Politics & Policy

Sparing Rods, Spoiling Children

The impossibility of school discipline.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appears in the October 11, 2004, issue of National Review.

Last November in Las Vegas, ten students on the Cheyenne High School football team were involved in a melee with the opposing squad immediately following a game. The incident was broadcast repeatedly on local television and led Jerry Hughes, the executive director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, to suspend the team from participating in the upcoming regional playoffs. “It was a brawl, an outright brawl,” Hughes noted. “We hate doing these things, but we felt it was a very serious situation that occurred.”

Within 48 hours, however, parents of the suspended players had contacted lawyers and brought suit in Clark County District Court to overturn the Interscholastic Association’s decision. Before the end of the week, county judge Jackie Glass issued a restraining order requiring the association to permit the Cheyenne football team to participate in the playoffs as their due-process rights had apparently been violated and the suspended players would suffer irreparable harm if denied the ability to play. “Right now . . . we don’t have any ability whatsoever to enforce the rules,” responded Hughes. It is a sentiment echoed by many teachers and administrators across the country. How did we get to a point where courts increasingly intervene to prevent schools and related organizations from exercising traditional disciplinary authority? What have the consequences of these changes been for students, schools, and communities?

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