Some students need to be taught how to manage their conflicts

January 02, 2012

The overuse of suspension in some schools is largely a function of the need for greater teacher and staff training in conflict management techniques ("Punishment of last resort," Dec. 29).

Frequently, teachers, staff and even some administrators lack an understanding of cooperative discipline techniques and restorative practices tools, relying solely on punishment models for misbehavior.

Positive behavior intervention programs can be effective in encouraging students who have the skills to self-manage. But the "red zone" students — those with consistently challenging behavior problems — must be taught the skills needed to better manage their conflicts. Simply punishing them, whether through out-of-school or in-school suspensions, doesn't work.

Barbara Sugarman Grochal, Baltimore

The writer is director of school conflict resolution education programs at the University of Maryland School of Law.

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