Rowdy students can display disruptive behavior, including fighting, bullying their peers or even disrespecting their teachers. These actions can test a teacher’s patience, mainly if the student shows no remorse. Though teachers in Pennsylvania cannot use corporal punishment to discipline students, they can use reasonable force under specific circumstances.
What methods can teachers use to discipline students?
Teachers can maintain order without resorting to corporal punishment by using alternative forms of discipline, such as warnings or detention. Here are a few:
- Verbal reprimands: Teachers can warn or talk to misbehaving students privately calmly and constructively.
- Remove disruptive students from the classroom: Teachers can remove students from the classroom for disruptive behavior or for challenging the teacher’s authority.
- Behavior contracts: If a student’s behavior problem persists, the teacher can meet their parents or guardians. The purpose is to create a “behavior contract” that outlines how to improve behavior, expectations and potential consequences.
- Suspension or expulsion: The teacher or school may expel or suspend the student for serious offenses.
Punishment is not always appropriate. It could fail to rectify the student’s behavior, damage their self-esteem or aggravate the issue. To protect the students’ best interests, schools and teachers should always consult state laws before delivering discipline.
What if a student becomes violent?
Under Pennsylvania law, teachers and school officials may use reasonable force in the following situations:
- To quell a disturbance
- To obtain weapons or other harmful objects
- For self-defense
- To protect others or property
If a student brawls with another student, the teacher may have to intervene and physically separate them. Unfortunately, handling students in this manner can cause problems for the teacher because many parents find it unacceptable.
Teachers facing disciplinary action for using reasonable force when they thought it necessary may need a lawyer’s help. If the parents of a disruptive student claim that their child was physically assaulted, the teacher could risk losing their license. With a lawyer on their side, teachers have a better chance of ensuring that a complaint like this doesn’t wipe out all their hard work.