25 SES 07, Children's Views on School Issues
The study explored how children of lower primary school grades in Israel perceive the right to due process in schools’ disciplinary procedures. It focused on the following questions:
- Which characteristics of the right to due process can be identified in children’s descriptions of their school’s disciplinary procedures?
- Whether and how do children justify due process that is based on a formalistic approach (i.e., meting out uniform punishments in similar cases, in accordance with a closed system of procedural and substantial rules)?
- Whether and how do children criticize due process that is based on a formalistic approach?
In recent years, the Israeli Ministry of Education published regulations that set punitive guidelines for each disciplinary category. In view of the prevalence of similar punitive school policies in other countries (see e.g., Geldenhuys & Doubell, 2011; Kupchik, 2010; Taylor, 2013), our study has broad relevance.
The theoretical framework of the study rests on two threads of literature. The first examines the right to due process in school, which incorporates both procedural aspects of disciplinary procedures and substantial aspects, relating to the content of the disciplinary decisions (Black, 2014; Brown, 2009). The implementation of the right to due process in school discipline produces several points of tension and challenges. First, due process is required when school discipline is based on punitive approaches. Such approaches have been criticized for being ineffective, for discriminating against minority and disempowered children, and for undermining educational processes (e.g., Brown, 2009; Kinsler, 2011; Skiba et al., 2011). Second, due process in school implies complex tensions between two different kinds of fairness: a formalistic fairness that is embedded in uniform responses to similar disciplinary incidents and a substantial fairness that entails granting attention to the unique circumstances of each case and each child (Brown, 2009; Fries & DeMitchell, 2007). Teachers struggle to find adequate balance between these tensions (Fries & DeMitchell, 2007). Third, due process in school may lead to an excessive use of the human rights discourse by individual children who may undermine the rights of other children enrolled in their school (Meyer & Bratge, 2011). It should be noted that similar challenges and tensions are presented in studies exploring the developing alternatives to formalistic approaches to criminal punishments (e.g., Stolle, Wexler, & Winick, 2010).
The second thread of literature that constructs the theoretical framework of the study includes studies that have examined children’s perceptions of school discipline (Free, 2014; Geldenhuys & Doubell, 2011; McCluskey, 2008; McCluskey et al., 2013; Osler, 2000; Raby, 2008; Thornberg, 2008). These studies have used different theoretical frameworks to analyze children’s critics regarding the discipline in their schools, children’s suggestions how to improve school discipline, and differentiations that children make between different kinds of school rules.
The research questions of the studies that explored children’s perceptions of school discipline do not rest on the human rights discourse. Our study contributes unique insights regarding the ways children perceive human rights in schools and as to schools’ ‘hidden human rights curriculum’: ‘the modeling of respect for the child’s rights in all aspects of the school social and regulatory functioning’ (Covell, 2010, p. 40). Human rights education includes not only knowledge, but also practices that reinforce the experience of human rights. Studies have discussed the crucial role of schools’ organizational practices in shaping children’s rights consciousness (e.g., Brown, 2009; Covell, 2010). In addition, most of the studies that examined children’s perceptions of school discipline have focused on secondary schools. Thus, we decided to focus the current study on children in lower primary school grades, who are taking their first steps of their compulsory schooling career.
Black, D.W. (2015) The constitutional limit of zero tolerance in schools, Minnesota Law Review, 99, 823-904. Brown, J.F. (2009) Developmental due process: Waging a constitutional campaign to align school discipline with developmental knowledge, Temple Law Review, 82, 929-996. Covell, K. (2010) School engagement and rights-respecting schools, Cambridge Journal of Education, 40(1), 39-51. Free, J.L. (2014) The importance of rule fairness: The influence of school bonds on at-risk students in an alternative school, Educational Studies, 40(2), 144-163. Fries, K., & DeMitchell, T.A. (2007) Zero tolerance and the paradox of fairness: Viewpoints from the classroom, Journal of Law & Education, 36, 211-229. Geldenhuys, J., & Doubell, H. (2011) South African children's voice on school discipline: A case study, The International Journal of Children's Rights, 19(2), 321-337. Kinsler, J. (2011) Understanding the black–white school discipline gap, Economics of Education Review, 30(6), 1370-1383. Kupchik, A. (2010). Homeroom security: school discipline in an age of fear (New York, New York University Press). Lundy, L., & McEvoy, L. (2011) Children’s rights and research processes: Assisting children to (in) formed views, Childhood, 19(1), 129-144. McCluskey .G. (2008) Exclusion from school: What can ‘included’ pupils tell us? British Educational Journal, 34(4), 447-466. McCluskey, G., Brown, J., Munn, P., Lloyd, G., Hamilton, L., Sharp, S., & Macleod, G. (2013) ‘Take more time to actually listen’: Students' reflections on participation and negotiation in school, British Educational Research Journal, 39(2), 287-301. Meyer, H. D., & Bratge, K. (2011) Accommodation and adjudication in student–administration conflicts: the difficult legacy of the US Supreme Court, Peabody Journal of Education, 86(4), 436-449. Osler, A. (2000) Children's rights, responsibilities and understandings of school discipline, Research papers in Education, 15(1), 49-67. Raby, R. (2008) Frustrated, resigned, outspoken: Students' engagement with school rules and some implications for participatory citizenship, The International Journal of Children's Rights, 16(1), 77-98. Skiba, R.J., Horner, R.H., Chung, C.G., Rausch, M.K., May, S.L., & Tobin, T. (2011) Race is not neutral: A national investigation of African American and Latino disproportionality in school discipline, School Psychology Review, 40(1), 85-108. Stolle, D.P., Wexler, D.B., & Winick, B.J. (Eds). (2000) Practicing therapeutic jurisprudence: law as a helping profession (Durham, NC, Carolina Academic Press). Taylor, E. (2013) Surveillance schools: Security, discipline and control in contemporary education. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Thornberg, R. (2008) ‘It's not fair!’—Voicing pupils’ criticisms of school rules, Children & Society, 22(6), 418-428.
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