School discipline

Last updated
A Harper's Weekly cover from 1898 shows a caricature of school discipline. Harper's Weekly 8-27-98 cover.JPG
A Harper's Weekly cover from 1898 shows a caricature of school discipline.
This Punishment Book, from the school attended by Henry Lawson, is one of the earliest surviving examples of this type of record. School Punishment Register, c.1880 (5454012443).jpg
This Punishment Book, from the school attended by Henry Lawson, is one of the earliest surviving examples of this type of record.

School discipline relates to the actions taken by a teacher or the school organization towards a student (or group of students) when the student's behavior disrupts the ongoing educational activity or breaks a rule created by the school. Discipline can guide the children's behavior or set limits to help them learn to take better care of themselves, other people and the world around them. [1]


School systems set rules, and if students break these rules they are subject to discipline. These rules may, for example, define the expected standards of school uniform, punctuality, social conduct, and work ethic. The term "discipline" is applied to the punishment that is the consequence of breaking the rules. The aim of discipline is to set limits restricting certain behaviors or attitudes that are seen as harmful or against school policies, educational norms, school traditions, etc. [1] The focus of discipline is shifting and alternative approaches are emerging due to notably high dropout rates, disproportionate punishment upon minority students, and other educational inequalities.

The importance of discipline

Discipline is a set of actions determined by the school district to remedy actions taken by a student that are deemed inappropriate. It is sometimes confused with classroom management, but while discipline is one dimension of classroom management, classroom management is a more general term. [2]

Discipline is typically thought to have a positive influence on both the individual as well as classroom environment. Utilizing disciplinary actions can be an opportunity for the class to reflect and learn about consequences, instill collective values, and encourage behavior that is acceptable for the classroom. Recognition of the diversity of values within communities can increase understanding and tolerance of different disciplinary techniques. [3] In particular, promoting positive correction of questionable behavior within the classroom, as opposed to out-of-class punishments like detention, suspension or expulsion, can encourage learning and discourage future misbehavior. [4] Learning to "own" one's bad behavior is also thought to contribute to positive growth in social emotional learning. [5]


School discipline practices are generally informed by theory from psychologists and educators. There are a number of theories to form a comprehensive discipline strategy for an entire school or a particular class.

Some scholars think students misbehave because of the lack of engagement and stimulation in typical school settings, a rigid definition of acceptable behaviors and a lack of attention and love in a student's personal life. In the United States, scholars have begun to explore alternative explanations for why students are being disciplined, in particular the disproportionate rate of discipline towards African-American and minority students.


In the United States, African-American students, particularly boys, are disciplined significantly more often and more severely than any other demographic. This disparity is very well documented and contributes substantially to negative life outcomes for affected students. [13] [14] The resulting tendency of minors and young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to become incarcerated is widely referred to as the "school-to-prison pipeline". [15] [16] [17]

According to data published by the U.S. Department of Education, African-American students are three times more likely to be suspended and expelled than their white peers. [18] Research overwhelmingly suggests that when given an opportunity to choose among several disciplinary options for a relatively minor offense, teachers and school administrators disproportionately choose more severe punishment for African-American students than for white students for the same offense. [18] Even when controlling for factors such as family income, African-American boys are more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions than white boys for the same behavior within the same school. [14] [19]

One recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences, which utilized U.S. federal data covering more than 32 million students and around 96,000 schools, showed that "the disciplinary gap between black and white students across five types of disciplinary actions is associated with county-level rates of racial bias." [13] Other high-powered studies have shown "increased racial and gender disproportionality for subjectively defined behaviors in classrooms, and for incidents classified as more severe", [20] and that "Black-White disciplinary gaps . . . emerge as early as in prekindergarten and widen with grade progression." [21] Such disparities in exclusionary forms of discipline have been shown to be mitigated in classrooms run by African-American teachers, with especially strong mitigation of office referrals for subjectively defined behavior such as "willful defiance". [14] [22]

Disciplinary methods also vary based on students' socioeconomic status. While high-income students are often reported to receive mild to moderate consequences (e.g. a teacher reprimand or seat reassignment), low-income students are reported to receive more severe consequences, sometimes delivered in a less-than-professional manner (e.g. being yelled at in front of class, being made to stand in the hallway all day, or having their personal belongings searched). [23]

Some researchers argue that zero-tolerance discipline policies in effect criminalize infractions such as dress-code violations or talking back to a teacher, and that these policies disproportionately target disadvantaged students. [15] [24]

Corporal punishment

Throughout the history of education, the most common means of maintaining discipline in schools was corporal punishment. While a child was in school, a teacher was expected to act as a substitute parent, with many forms of parental discipline or rewards open to them. This often meant that students were commonly chastised with the birch, cane, paddle, strap or yardstick if they did something wrong. Around 69 countries still use school corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment in schools has now disappeared from most Western countries, including all European countries. In the United States, corporal punishment is not used in public schools in 34 states, banned in 31, permitted in 19, of which only 16 actually have school districts actively administering corporal punishment. Every U.S. state except New Jersey and Iowa permits corporal punishment in private schools, however an increasing number of private schools have abandoned the practice, especially Catholic schools, nearly all of which now ban. Thirty-one U.S. states as well as the District of Columbia have banned it from public schools, most recently New Mexico in 2011. The other 19 states (mostly in the South) continue to allow corporal punishment in public schools. Of the 19 which permit the practice, three – Arizona, Colorado, and Wyoming have no public schools that actually use corporal punishment as of 2016. Paddling is still used to a significant (though declining) degree in some public schools in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. Private schools in these and most other states may also use it, though many choose not to do so.

A cartoon picture that shows students receiving "Corporal Punishment." StateLibQld 1 113036 Cartoon of students receiving the cane, 1888.jpg
A cartoon picture that shows students receiving "Corporal Punishment."

Official corporal punishment, often by caning, remains commonplace in schools in some Asian, African and Caribbean countries.

Most mainstream schools in most other countries retain punishment for misbehavior, but it usually takes non-corporal forms such as detention and suspension.

In China, school corporal punishment was completely banned under the Article 29 of the Compulsory Education Act of the People's Republic of China, but in practice, beating by schoolteachers is still common, especially in rural areas.

In Australia, school corporal punishment has been banned in public schools in all states, but as of 2019, it is still permitted in private schools in Queensland and the Northern Territory. [25]

Non-corporal forms of disciplinary action


Detention, often referred to as DT, is one of the most common punishments in schools in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Singapore, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and some other countries. It requires the pupil to report to a designated area of the school during a specified time on a school day (typically either lunch or recess period, or the end of school) and remain there for a specified period of time that should not exceed 45 minutes, but also may require a pupil to report to that part of school at a certain time on a non-school day, e.g. "Saturday detention" at some US, UK, and Irish schools (especially for serious offenses not quite serious enough for suspension). [26] In UK schools, for offenses too serious for a normal detention but not serious enough for a detention requiring the pupil to return to school at a certain time on a non-school day, a detention can require a pupil to return to school 1–2 hours after school ends on a school day, e.g. "Friday Night Detention". [27] Failure to attend detention without a valid excuse can sometimes result in another being added, or a more severe punishment being administered.

In Germany, detention is less common. In some states like Baden-Württemberg there is detention to rework missed school hours, but in others like Rheinland-Pfalz it is prohibited by law. In schools where some classes are held on Saturdays, pupils may get detention on a Saturday even if it is a non-school day for them.

In China, long-time detention is perhaps less common than in the US, the UK, Ireland, Singapore, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and some other countries. However, short-time detention by the teachers is still common. Teachers may ask the students to do some missed work after school.

In Australia, [28] the principal must consider circumstances when determining what a reasonable time and place for detention entails and make sure that any special conditions relating to the imposition of detention are specified in the school's 'Student Engagement Policy'. The conditions that schools must ensure are that: no more than half the time for recess is used for detention, when students are kept after school, parents should be informed at least the day before detention, and detention should not exceed 15 minutes. [29]


Counseling is also provided when students will have to see a school counselor (guidance counselor) for misbehavior. The purpose of counseling is to help the student recognize their mistakes and find positive ways to make changes in the student's life. Counseling can also help the student clarify the school's expectations, as well as understand the consequences of failing to meet those standards.


Suspension or temporary exclusion is mandatory leave assigned to a student as a form of punishment that can last anywhere from one day to a few weeks, during which the student is not allowed to attend regular lessons. In some US, UK, Australian and Canadian schools, there are two types of suspension: In-School (ISS, Internal Exclusion or Isolation) and Out-of-School (OSS, Off-Campus Suspension, External Exclusion). In-school suspension means that the student comes to school as usual, but must report to and stay in a designated room for the entire school day. [30] Out-of-school suspension means that the student is banned from entering the school grounds. A student who breaches an out-of-school suspension may be arrested for trespassing, and repeated breaches may lead to expulsion. Students are also not allowed to attend after-school activities (such as proms, sporting events, etc.) while suspended from school. [31]

Schools are usually required to notify the student's parents/guardians of the reason for and duration of a suspension, such as the student being involved in a physical or verbal altercation on campus, or the student throwing a temper tantrum on campus, or damaging or destroying school property. (whether ISS or OSS). [32] Students are often required to continue to learn and complete assignments during their suspension. [32] Studies suggest that school suspension is associated with increased risk of subsequent criminal justice system involvement and lower educational attainment. [33] School suspension can also be associated with psychological distress, and to have a bi-directional link with mental illness. [34] In the United Kingdom, excluded children have been targeted by "county lines" drug traffickers. [35]


Expulsion, dismissal, exclusion, withdrawing, or permanent exclusion terminates the student's education. This is the last resort, when all other methods of discipline have failed. However, in extreme situations, it may also be used for a single offense, such as setting fires on campus, the activation of false alarms, or assault and battery against faculty and staff members, or school administrators. [36] Some education authorities have a nominated school in which all excluded students are collected; this typically has a much higher staffing level than mainstream schools. In some US public schools, expulsions are so serious that they require an appearance before the Board of Education or the court system. In the UK, head teachers may make the decision to exclude, but the student's parents have the right of appeal to the local education authority. It was completely banned for compulsory schools in China. This has proved controversial in cases where the head teacher's decision has been overturned (and his or her authority thereby undermined), and there are proposals to abolish the right of appeal. In the United States, when it comes to student discipline, there is a marked difference in procedure between public and private institutions.

With public schools, the school must provide the student with limited constitutional due process protections as public educational institutions operate as an extension of state governments. Conversely, with private schools, the student can be expelled for any reason – provided that the expulsion was not “arbitrary and capricious.” In Virginia, as long as a private school follows the procedures in its student handbook, a court will likely not view its actions as arbitrary and capricious. [37]

Restorative justice

In schools, restorative justice is an offshoot of the model used by some courts and law enforcement; it seeks to repair the harm that has been done by acknowledging the impact on the victim, community, and offender, accepting responsibility for the wrongdoing, and repairing the harm that was caused. Restorative practices can “also include preventive measures designed to build skills and capacity in students as well as adults." Some examples of preventative measures in restorative practices might include teachers and students devising classroom expectations together or setting up community building in the classroom. Restorative justice also focuses on justice as needs and obligations, expands justice as conversations between the offender, victim and school, and recognizes accountability as understanding the impact of actions and repairing the harm. Traditional styles of discipline do not always work well for students across every cultural community. As an alternative to the normative approaches of corporal punishment, detention, counseling, suspension, and expulsion, restorative justice was established to give students a voice in their consequences, as well as an opportunity to make a positive contribution to their community. [38]

Restorative justice typically involves peer-mediation or adult-supervised conversations surrounding a perceived offence. Each student has the ability to contribute to the conversation, the person who has misbehaved has the opportunity not only to give their side of the story but also has a say in their consequence. Consequences defy the traditional methods of punitive punishment and instead give students an opportunity for restoration. [39] Restorative justice focuses on relationship building and the community as a whole over the individual student and their offence, creating a sense that everyone has a part in the community and it is everyone's responsibility to uphold the values of the particular community. [40] This is a method that not only increases an understanding of perceived community values, but is also a method thought to work well in cultures and communities where there is a high value on the community, rather than just on the individual.

In 2012, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report entitled "School Discipline and Disparate Impact," which was somewhat critical of the Department of Education's approach to school discipline. [41]

See also


  1. 1 2 "What is Discipline?". Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  2. "What is Discipline?". Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  3. Scarlett. W. George (24 February 2015). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Classroom Management
  4. 1 2 What is Positive School Discipline? (2013). Education Development Center.
  5. Chadsey, Terry and Jody McVittie (August 2006). The Positive Discipline Association.
  6. 1 2 3 Cotton (December 1990). "Schoolwide and Classroom Discipline". School Improvement Research Series. Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. 5. Archived from the original on 12 February 2008.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link))
  7. Efficacy of Class Meetings in Elementary Schools, Ann Roeder Platt, B.A., California State University, Sacramento. The University of San Francisco, The Effectiveness of Alderian Parent and Teacher Study Groups in Changing Child Maladaptive Behavior in a Positive Direction. Jane Nelsen
  8. Greenberg, 1987
  9. The Sudbury Valley School (1970). Law and Order: Foundations of Discipline, The Crisis in American Education — An Analysis and a Proposal. (p. 49-55). Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  10. Greenberg, D. (1987). With Liberty and Justice for All, Free at Last, The Sudbury Valley School. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  11. Greenberg, D. (1987). Back to Basics, The Sudbury Valley School Experience. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  12. 1 2 3 "Why Kids Misbehave in Classrooms". The Huffington Post. 26 May 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  13. 1 2 Riddle, Travis; Sinclair, Stacey (2 April 2019). "Racial disparities in school-based disciplinary actions are associated with county-level rates of racial bias". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 116 (17): 8255–8260. doi:10.1073/pnas.1808307116. PMC   6486724 . PMID   30940747.
  14. 1 2 3 Gordon, Nora (18 January 2018). "Disproportionality in student discipline: Connecting policy to research". The Brookings Institution.
  15. 1 2 Heitzeg, Nancy A. (2009). "Education or Incarceration: Zero Tolerance Policies and the School to Prison Pipeline" (PDF). Forum on Public Policy Online. 2009 (2). ERIC   EJ870076. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 August 2010.
  16. Rocque, Michael; Paternoster, Raymond (2011). "Understanding the antecedents of the 'school-to-jail' link: The relationship between race and school discipline". The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. 101 (2): 633–665. JSTOR   23074048.
  17. Cuellar, Alison; Markowitz, Sara (1 August 2015). "School suspension and the school-to-prison pipeline". International Review of Law and Economics. 43 (10): 98–106. doi:10.1016/j.irle.2015.06.001.
  18. 1 2 "When Schools Are Forced to Practice Race-Based Discipline". The Atlantic. August 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  19. Barrett, Nathan; McEachin, Andrew; Mills, Jonathan N.; Valant, Jon (4 January 2018). ""Disparities in Student Discipline by Race and Family Income"" (PDF). Education Research Alliance.
  20. Smolkowski, Keith; Girvan, Erik J.; McIntosh, Kent; Nese, Rhonda N. T.; Horner, Robert H. (1 August 2016). "Vulnerable Decision Points for Disproportionate Office Discipline Referrals: Comparisons of Discipline for African American and White Elementary School Students". Behavioral Disorders. 41 (4): 178–195. doi:10.17988/bedi-41-04-178-195.1. S2CID   219971730.
  21. Gopalan, Maithreyi; Nelson, Ashlyn Aiko (23 April 2019). "Understanding the Racial Discipline Gap in Schools". American Educational Research Association Open. 5 (2). doi: 10.1177/2332858419844613 . S2CID   151167120.
  22. Lindsay, Constance A.; Hart, Cassandra M. D. (1 March 2017). ""Exposure to Same-Race Teachers and Student Disciplinary Outcomes for Black Students in North Carolina"". Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. 39 (3): 485–510. doi:10.3102/0162373717693109. S2CID   26428014.
  23. Skiba, Russell (December 2002). "The Color of Discipline: Sources of Racial and Gender Disproportionality in School Punishment." The Urban Review 34, no. 4
  24. "Study Tracks Vast Racial Gap In School Discipline In 13 Southern States". National Public Radio. 25 August 2015. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  25. "Federal Government rules out return of corporal punishment, after curriculum adviser says it can be 'very effective'". ABC NEWS. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  26. "Fast times at Dulwich College – Alex Singleton". Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  27. "Behaviour and discipline in schools: Guidance for governing bodies". Department for Education (UK). 17 July 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  28. "Detentions". Queensland government. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  29. "Detention". Victoria State Government. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  30. Skiba, Russel (2006). "Zero tolerance, suspension, and expulsion: Questions of equity and effectiveness". In Evertson, C.M. (ed.). Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues. Erlbaum. pp. 1063–1092.
  31. "Discipline Policy and Procedures" (PDF). Delran Township School District, New Jersey . Retrieved 25 January 2009.
  32. 1 2 American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force (2008). "Are zero tolerance policies effective in the schools? An evidentiary review and recommendations". American Psychologist. 63 (9): 852–862. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.63.9.852. hdl: 2027.42/142342 . PMID   19086747.
  33. Rosenbaum, Janet (2018). "Educational and Criminal Justice Outcomes 12 Years After School Suspension". Youth and Society. 52 (4): 515–547. doi:10.1177/0044118X17752208. PMC   7288849 . PMID   32528191.
  34. Doward, Jamie (19 August 2017). "School exclusion 'linked to long-term mental health problems' – study". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  35. Rawlinson, Kevin (28 September 2018). "'County lines' drug gangs recruit excluded schoolchildren – report". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  36. "Improving Behaviour and Attendance: Guidance on Exclusion from Schools and Pupil Referral Units" (PDF), Teachernet, Department for Children, Schools and Families, England, retrieved 25 January 2009
  37. "The Difference Between Public and Private School Disciplinary Hearings".
  38. Davis, Matt. (2015). Restorative Justice: Resources for Schools. Edutopia. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  39. Dalporto, Deva (2013). Restorative Justice: A Different Approach to Discipline. We Are Teachers. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  40. Editors of Rethinking Schools (2014). Restorative Justice: What it is and is not. Rethinking Schools. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  41. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, School Discipline and Disparate Impact (2012).


Related Research Articles

Teacher Person who helps others to acquire knowledge, competences or values

A teacher is a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

A zero-tolerance policy is one which imposes a punishment for every infraction of a stated rule. Zero-tolerance policies forbid people in positions of authority from exercising discretion or changing punishments to fit the circumstances subjectively; they are required to impose a pre-determined punishment regardless of individual culpability, extenuating circumstances, or history. This pre-determined punishment, whether mild or severe, is always meted out.

Juvenile delinquency Illegal behavior by minors

Juvenile delinquency, also known as "juvenile offending", is the act of participating in unlawful behavior as a minor or individual younger than the statutory age of majority. For example, in the United States of America a juvenile delinquent is a person who is typically below 18 years of age and commits an act that otherwise would have been charged as a crime if they were an adult. Juvenile crimes can range from status offenses, to property crimes and violent crimes.

Child discipline is the methods used to prevent future behavioral problems in children. The word discipline is defined as imparting knowledge and skill, in other words, to teach. In its most general sense, discipline refers to systematic instruction given to a disciple. To discipline means to instruct a person to follow a particular code of conduct.

School violence encompasses physical violence, including student-on-student fighting and corporal punishment; psychological violence, including verbal abuse; sexual violence, including rape and sexual harassment; many forms of bullying, including cyberbullying; and carrying weapons in school. It is widely held to have become a serious problem in recent decades in many countries, especially where weapons such as guns or knives are involved. It includes violence between school students as well as physical attacks by students on school staff.

Youth detention center Type of prison for people under the age of majority

In criminal justice systems a youth detention center, known as a juvenile detention center (JDC), juvenile detention, juvenile hall, or more colloquially as juvie/juvy, also sometimes referred as observation home or remand home is a prison for people under the age of 21, often termed juvenile delinquents, to which they have been sentenced and committed for a period of time, or detained on a short-term basis while awaiting trial or placement in a long-term care program. Juveniles go through a separate court system, the juvenile court, which sentences or commits juveniles to a certain program or facility.

Classroom management

Classroom Management is a term teachers use to describe the process of ensuring that classroom lessons run smoothly without disruptive behavior from students compromising the delivery of instruction. The term also implies the prevention of disruptive behavior preemptively, as well as effectively responding to it after it happens.

Expulsion refers to the removal or banning of a student from a school system or university due to persistent violation of that institution's rules, or in extreme cases, for a single offense of marked severity. Laws and procedures regarding expulsion vary between countries and states.

American juvenile justice system

The American juvenile justice system is the primary system used to handle minors who are convicted of criminal offenses. The system is composed of a federal and many separate state, territorial, and local jurisdictions, with states and the federal government sharing sovereign police power under the common authority of the United States Constitution. The juvenile justice system intervenes in delinquent behavior through police, court, and correctional involvement, with the goal of rehabilitation. Youth and their guardians can face a variety of consequences including probation, community service, youth court, youth incarceration and alternative schooling. The juvenile justice system, similar to the adult system, operates from a belief that intervening early in delinquent behavior will deter adolescents from engaging in criminal behavior as adults.

A zero-tolerance policy in schools is a strict enforcement of regulations and bans against behaviors or the possession of items deemed undesirable by said schools. Public criticism against such policies has arisen due to the sometimes negative consequences of its enforcement when acts deemed intolerable are done in ignorance, by accident, or under extenuating circumstances, in addition to its connection to educational inequality in the United States. In schools, common zero-tolerance policies concern possession or use of illicit drugs or weapons. Students, and sometimes staff, parents, and other visitors, who possess a banned item for any reason are always to be punished.

Suspension is paid or unpaid time away from the workplace as ordered by the employer in order for a workplace investigation to take place, or as a disciplinary measure for infractions of company policy. It is also a temporary exclusion from school.

Positive discipline (PD) is a discipline model used by schools and in parenting that focuses on the positive points of behavior. It is based on the idea that there are no bad children, just good and bad behaviors. Practitioners of positive discipline believe that Good behavior can be taught and reinforced while weaning the bad behaviors without hurting the child verbally or physically. People engaging in positive discipline believe that they are not ignoring problems, but instead dealing with the problem in a different way, by helping the child learn how to handle situations more appropriately while remaining calm, friendly and respectful to the children themselves. Positive discipline includes a number of different techniques that can lead to a more effective way for parents to manage their kids behavior, or for teachers to manage groups of students.

School corporal punishment Form of punishment

School corporal punishment is the deliberate infliction of physical pain or discomfort and psychological humiliation as a response to undesired behavior by a student or group of students. The term corporal punishment derives from the Latin word for "the body", corpus. In schools it often involves striking the student directly across the buttocks or palms of their hands with a tool such as a rattan cane, wooden paddle, slipper, leather strap or wooden yardstick. Less commonly, it could also include spanking or smacking the student with the open hand, especially at the kindergarten, primary school, or other more junior levels.

Drew Central High School is a public secondary school in Monticello, Arkansas, United States. It is part of Drew Central School District, which serves rural Drew County and a small section of Monticello. It in a section of the Monticello city limits that is within the Drew Central Schools boundaries, adjacent to the University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM). It, along with other schools in the district, resides on 31 acres (13 ha) of land leased by the university to the school district. Dependent minor residents of the UAM housing for married students and students with families, HHFA Apartments, are assigned to this district. Additionally Wilmar is in the Drew Central district, as is the unincorporated area of Selma.

School-to-prison pipeline Disproportionate tendency of minors and young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to become incarcerated

In the United States, the school-to-prison pipeline (SPP), also known as the school-to-prison link, school-prison nexus, or the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse track, is the disproportionate tendency of minors and young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to become incarcerated because of increasingly harsh school and municipal policies, as well as because of educational inequality in the United States. Many experts have credited factors such as school disturbance laws, zero tolerance policies and practices, and an increase in police in schools in creating the pipeline. This has become a hot topic of debate in discussions surrounding educational disciplinary policies as media coverage of youth violence and mass incarceration has grown during the early 21st century.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a set of ideas and tools that schools use to improve the behavior of students. PBIS uses evidence and data-based programs, practices and strategies to frame behavioral improvement in terms of student growth in academic performance, safety, behavior, and establishing and maintaining positive school culture. PBIS addresses the needs of at-risk students as well as the multi-leveled needs of all students in regards to behavior, which creates an environment for both teaching and learning to occur in schools. The approach is believed by researchers such as Robert H. Horner to enhance the school staff's time for delivering effective instructions and lessons to all students.

Social justice educational leadership emphasizes the belief that all students can and will reach proficiency, without exceptions or excuses, and that schools ought to be organized to advance the equitable learning of all students. Rather than focusing on one group of students who traditionally struggle, or who traditionally succeed, social justice leaders address the learning needs of all students. Social justice educational leadership specifically addresses how differences in race, income, language, ability, gender, and sexual orientation influence the design and effectiveness of learning environments. Social justice leadership draws from inclusive education practices from disability education, but extends the concepts further to support students from diverse groups with a wide range of needs. Through restructuring staff allocation and assessing student progress through disaggregated data, school leaders strive to create schools with equal access and equitable support for all students.

School corporal punishment in the United States

Corporal punishment, also referred to as "physical punishment" or "physical discipline," is defined as using physical force, no matter how light, to cause deliberate bodily pain or discomfort in response to some undesired behavior. In schools in the United States, corporal punishment takes the form of a teacher or school principal striking a student's buttocks with a wooden paddle.

Educational inequality in the United States

Educational inequality refers to unequal access to education, and the unequal outcomes for students that result. The disparities present in academic access among students in the United States are the result of several factors including: government policies, school choice, family wealth, parenting style, implicit bias towards the race or ethnicity of the student, and the resources available to the student and their school. Educational inequality contributes to a number of broader problems in the United States, including income inequality and increasing prison populations.

School disturbance laws, also known as school disruption laws, are a series of state laws within the United States that prohibit and instill penalties for those found guilty of disturbing the operations of a school. In some states, merely "disturbing school" is a crime, with the law giving no further definition or guidance to those charged with enforcing the law. Enacted by states in the early 20th century to protect students from outside adults, since the Civil Rights Era they began to be used against students within the schools. As of 2017, there are over 20 states with these laws still in place, although they remain actively enforced by only some. It is reported that nationally, 10,000 juveniles are charged with "disturbing school" each year, in addition to those who are charged as adults. The application of these laws, including arrest, expulsion, and incarceration, are in many states part of the "school to prison pipeline," the channeling of students of all ages into the criminal justice program. This frequently has adverse effects on students' academic performance, ability to remain in the educational system, likelihood of adult incarceration, and their future success in society.