Discipline in Public Schools

August 27, 1969

Report Outline
Growth of Disorder in High Schools
Weakening of Authority Over Pupils
Response of Schools to New Challenge

Growth of Disorder in High Schools

Rising Tide of Student Defiance and Violence

The nation's public schools are about to open their doors to what is likely to be their most critical year for disciplinary management since the schoolmaster put away the birch rod. The private schools will have their troubles, too, but they are still in position to pick and choose, to suspend and expel, as they see fit, and they are not so hemmed in by bureaucratic controls nor so harassed by conflicting pressures. The public schools, holding a mandate for mass education but possessed of inadequate resources and involved in social crises beyond their control, are in for a rough time, and most of their teachers and administrators know it. The trouble is complex, pervasive, many-faceted; the most immediate problem before the educators can be summed up in two words: student unrest.

Student disorders during the 1968–69 school year gave warning of what to expect in the year ahead. Trouble was not confined to crowded and decaying schools of the inner city; it struck repeatedly at country and suburban schools as well. Long before the term ended in June, it had become clear that the crack in the authority structure of American education, first opened on college campuses, had spread down into senior and junior high schools and even reached into elementary schools. Concern over the situation currently centers on the secondary schools. A high-ranking official of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare told newsmen, Aug. 20, that a diminution of disorder on college campuses was expected this autumn but that the prospect of rising violence in senior and junior high schools remained.

A new assertiveness, incredibly brazen by standards of the past, has obviously taken hold of the adolescent captives of the compulsory education system. Some adults cheer it, many deplore it; the consensus seems to be that it has aspects both good and bad. Youth's concern for the quality of education and for peace and justice raises few complaints. But its contempt for authority and its roughshod manner of expressing grievances are unsettling, almost frightening to the elders of school and community. Even when motivated by youthful idealism, the challenge to authority thrown down by young militants has helped to create an atmosphere in many schools conducive to the release of aggressive impulses of less benign origin.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Education Issues
Jan. 27, 2023  Deaths of Despair
Sep. 23, 2022  Public Schools' Challenges
Aug. 12, 2022  Parents' Rights
Apr. 01, 2022  Online Learning
Jan. 21, 2022  Teaching About Racism
Oct. 01, 2021  COVID-19 and Children
Jun. 11, 2021  Special Education
Jun. 21, 2019  Title IX and Campus Sexual Assault
May 17, 2019  School Safety
Feb. 02, 2018  Bullying and Cyberbullying
Feb. 03, 2017  Civic Education
Sep. 05, 2014  Race and Education
Jun. 13, 2014  Dropout Rate
May 09, 2014  School Discipline
Mar. 07, 2014  Home Schooling
Dec. 02, 2011  Digital Education
Nov. 15, 2011  Expanding Higher Education
Dec. 10, 2010  Preventing Bullying Updated
Apr. 16, 2010  Revising No Child Left Behind
Mar. 26, 2010  Teen Pregnancy
Sep. 04, 2009  Financial Literacy
Jun. 05, 2009  Student Rights
Feb. 22, 2008  Reading Crisis?
Jul. 13, 2007  Students Under Stress
Apr. 27, 2007  Fixing Urban Schools Updated
Nov. 10, 2006  Video Games Updated
Mar. 03, 2006  AP and IB Programs
Oct. 07, 2005  Academic Freedom
Aug. 26, 2005  Evaluating Head Start
May 27, 2005  No Child Left Behind
Jan. 17, 2003  Home Schooling Debate
Sep. 06, 2002  Teaching Math and Science
Jun. 07, 2002  Grade Inflation
Dec. 07, 2001  Distance Learning
Apr. 20, 2001  Testing in Schools
May 14, 1999  National Education Standards
Apr. 10, 1998  Liberal Arts Education
Jul. 26, 1996  Attack on Public Schools
May 17, 1996  Year-Round Schools
Oct. 20, 1995  Networking the Classroom
Sep. 22, 1995  High School Sports
Jan. 20, 1995  Parents and Schools
Sep. 09, 1994  Home Schooling
Mar. 25, 1994  Private Management of Public Schools
Mar. 11, 1994  Education Standards
Apr. 09, 1993  Head Start
Nov. 30, 1990  Conflict Over Multicultural Education
Feb. 05, 1988  Preschool: Too Much Too Soon?
Oct. 23, 1987  Education Reform
Aug. 24, 1984  Status of the Schools
Sep. 10, 1982  Schoolbook Controversies
Sep. 03, 1982  Post-Sputnik Education
Aug. 18, 1978  Competency Tests
Jan. 26, 1972  Public School Financing
Nov. 03, 1971  Education for Jobs
Apr. 15, 1970  Reform of Public Schools
Aug. 27, 1969  Discipline in Public Schools
Dec. 27, 1968  Community Control of Public Schools
Jun. 14, 1965  Summer School Innovations
Oct. 28, 1964  Education of Slum Children
Jun. 05, 1963  Year-Round School
Mar. 28, 1962  Mentally Retarded Children
Dec. 17, 1958  Educational Testing
Sep. 25, 1957  Liberal Education
Jul. 11, 1956  Educational Exchange
Feb. 02, 1955  Federal Aid for School Construction
Mar. 07, 1951  Education in an Extended Emergency
Nov. 20, 1945  Postwar Public Education
Nov. 07, 1941  Standards of Education
Elementary and Secondary Education
Juvenile Justice
Students and Social Life