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New York City Public School Discipline Rule Changes – New Solution or Mayhem

© Donald Reinhardt, August 31, 2012

The New York City School System has amended the rules of discipline for students so that those who smoke, curse or cut classes will no longer be punished by suspension from class or school. How does that sound to you?

The 2012 New York City “Citywide Standards of Intervention and Discipline” and a TV report by CBS News in NYC reveal important aspects of this new ruling. Although the possible long-term-effects of these changes are unknown, we may surmise some unintended consequences may happen as a result of this adjustment in the rules of student engagement and punishment within the New York City education system.

School Discipline, Student Punishment or Permission and the Learning and Character Development

Lack of respect for teachers, fellow students, the environment and the suspension of certain rules of good behavior and common etiquette possibly will harm learning and character development in the public schools.

One might expect that public schools which permit and do not punish smoking, cursing and basic disrespect will cause these behaviors to increase in the overall student population. How is this so? All learning is reinforced either positively or negatively. Praise or permission to do something by an authority figure (e.g. parent, school, organization) is positive reinforcement. Punishment is a negative reinforcement.  

If whatever you do or are doing is OK or permissible, then that affirms that you can keep doing it. If you are punished, there is negative consequence to the action. And as some of these poor or disruptive behaviors of students are repeated over and over again they will tend to distract from learning and development of good character both inside and outside the classroom. Administrators such as Chancellor, Dennis Walcott of the New York City School system, certainly will evaluate all the effects of this new leniency and ruling during the academic year. School administrators may develop new perspectives and see the possible dangers that can issue forth from this more lenient ruling. School vandalism and fights or major altercations are still events that result in student suspension or dismissal from a New York City school.

If this ruling by the New York City School System panders to a much lower common denominator for student behavior, then the negative aspects of this ruling will outweigh any potential positives. How much lower can student standards and disciplines fall? Yes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and the signposts along New York City’s road to education seem to point downward rather than upward.

Additional Sources

Citywide Standards of Intervention and Discipline. 2012. Accessed: 31 August, 2012 @
Student work and discipline is important. Photo Credit: