Escalated situation with legal ramifications

The case

As a teacher, I instructed the students to take out their books and start doing the calculations that were at the end of chapter two of the class textbook. I have always maintained order in the classroom and this has helped me as students always obey the instructions that I give them. However, on this day all the students obey the instructions except John. I approach John:

Teacher: “John, I have told everybody to get out their books and work on the calculations but you don’t seem bothered. Is there a problem with you?” (John ignores the question and does not want to have an eye contact with the teacher.

John: “There is no problem except that I feel a little bit tired today and I don’t wish to work on the assignment.”

Teacher: “There is no way you are going to be in my class without working on the assignment like other students. You either decide to work on them or I throw you out of the classroom.” (This was not the first confrontation that I had had with John. There was a previous one where he had not completed his homework. He did not provide a valid reason for that but I did not throw him out of class. I think there was some residual anger that both of us carried from this confrontation).

John: (now getting agitated) “I have said that I am tired and will not work on the calculations.” (Meanwhile, the other students are calm watching how John is behaving).

Teacher: “Please get out of the classroom and report to the principal’s office.”

John gets up and punches on the wall as he calls me an obscene name and gets out of the classroom. I then write up the case as insubordination and forward a report to the principal for further action.

Effects of the case on classroom management goals

The interaction with John was very disruptive to the learning environment. However, after he walked out of the classroom, the lesson was orderly and all the students were paying attention. The other positive thing about this is that the other students learnt that they can also be thrown out if they become unruly.

However, this was negative in the sense that John wasted a lot of time. The confrontation also wasted instruction time for other students. The implication of this is that the content was not covered as intended. The confrontation damaged the interpersonal relationship that we had with John. The other drawback is that since the other students were exposed to this unruly behavior and confrontation, some of them may also engage in unruly behavior. This may have an effect on the future discipline of the classroom if not checked. There is also the element that one or two students who were not disruptive were interrupted from the lesson. This affected the absorption ability of these students (Way, 2011).

Legal and ethical ramifications

Every child in the United States has a right to public education. However, John’s behavior as outlined above infringed on the ability of other students to obtain adequate education. The legal questions in this case are: whether John forfeited his right to education by being disruptive in the classroom; whether the rights of the teacher and other students in the disrupted classroom are infringed upon; and the legal steps the institution can take to ensure that the student does not repeat the same mistake or that other students do not try to be disruptive.

As has been mentioned above, the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District asserted the fact that students do not shed their constitutional rights and freedoms when they step into the school compound[1]. However, there is a limit to the rights. Under the statutes, a teacher may remove a student from a classroom if the student is disruptive or unruly or if the student acts in a manner that limits the authority of the teacher thereby diminishing the ability of the teacher to teach effectively. From the above, it shows that the teacher was right in telling the student to get out of the classroom because the action of the student affected the teachers authority and ability to deliver content to the students. The action of the student infringed on the rights of other students because it reduced instruction time thereby reducing the quality of instruction that the other students received (Nooman-Day & Jennings, 2007).

To protect the image of the school and to ensure that such action does not happen again, the administrators needed to punish the student (Nooman-Day & Jennings, 2007). However, in case the school wanted to suspend the student for his behavior, then the administration would rely on Goss vs. Lopez case. In this case, the courts held that a student must be given a hearing before a decision on suspension is made as without the hearing the due process will not have been followed[2].

The ethical issue in the case was whether to allow John in the classroom even though he did not want to do the assignment. However, this would have an effect on the quality of instruction for the other well-behaved student. The other ethical issue is the fact that removing John from class wasted his time. This had an effect on the quality of instruction that he received. In this case, John was told to get out of classroom even without considering the reasons why he did not complete his assignment (Daniels, 1998).

The other ethical issue was whether John’s getting out of the classroom generated issues of bias. This is because of the issues that we had had with John prior to the confrontation. The issue here is that sending John out of the classroom can be considered by some people s not being objective (Soleil, 1999).

How a similar situation can be handled in future

John’s behavior was irritating but not disruptive until a confronted him. If such a situation arises in future, I would try talking to such students after the lesson. Through the interaction, I would understand the source of such behavior and propose ways in which the behavior can be avoided. To ensure that the student is not offended much, I would consider a general word of caution instead of focusing on a particular student (Deering, 2011). If a student persists in being unruly in the classroom, I would request him or her to get out of the class but to make sure he or she sees me immediately after the class. In the classroom, I would always provide more hooks and attention grabbers. These will help in making the lessons more interesting making the students to anticipate my classes.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the government has a commitment of making public education available to all students in the country. However, this commitment must not be curtailed by the character of one or two students who might disrupt the learning process. School administrators must therefore provide the necessary support to teachers to ensure that learning is done in a conducive environment. In this, teachers should be educated on how best they can deal with unruly students in the classroom. With the advent of technology, efforts should be taken to ensure that chronic disruptive students are permanently taken out of the classrooms. They can be taught using virtual tools to ensure that they do not lose on content and instruction time.

List of cases

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969)

Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975)

List of Journals

Daniels, V. I. (1998). How to manage disruptive behavior in inclusive classrooms. Teaching

Exceptional Children, 30(4), 26-31.

Deering, C. (2011). Managing disruptive behavior in the classroom. College Quarterly, 14(3), 1-

11.

Nooman-Day, H; Jennings, M. M. (2007). Disruptive Students: A Liability, Policy, and Ethical

Overview. Journal of Legal Studies Education, 24(2), 291-324.

Soleil, G. (1999). Creating effective alternatives for disruptive students. The Clearing House,

73(2), 107-113.

Way, S. (2011). School discipline and disruptive classroom behavior: The moderating effects of

student perceptions. Official Journal of the Midwest Sociological Society, 346-375.

 

[1] Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969)

[2] Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975)