Judging School Discipline: The Crisis of Moral Authority

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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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Arum (sociology & education, NYU), who studied over 1000 legal cases dealing with student disciplinary actions during the latter half of the 20th century, here reports that the majority of the cases during the 1960s and early 1970s focused on student civil rights. Arguing that liberal organizations, including some federal government agencies, encouraged such cases as a means of accomplishing school reform, Arum maintains that an unintended consequence has been to undermine school authority in the eyes of the general public. Arum evokes Emile Durkheim's concept that to have moral value in the lives of students, school rules must be perceived as relevant to the educational situation and those who enforce the rules must be perceived as legitimate. He further argues that to achieve safer and more effective public schools, a middle path must be found between the zero-tolerance disciplinary proposals being offered by conservatives and the lenience often promoted by liberal groups concerned with student civil rights. While he acknowledges that meaningful change will be difficult to accomplish within the current social climate, he urges other scholars to continue research along these lines. This carefully reasoned and meticulously researched book is recommended for academic and public libraries with patrons interested in school reform.-Jean Caspers, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674011793
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/10/2003
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

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

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Questioning School Authority 1
2 Student Rights versus School Rules 38
3 How Judges Rule 86
4 From the Bench to the Paddle 127
5 School Discipline and Youth Socialization 159
6 Restoring Moral Authority in American Schools 188
App.: Tables 215
Notes 279
Index 315
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