Taking the Temperature on School Climate and Discipline

In many schools across America, we begin each day with a morning ritual, the pledge of allegiance. Students stand sleepy-eyed with their hands over their hearts and recite the words that make our country great “with liberty and justice for all.” And though we proclaim it every day, the harder declaration is to live it.

In my classroom, students start off each school year discussing at length what it means to be a citizen of the United States. We debate, we question, and we make reference to our school creed: Be respectful, Be responsible, Be safe and an Active Learner.  Students quickly discover that we cannot begin to learn unless we know how to best support one another throughout the process.

Because self-awareness, self-control and resilience are as important as reading, writing and arithmetic, my students learn to be part of a community of learners, and that learning can only happen when they feel they are appreciated and valued.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice released guiding principles around School Climate and Discipline. While the guidance is comprehensive and multi-faceted, the focus is clear, schools must be both safe and supportive for effective teaching and learning to take place.

I recently sat down with Secretary Duncan to talk about the importance of school culture and fair discipline, and the need for both educators and students alike to feel safe as they pledge their allegiance each and every day.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Emily Davis is a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.


  1. It is harder and harder to teach discipline and good manners to children these days but it will take them a long way if they practice it every day for the rest of their lives. But it all has to be reinforce and taught first a home. If we correct students at school but parents are not bad behavior is perpetuated, we must work had at fixing behavior problems in our schools.

  2. hey I learn from my school respect for teacher when I came in new York I saw student can’t respect for teacher n I feel bad now my kids go to school n I teach my kids respect to teacher . but now my kids when came to school they said mom teacher very miss behavior with me front of all student . n after class all kids talk about me . n my kids very upset .why not teacher take kids to side n talk . now I realized why student miss behavior with teacher

    • Ya absolutely right in my point of you also , what you said because when i was studied my schooling in Presidency school north in Bangalore , Karnataka. My friends all are cannot able to respect to the teachers on that day . I had a question why? asked to my friends , after they said the reason i realized, when teacher miss behave to the students as public it should be insulting him in front of other students. why cant they scold in separate. The school is best IGCSE in Bangalore, because of they way of teaching is good , but the teachers are behaving somewhat insulting students as much hurts them.

  3. See the brutally violent truth about corporal pain punishment/paddling/spanking with big wooden boards, assault in public, of children k-12 in America’s public schools at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vt4v7KsFi8 YouTube video trailer for Documentary Movie “The Board of Education” by Jared Abrams. Alabama, Florida and Tennessee are among school paddling states that do not require parental consent or notification for children to be hit by educators at school. Parents are unable to protect children from repeated beatings in schools, see YouTube video testimony of Linda Pee, mother unable to protect her daughter from repeated school beatings by adult men school employees, at Hearing before Congressional Subcommittee on Healthy Communities and Families 4/15/2010 “Corporal Punishment in Schools and It’s Effect on Academic Success. When injuries and trauma occur to children from school corporal punishment, “Teacher Immunity Laws” protect school employees from criminal/civil action and in 1977 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled School Corporal Punishment Constitutional and declines to hear school corporal punishment appeals, creating a “Police State” atmosphere in schools where corporal punishment is allowed, District Attorneys decline to bring charges and parents are ignored by school boards. School corporal punishment is discriminatorily administered to boys, disabled, low-income and minority students. There is no way for schools to prevent sadistic pedophiles from filming on cell phones and sharing videos of school paddlings/spankings of children. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy D-NY will soon reintroduce for the 3rd time a federal bill “The Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act” that will withhold federal funding from educational institutions that allow corporal punishment of students. See 2008 Report “A Violent Education” by Human Rights Watch and ACLU for disturbing facts including photos of actual shaved baseball bats used by educators to hit children in America’s public schools.

  4. School climate is one of my biggest concerns as an educator. I feel it is my duty and responsibility to create a safe environment for all students. Many days I spend too much time redirecting students, calling parents about behavior issues and documenting. All of these things play an important role in maintaining a dignified and inviting learning environment but take time from academic related activities. I agree with rigorous academic expectations and hope that we can come up with a plan and method for rigorous behavioral expectations as well.

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