Types of school discipline

When students break the rules, schools may discipline students. Some schools use punishment. But others use more progressive measures. Learn about the different types of school discipline.

Most parents and schools try to prevent misbehavior. But when students break the rules, schools often take disciplinary actions. That includes students with IEPs and 504 plans, who have extra rights under the law when it comes to school discipline.

These actions can range from minor to very harsh. Schools that are traditional may focus on punishment. More progressive schools may take a different approach. 

Some types of discipline — like restraint and seclusion — are very controversial. These practices are legal in some states. 

Here’s a list of disciplinary actions you may hear about:

  • Parent contact: Calling a child’s parents or sending a note home

  • Conference: Having the child meet with a principal or teacher, sometimes joined by parents or caregivers

  • Schoolwork: Requiring the child to do schoolwork, like writing the same sentence over and over on the chalkboard

  • Counseling: Pairing the child with a professional to talk about the misbehavior

  • Detention: Placing a child in a supervised area during or after school

  • Suspension: Sending a child home from school for one or more days

  • Expulsion: Removing a child from school permanently

  • Restraint: Preventing a child from moving, either physically or with a mechanical device

  • Seclusion: Placing a child alone in a locked room or separate area of the school and not letting the child leave

  • Restorative justice: Having a child make amends through an apology, peer mediation, or other action

If the school decides to take disciplinary action that you disagree with, there are steps you can take. First, you can go to the superintendent or school board and appeal it. You can also talk to a lawyer or advocate.

Want to know more? Listen to a podcast episode about bias in school discipline. And learn about positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), an approach to school discipline focused on prevention, not punishment. 


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