It's About Them

Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Discipline Gone Wrong

We MUST be careful about interventions that foster more hurt than benefit―in the home as well as at school.

One evening as I checked my email there was a correspondence from a worried mom. It seemed her 13-year-old daughter had shut down in school. There were other related concerns, but the primary problem was noncompliance. She was not doing, finishing or turning in her work. The girl was not dangerous, nor did her behavior threaten others.

The “remedy” at this school consisted of removing her from her regular school and placing her into a behavioral class in a very tough alternative arrangement. At this facility, youngsters and their things were searched upon entering the school, and they were forbidden to bring a lunch from home (a security issue).

There was a physically demanding, boot-camp-like, component to the program. According to the mother, the girl was traumatized by the whole experience. She lost focus, lost sleep, lost weight and, most importantly, Mom shared her daughter lost hope. Marginal improvement was noted in a few of her grades, but at what price? If the situation was as this mother described (and that is an issue), her concerns seem justified.

I was an educator long before I was a psychologist. I know full well the challenges schools face in providing education that is accountable and fair to all concerned. After all, we’re in the business of growing healthy, happy and functional young people. But in this case doesn’t it seem the school’s “cure” for her noncompliance did more harm than good? Instead of trying to figure out why the girl was having difficulty (something that might respond better to focused intervention than punishment), someone in charge seemed to focus more on how many weapons she might try to pack into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Ignorance, indifference and a one-size-fits-all approach to handling young people and their problems are not the solution―and never have been.

James D. Sutton, EdD, CSP

Consulting Psychologist/Certified Speaking Professional
PO Box 672, Pleasanton, TX 78064
(800) 659-6628 Email:


January 31, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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