Alternatives to corporal punishment include emphasizing positive behaviors of students, realistic rules consistently enforced, instruction that reaches all students, conferences with students for planning acceptable behavior, parent/teacher conferences about student behavior, use of staff such as school psychologists and counselors, detentions, in-school suspension and Saturday school.

Comprehensive programs which improve school climate significantly decrease misbehavior and can also reduce school violence. Such programs seek to change the conditions that are, directly or indirectly, conducive to violent acts. Individualized instruction and remedial support where needed can reduce academic failure and frustration that may contribute to discipline problems and violence.

Programs to decrease racism and other forms of intolerance, increase appreciation of diversity, and improve levels of trust can also decrease discipline problems and violence by creating a climate of acceptance and understanding and by improving the quality of the relationships among and between students and staff.

While school violence may engender a desire to discipline the aggressors harshly, the National Association of School Psychologists urges school personnel to temper disciplinary responses with efforts to promote cooperation, positive social skills, and peaceful means of resolving conflicts. A variety of programs of this nature are listed below with links to provide additional information.

Conflict Resolution Peer Mediation Democratic Schools
The Tribes Program Smart from the Start The Peacable Schools Program
Positive Discipline Prevention Strategies That Work Invitational Discipline
Law-Related Education Blue Ribbon Initiative School-Wide Positive Behavior Support

Conflict Resolution

Conflict is part of life - the natural result of people interacting. Yet many of us are uncomfortable with conflict and lack the skills to deal with it constructively. Consequently, tensions and disagreements often escalate.

In schools, unresolved or poorly resolved conflicts are the source of discipline problems, classroom disruption, vandalism, and even violence. Staff and students are stressed, school climate is poisoned, and learning is diminished. Often, "resolution" takes the form of punitive disciplinary measures, an approach that may succeed temporarily but seldom eradicates the problem. Besides being limited in effectiveness, this approach has another drawback: it teaches young people that acceptable behavior is expected only in the presence of an external authority figure. This works against their developing self-discipline that will lead to internally based control.

In recent years, programs in conflict resolution have been developed to deal with the seemingly intractable problems of conflict within schools. Since conflict resolution programs were first set up in schools in the early 1970s, hundreds of these programs have been successfully established across the United States. This marks a major shift in the way schools view students and authority and is in keeping with current thinking about cooperation, communication, and problem-solving, exemplified in such educational trends as cooperative learning.

Many schools that have adopted conflict resolution programs report encouraging results, citing reduced suspensions, higher attendance, and more positive attitudes on the part of students, staff, and parents. Moreover, they find that conflict resolution skills and attitudes carry over into all aspects of life both in and out of school. The climate of the school shifts dramatically with the recognition of alternative ways to handle conflict - ways other than fighting or traditional discipline. With improved school climate comes better learning and greater success for students and staff alike.

A conflict resolution program provides an effective alternative to a traditional discipline program. Alternatives that lead to long-term changes in attitudes and behavior are needed. Conflict resolution programs are an important part of those alternatives because they invite participation and expect those who choose to participate to plan more effective behavior and then to behave accordingly.

Systemic change calls for cooperation to be the normative expectation, both behaviorally and academically, and for adults to interact noncoercively with youth. Faculty and students work and learn together while supporting one another. When conflict resolution is practiced by all, respect, caring, tolerance and community building become "the way we do things around here."

For more information on conflict resultion, the following web-sites are recommended:

The Conflict Resolution Education Network

The Conflict Research Consortium www.Colorado.EDU/conflict.

Click Here to return to the top

"The only way to resolve conflict is to share minds and hearts. That's why conflict is a gift." Mother Morphasis

Peer Mediation

Peer mediation skills are often incorporated into the conflict resolution process. Students are trained to mediate conflicts involving their peers. Their role as mediator is not to judge, or to make a decision, but to summarize and ask questions of clarification. The mediator helps parties to find their own solution through effective communication.

Student mediators are trained to listen to both sides of the story with empathy. They attempt to get the parties to hear the conflict from the other person's point of view and to have each party realize that it is possible to resolve the conflict between them and the other party. This process is very controlled and teaches skills of listening, empathy, communicating and problem solving.

The skills that peer mediators develop will benefit them throughout their lives.

The web-site for The Conflict Resolution Education Network offers an overview of peer mediation in schools,

Click Here to return to the top

The Peacable Schools Program

The Tennessee Department of Education School Safety Center in partnership with the Tennessee Legal Community Foundation of the Tennessee Bar Association provides conflict resolution and classroom management training to teams of elementary and middle school teachers and administrators. Utilizing a train-the-trainers model, the Peaceable Schools project includes an extensive follow-up and evaluation component. Over 300 school teams have been trained to date. Training and materials are provided at no cost.

Teams are made up of four to six people, administrators, teachers, counselors, and other interested school personnel and parents. Most training is conducted during July in three-day professional development institutes that train school staff to teach skills of group problem-solving, mediation and negotiation; however, some basic training?as well as specialized and advanced training?is conducted throughout the year.

The program is designed to help Tennessee schools develop more peaceable atmospheres with fewer unresolved classroom conflicts that will, in turn, give teachers more time to teach. After attending a three-day institute, teams can then attend a two-day advanced training session that focuses specifically on emotional intelligence and non-coercive discipline.

There is no cost for schools to attend except for lunch and travel expenses. Each team is provided with four or five copies of the Creating Peaceable Schools Instructor?s Guide and several copies of the student guide at no cost.

Administrators receive state-mandated continuing education credit and teachers may receive optional staff development credit as required by their individual school districts. The current focus of the program is on staff of K-8 schools. The program helps foster school-community relationships by bringing the legal and mediation community into the schools. These outside resource persons provide classroom support, mentoring to teachers and students and help with the conflict resolution process. Follow-up technical assistance is also available on request to provide in-depth training in curriculum infusion, teacher to student negotiation skills, non-coercive discipline, peer mediation or other topics that will help the school provide for more extensive implementation.

Schools that implement the program as designed can expect: a safer, more positive school environment; gains in social competence and other resiliency skills; increased problem-solving skills through enhanced critical thinking skills; improved student performance; fewer office referrals resulting in increased instructional time; and decreased rates of aggressive and violent behavior. For additional information visit the Tennessee School Safety Center:

Tennessee School Safety Center

To arrange free training contact:
Suzanne Stampley
(615) 889-3381
(615) 884-5004 (fax)

Click Here to return to the top.

Democratic Schools

When we talk of teaching democracy in schools, many people say that we already do that with student council and class elections. While these practices do teach democratic principles, the concept of democratic schools goes far beyond this.

Democratic schools encourage participatory democracy and are characterized by a climate in which students and staff members understand the need to respect one another's rights. These schools provide students with a sense of shared responsibility with the school staff for assuring the safety of all.

Change begins with the commitment to openly seek information from students, parents, and school staff regarding the functioning of the schools. The approach that schools use to make policies and solve problems becomes a joint effort between students, parents and staff. The democratic school listens to criticism, assesses problems and considers options for change. Brainstorming sessions to talk about school policies and problems allow input from a variety of stakeholders who genuinely care about what happens in the school.

The success of democracy ultimately depends on educated citizens who have internalized the social contract between themselves and society. This contract is the mutually agreed-upon rules of decency, civility, respect for others and their property, and devotion to justice, fairness and equity. Rules and laws that spell out the social contract are followed not because of fear of punishment but because their importance is understood. By using democratic processes in the classroom, we help children develop internal controls based on the social contract negotiated among parents, teachers and students. Teachers in democratic classrooms emphasize cooperation, mutual goal setting and shared responsibility. Students behave because it is the right thing to do and because they respect the rights of others.

Encouraging students to participate in developing classroom and school policies and also teaching them an acceptable way to dissent if they feel the policies are unfair are essential in democratic schools. This participation enhances self-esteem and gives students a sense of empowerment. When schools want to hear what students have to say about the way things work, the underlying message is that they are worth listening to. When students can directly impact the policies that effect them through the democratic process, they will be more likely to participate in the democratic system as adults.

Democracy requires citizens to resolve disputes in nonviolent ways - through negotiation and conflict resolution. These are skills that will benefit children throughout their lives. Children slowly begin to develop understanding of another person's perspective, concern for that person's rights and feelings, communication skills through which to convey his views, and appreciation of the consequences of what's going on.

Providing structure and an orderly learning environment is consistent with democratic principles, which can therefore be taught as both content and process. In a democracy, it is so urgently important that children learn to live democratically that is seems well worth whatever time it takes to teach these principles of a democracy and what better way than by modeling them in the school and classroom.

Recommended reading:

Click here to return to the top.

"The proper way of training children is identical with the proper way of treating fellow human beings." Rudolf Dreikurs

Positive Discipline in the Classroom

Positive Discipline in the Classroom is a program that prepares children for responsible citizenship. It is a program that encourages the development of emotional intelligence and the important life skills and perceptions of capable people.

Creating a Positive Discipline classroom is a process of putting together parts of a puzzle. The parts include creating an atmosphere of caring based on kindness and firmness, dignity and mutual respect. Students and teachers together can create a classroom climate that is nurturing to both self-esteem and academic performance.

Classroom meetings are a large component of the Positive Discipline program. When classroom teachers learn to implement effective class meetings, most problems can be handled successfully through the class-meeting process instead of being referred to other sources. Students are taught a fundamental concept: "There are enough of us here to help each other; we don't need to pass the buck." Class meetings provide a supportive atmosphere for students to become actively involved in determining their needs and implementing strategies they design to benefit everyone concerned. Students can come up with wonderfully creative solutions when given the opportunity.

The method for developing a Positive Discipline Classroom is outlined in detail in the book Positive Discipline in the Classroom by Jane Nelsen, Lynn Lott, and H. Stephen Glenn.

For hundreds of other Positive Discipline tips, please refer to Positive Discipline in the Classroom: a Teacher's A-Z Guide by Jane Nelsen, Roslyn Duffy, Linda Escobar, Kate Ortolano, and Debbie Owen-Sohocki.

Click Here to return to the top.

Smart from the Start

Smart from the Start is an initiative that will provide guidance to parents of newborns and toddlers in Tennessee in areas of child development, safety, health hints, behavior management tips and useful activities.

"It was a pleasant project to be a part of that resulted in a useful 'family friendly' flip chart and a whimsical, colorful web site," says Janet Coscarelli, Director, Tennesssee Head Start State Collaboration Office who was involved in the development of the flipchart. The charts will be distributed to all Tennessee Head Start programs for distibution to Head Start families and will also be distributed through other state programs.

The behavior management tips reinforce the Head Start guidelines of discipline without corporal punishment. Head Start preschool programs use a variety of effective disicpline practices that parents can also learn to apply in their homes. The flipchart includes an example of how to teach toddlers to use conflict resolution skills instead of hitting. It stresses that communication and consistency are the keys to success with discipline.

The Smart from the Start project is a joint collaboration between the Tennessee Head Start Association, State of Tennessee Departments of Education, Health, Human Services and Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities and private sector enterprises of Federal Express, Bell South and birthing sections of Tennessee hospitals.

Please take time to visit their beautiful web-site at

Prevention Strategies That Work

Administrators know only too well that concern for student misbehavior is not new - although the behavior problems have become more prevalent, violent, and destructive during the past 20 years. As many elementary classroom teachers will tell you, they spend an inordinate amount of time and energy managing student misbehavior and conflict - time that could be spent on teaching and learning.

The need to prevent many of these troublesome behaviors has never been so great. Fortunately, prevention strategies do exist that enable school communities to redirect misbehavior and reduce the potential for misbehavior early on, before the need for formal discussion arises.

Prevention Strategies That Work is a 20 page booklet that derives from the work of researchers at six universities who spent the last six years implementing school-based prevention practices. Their focus was on students with - and at risk of developing - emotional and behavioral disorders. It is distributed by the University of Vermont. You may e-mail the following address for your free copy of this informative booklet, Copies can also be obtained by contacting: Pam Kay, Coordinator School Research Office, Department of Education 429 Waterman Building, University of Vermont Burlington, VT 05405

Click here to return to the top

The Tribes Program

The Maryville City School System in Blount County, TN, is implementing this program. In 1998, the Elementary Task Force selected the Tribes program as one of seven programs in the system that has the greatest possibility of improving instruction.

The mission of Tribes is to assure the healthy development of every child so that each has the knowledge, competency and resilience to be successful in a rapidly changing world.

Students achieve because they:

  • Feel included and appreciated by peers and teachers are respected for their different abilities, cultures, gender, interests and dreams
  • Are actively involved in their own learning
  • Have positive expectations from others that they will succeed
  • The objectives of the Tribes program are:

  • Creating a safer and even more caring school environment
  • Showing more respect for individual differences and diversity of cultures
  • Teaching students to become more responsible for themselves, their learning, and each other
  • Discovering how to educate all students for success in the 21st Century
  • More actively involving families in the education of their children
  • Awakening a love of learning in everyone
  • The book Tribes, A New Way of Learning and Being Together, by Jeanne Gibbs (2000), details the concepts and research underlying the Tribes group learning approach. It provides step-by-step instructions on how to build a Tribes Learning Community. You may also learn more about this program by visiting their web-site,

    Inviting Discipline - Improving School Safety

    William Watson Purkey, Professor of Counselor Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, introduced his philosophy of Invitational Education and his Schools Without Violence approach to education into the District of Columbia Public Schools in 2001.

    The Invitational Education model is a fresh approach to the teaching-learning process that is based on trust, respect, intentionality and optimism. Hundreds of schools across America have adopted his methods as their model for school improvement.

    The approach focuses on bringing about positive changes in the total school environment, which he calls the "five P's," or the people, places, policies, programs and processes in schools. All five aspects, he said, are interconnected and have to work in concert to foster student success.

    "Much of what we've learned about school policies nationwide is that they are mostly based on punitive measures," said Purkey. "We believe that schools can be turned into positive, nurturing settings that foster student achievement and school safety. We want students to think about the good things that will happen when they come to school."

    Dr. Purkey is credited with being the leading spokesman, for Invitational Education, as well as a co-founder. The model is designed to create a positive, nurturing atmosphere in school settings where students' self-efficacy is enhanced and classroom success is fostered.

    Research shows that schools employing the method have successfully reduced dropout rates, with two main characteristics emerging. First, teachers are committed to keeping students in school and to helping them succeed. Second, students report that they feel wanted in the schools, they are contributing members of classes and they are missed when absent.

    Dr. Purkey describes his philosophy in the following article, Inviting Student Self-Discipline, published in the journal Theory into Practice.

    Establishing and maintaining student discipline has been, and probably always will be, a major concern of educators. Students resist control because it restricts individual freedom and personal choice. Yet educators are charged with establishing and maintaining control (usually referred to as "discipline") as an essential part of education.

    Early approaches to discipline were primarily punitive. Fear played a major role in the discipline process and students received terrifying warnings from the pulpit, home and school of what happens to disobedient children.

    Although some of these more primitive and punitive methods still linger (such as paddling and other forms of corporal punishment) most contemporary methods of discipline are generally positive.

    Invitational discipline has its origins in self-concept theory which assumes that the ways individuals perceive themselves, others and the world are learned and once learned serve as a sort of gyrocompass for behavior.

    Invitational discipline has four essential elements which provide it with substance, structure and direction. These are optimism, intentionality, respect, and trust. When combined and applied to practical concerns, these four elements provide educators with a consistent stance useful in creating and maintaining discipline.

    Invitational discipline is built on a positive vision of human existence: Individuals are able, valuable, capable of self-direction, and should be treated accordingly. Individuals who exhibit a lack of discipline have often met with repeated negative experiences and have lost faith in themselves, their values, abilities, self-directing powers, and future. The task of the educator is to maintain a spirit of optimism and to continue to invite students to feel able, valuable, and responsible, even in the face of nonacceptance.

    Invitational discipline is structured around the importance of purpose and direction. Educators who desire to create and maintain discipline based on respect and trust strive to consistently act in an intentionally inviting manner. This involves much more than the act of sending invitations. It also involves appropriateness?deciding when to invite and when not to invite, and when to accept and when not to accept. These decisions originate with intentionality.

    Invitational discipline advocates a special way of being with people. Central to this process is a deep appreciation for the rich complexity and unique value of each person. This appreciation is cultivated by such behaviors as civility and common courtesy. Respect is also reflected by an attitude of equality and shared power.

    The fourth element in invitational discipline is a recognition and acceptance of the importance of human interdependence. This interdependence is acknowledged when individuals give a high priority to human welfare, when they view places, policies, and programs as capable of contributing to this welfare, and when they are committed to trust their feelings and to risk openness and involvement. The element of trust generates an inviting pattern of action and encourages openness, involvement, and resulting affirmation.

    From the perspective of invitational discipline, everybody and everything in and around the school should contribute to the creation and maintenance of an intellectually, psychologically, and physically inviting school environment. This environment should be a place where every student is consistently treated with dignity, respect and care. Under such conditions students are far less likely to be disruptive.

    Educators who employ invitational discipline accept the notion that penalties should be used sparingly and should be humane. They avoid reliance on corporal punishment or psychological warfare, and they understand the difference between a state trooper and a storm trooper. Penalties should not give students the resentful feeling of being wronged, but rather encourage them to reflect on the offense, recognize why it was inappropriate, and take the necessary steps to correct it.

    The International Alliance for Invitational Education began on a summer afternoon in 1982 when a group of 12 educators and related helping professionals from throughout the United States and Canada met on the campus of Lehigh University. From these twelve charter members, the Alliance membership has grown to over six hundred professionals representing fifteen countries.

    Because the International Alliance for Invitational Education is dedicated to democratic principles, its mission is to enhance life-long learning, promote positive change in organizations, cultivate the personal and professional growth and satisfaction of educators and allied professionals and enrich the lives of human beings personally and professionally. Visit their web-site:

    Click Here to return to the top.

    Law Related Education (LRE) is citizenship education with an emphasis on understanding the role of law as the basis of democratic society. LRE programs work to help students (kindergarten through 12th grade) know how and why our legal system operates as it does, the importance of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and the roles of lawyers and judges.

    LRE helps youth become effective, law-abiding citizens by promoting civic responsibility and community participation. It increases young people's self-esteem and promotes a more favorable attitude toward authority figures.

    LRE began in Idaho in 1985 as a public service program of the Idaho Law Foundation. Law Related Education focuses on "real world" issues and emphasizes interactive and engaging techniques such as role-play and simulation, mock trials, moot courts, debate, and case study analysis. Curriculum materials encourage the development of critical thinking, reasoning, decision-making, and oral and written communication skills.

    For more information on programs available through the Tennessee Bar Association visit

    Click Here to return to the top.

    Blue Ribbon Initiative

    When asked about the positive changes in Memphis City Schools Denise Johnson, the district's Blue Ribbon Plan coordinator, said, "I think it's probably due to a more conscious effort on the part of teachers, administrators, and the support teams at the schools to be more proactive in dealing with the kids. In other words, letting students know what the expectations are and recognizing when students are doing well.

    What we're trying to do is get people to think differently about dealing with children. In the past, our way of trying to do that was to put out the bad kids, just put out those kids who won't do what you want them to do, but we can't afford to do that. They're part of our citizenry and our community."

    For in depth information on the Blue Ribbon Initiative being implemented by Memphis City Schools go to

    MCS Blue Ribbon Plan.

    School-Wide Positive Behavior Support

    This program is being implemented at least 20 school systems across the state of Tennessee. Many of these schools have reported a decrease in discipline referrals and suspension rate.

    A major advance in school-wide discipline, this school-wide system of support includes proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behaviors to create positive school environments. Instead of using a patchwork of individual behavioral management plans, a continuum of positive behavior support for all students within a school is implemented in areas including the classroom and nonclassroom settings (such as hallways, restrooms).

    Positive behavior support is an application of a behaviorally-based systems approach to enhance the capacity of schools, families, and communities to design effective environments that improve the link between research-validated practices and the environments in which teaching and learning occurs. Attention is focused on creating and sustaining primary (school-wide), secondary (classroom), and tertiary (individual) systems of support that improve lifestyle results (personal, health, social, family, work, recreation) for all children and youth by making problem behavior less effective, efficient, and relevant, and desired behavior more functional.

    For more information on this program visit

    Click Here to return to the top.

    Tennesseans for Nonviolent School Disicpline