Developmentally Informed School Disciplinary Interventions
How would one describe a school that takes into account the developmental level of adolescents when dealing with discipline problems?
To begin with, a school that believes its disciplinary policies should reflect a developmental perspective builds its disciplinary strategy around certain premises. First, adolescents are susceptible to lapses in judgment, to taking risks, and to not thinking realistically about the consequences of their behavior. Second, adolescents are beginners at defining themselves vis-à-vis their community and at balancing their own rights or freedoms with their responsibilities. Third, adolescents are sensitive to perceived unfairness and react favorably to being treated with dignity and respect and having their voices heard.
The school does not rely on metal detectors, patting down by security personnel, or profiling to prevent disorder and crime from occurring on school grounds. Instead, its students are informed at the outset that some behaviors, such as possession of weapons or drugs or serious threat or assault, will not be tolerated. The school has a planned continuum of effective alternatives and works closely with parents, law enforcement, juvenile justice, and mental health professionals in order to develop an array of alternatives for those students whose behaviors threaten school safety or order.
The school has written disciplinary guidelines that have been drafted by a group of school leaders and students. Removal from school is the most severe sanction and is reserved for the most extreme circumstances. Consequences are geared to the seriousness and specific im-
implemented with black, Latino, urban, and low-income students and studies of successful teachers of black students, which might likewise hold lessons for juvenile justice system programs and actors. Commonalities among successful programs include an emphasis on student self-regulation and encouragement of “school connectedness” and “caring and trusting relationships” (Freiberg and Lapointe, 2006) between school officials and students. The principals interviewed by Rausch and Skiba (2006, p. 112) reported that a combination of high expectations and support for students can be effective “even for the toughest kids.” Gregory and Weinstein (2008) found that an authoritative style of teaching, in which teachers showed both caring and high expectations, was effective in eliciting trust and cooperation among black students.