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Editorial: Discipline is delicate balance for Fresno Unified

December 21, 2015

There are no easy answers or magical presciptions for finding the right balance on student discipline. It requires extensive thought, thorough research and sincere collaboration by school leaders, teachers and the students themselves.

But finding the right balance should be at the top of the to-do list for Fresno Unified School District when classes resume in January after the winter break because its discipline policies clearly aren’t working in many classrooms….

The teachers’ demand for tighter discipline follow the district’s implementation of a “restorative justice” program. This model focuses on early intervention, efforts to identify the reasons behind a student’s disruptive behavior and keeping troubled students in school instead of suspending or expelling them.

Tish Rice, president of the Fresno Teachers Association, told Mays that she supports the restorative justice concept, but that the effort thus far is failing because “what’s happened is that students are learning very quickly that there are no consequences for disruptive behavior.”

At the other end of the discipline scale are zero-tolerance programs, which foster a stable learning environment but increase dropout rates among students who struggle with self-control.

Dropping out, as well all know, is a ticket to a minimum-wage job, jail or worse. Dropouts also pose big costs on scociety – draining the workforce of a potentially skilled individual and often sticking taxpayers with the high price of incarceration….

Our suggestion is that Fresno Unified trustees plan now for the district to invest a larger percentage of its budget in alternative schools so that troubled students receive the education and counseling they need.

We also suggest that Superintendent Michael Hanson’s administration work more closely with the teachers union on ways to improve the restorative justice program now in place….

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