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Judging School Discipline

Judging School Discipline

The Crisis of Moral Authority

Richard Arum

ISBN 9780674018143

Publication date: 09/30/2005

Reprimand a class comic, restrain a bully, dismiss a student for brazen attire--and you may be facing a lawsuit, costly regardless of the result. This reality for today's teachers and administrators has made the issue of school discipline more difficult than ever before--and public education thus more precarious. This is the troubling message delivered in Judging School Discipline, a powerfully reasoned account of how decades of mostly well-intended litigation have eroded the moral authority of teachers and principals and degraded the quality of American education.

Judging School Discipline casts a backward glance at the roots of this dilemma to show how a laudable concern for civil liberties forty years ago has resulted in oppressive abnegation of adult responsibility now. In a rigorous analysis enriched by vivid descriptions of individual cases, the book explores 1,200 cases in which a school's right to control students was contested.

Richard Arum and his colleagues also examine several decades of data on schools to show striking and widespread relationships among court leanings, disciplinary practices, and student outcomes; they argue that the threat of lawsuits restrains teachers and administrators from taking control of disorderly and even dangerous situations in ways the public would support.

Praise

  • This interesting study casts a critical eye on the American legal system, which [Arum] sees as having undermined the ability of teachers and administrators to socialize teenagers...Arum, it must be pointed out, is adamantly opposed to such measures as zero tolerance, which, he insists, often results in unfair and excessive punishment. What he wisely calls for is not authoritarianism, but for school folks to regain a sense of moral authority so that they can act decisively in matters of school discipline without having to look over their shoulders.

    —David Ruenzel, Teacher Magazine

Author

  • Richard Arum is Professor of Sociology and Education at New York University.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 0-13/16 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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