Getting a grip on the school discipline problem

Reports of lax discipline have caused much concern about US public schools recently.

Scott D. Thomson, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Prin- cipals, says this about the problem: ''For a while schools didn't know how much they could discipline students; they feared being taken to court every time they disciplied one. Principals kind of backed down from discipline because that's what they thought the courts were telling them to do. We've learned slowly but surely what our responsiblities are and what we can do. They're really not that much more narrow than they used to be.

''Now that authority's been reestablished, we just have to make certain due process is followed and that everything has a piece of paper attached to it.''

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