational Leadership, “ Restorative justice can shift  the focus of discipline from punishment to learning and from the individual to the community. However, it is often mis-perceived and misapplied. . . . First, we stop suspending students but fail to deal with the root causes of behavior issues, including the absence of strong relationships and emotional safety at school.

The conclusion from this discussion is that wealthier schools in primary white districts reaped more benefits from the restorative justice programs than did inner city schools. In fact, progressive discipline reforms often result in poor behavior. A few examples of the decline in discipline after the implementation of more tolerant practices include the following:

In New York City, a majority of students at half of schools serving a high share of minority students said they saw more fights and that their peers were less respectful. In Chicago, peer respect deteriorated and teachers reported more disruptive behavior . . .In East Baton Rouge, 60 percent of teachers say they’ve experienced an increase in violence or threats, and 41 percent say they don’t feel safe in school.

In order for learning to occur, all students must first adhere to positive discipline standards.  Programs like “Time to Teach” provide specific guidelines for teachers to follow and consequences for misbehavior. It is “a consistent classroom management system that recovers precious  instructional time and improves a school’s climate.” It centers upon the development of clear, consistent rules of conduct and continual practice of desired behaviors. The emphasis is on the class practicing desired behaviors and the teacher paying careful attention to any behavior that might disrupt the learning process and attending to it immediately.  Zero tolerance of poor behavior must occur, so teachers can spend their time on instruction rather than on discipline referrals.


Laura Maniglia