There are two important school rules that should sound familiar: First, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul mind and strength and second, love your neighbor as yourself. Any other rules that are good rules would be covered by these two. There are also procedures, consequences and principles for parents to consider. They won’t be listed here because they evolve depending on what is going on in the classroom. If a student willfully doesn’t follow a procedure he will be disciplined for breaking the first and possibly second rule, but not the procedure. Writing lots of rules creates an ugly game where students try to work their way through loopholes, which necessitates more rules. Pinning down student behavior is very difficult and the more rules your write, the deeper hole you dig. The whole affair can become exasperating to the class and even cause the good students to become frustrated and rebel. The teacher and principal wind up focusing on outward behaviors that might be far removed from the real issue, which is the heart or attitude of the student.
Using the two important rules that Jesus gave us actually creates a better system to deal with bad behavior and here is an example from a brilliant mentor, friend and retired principal from whom I learned these things: He had a young lady in his school who was a bully. Among other things she and her two followers would walk down the hall three abreast scowling at the other students scurrying out of their way. She was being mean and intimidating, but what rule do you write for that situation? No scowling? No walking three abreast in the halls? But this principal was able to refer the bully and eventually the father to important rule number two, pointing out the girl was not being loving to her neighbors. Both the daughter and the father were unrepentant and so were removed from the school. They thought it was very unfair, but you can bet the rest of the students and their parents were rejoicing. A school that writes a hundred rules to control behavior could never deal with that issue, but my friend was able to deal with it decisively with the Lord’s two rules.
This illustration does reveal one other important item to be considered: adults often work under the assumption that there must be proof beyond a shadow of a doubt before a child can be found guilty of some wrong. Actually this principle only applies to the government, not the rest of us, but we seem to use the shadow of a doubt criteria and to the detriment of all. It is a common occurrence in schools to have a student whose behavior and attitude are not good for the student body. The teacher, the principal and perhaps everyone knows for certain that the student is guilty and needs to be dealt with. He may have given himself away in a smirk, a haughty look, a tone of voice, or in some other way that gives us certainty, but would not be considered evidence in a courtroom. But since we are not in a courtroom we shouldn’t bind ourselves to the standard of a shadow of doubt and we must deal with the student’s behavior and attitude which brings us to two other principles of discipline. First, bad attitudes are infectious. This may be more of an observation, than a principle, but if bad attitudes are allowed to continue in a school, they will spread to the other students. Therefore the second principle is that the goal of discipline is reformation of the heart and if that fails, then removal.
Lastly, I am a firm believer in spanking, but in these litigious days I am very uncomfortable spanking someone else’s child. Therefore should serious discipline be needed the burden will fall to the parents.