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School Discipline/Codes of Conduct And Zero Tolerance


This web-based document has been prepared from a report prepared for the Canadian Association of Principals under a grant provided
by the Youth Justice Policy Division Department of Justice, Government of Canada. That report, Zero Tolerance Policies in Context:
A Preliminary Investigation to Identify Actions to Improve School Discipline and School Safety, was used to create these
resources that can help schools to develop their plans and policies.

Executive Summary

Principals’ Perceptions of Zero Tolerance and School Discipline

Review of the Research on Zero Tolerance and School Discipline

Analysis of Provincial/Territorial Guidelines

School Board Policies/School Codes of Conduct: Analysis and Guide


Zero Tolerance Policies in Context:

A Preliminary Investigation to Identify Actions to Improve School Discipline and School Safety

Prepared for the Canadian Association of Principals

By Mary M Shannon and Douglas S. McCall of

Shannon & McCall Consulting Ltd

Executive Summary

The purpose of this investigation is to assess four sources of information to identify potential actions that can be taken by schools and
justice authorities to ensure that school discipline policies are effective and coordinated with justice/law enforcement and community
resources. The Canadian Association of Principals (CAP) conducted four activities to obtain relevant information.

• a focus group discussion with practicing school-based administrators

• a brief review of the published research and “grey” literature
• an analysis of the policy guidelines or directives established by education ministries in Canada
• a collection and preliminary analysis of a convenient sample of school district policies

In summary, this assessment has found that:

1. Zero tolerance policies are poorly understood by many Canadians and educators.
2. Policies stipulating automatic suspensions for serious offenses in school need to placed and understood within the context of
other potential sanctions, sound school discipline policies/codes of conduct, positive school climates and comprehensive
approaches to safe schools as well as safe communities.
3. School-based administrators are more concerned with what happens before (preventive actions) and after an incident in
school (support to the student and school) than rigid or prescriptive procedures to handle the crisis or to impose the sanction.
4. There is no reliable, welcoming and appropriate source for school-based administrators to access and share practical advice
on school discipline.
5. It is not likely that there is deliberate tolerance for any misbehaviors in schools. However, there is a growing perception or
uneasiness about the current situation in schools that cannot be confirmed or denied because there are no reliable and regular
sources of data on prevalence of problem behaviours, nor of relevant policies, programs and services.
6. If there is a problem, the source may not be a lack of written policy statement. The serious problems may be more attributable
to the social contexts surrounding schools. The minor problems may be attributable to the diminished capacity and
commitment of the adults in the school to play an active role outside of their formal duties.
7. There is a lack of evaluative and descriptive research on several topics examined in this review. Further, policy makers may
be making decisions with very little data on the current situation in their schools and how they compare to other school
8. A policy-making model should be developed that recognizes the tri-level (ministry, school board, school), open, loosely
coupled nature of the school systems as well as the need for shared decision-making practices among educators, police and
other agencies> Shared decision-making should guide schools, police departments, youth court officials and social welfare
agencies in how they work together relative to the school.
9. Consistent with earlier research, local school board policies appear to continue to be narrow in scope. However, recent
education ministry guidelines have been adopted that have directed schools in different jurisdictions to go in apparently
different directions. Many of those new directives are far more comprehensive in scope. Whether this makes a difference in
the nature of school-level decision-making and implementation of school discipline remains to be studied.
10. One of the emerging research trends and questions is that no single basic choice of approach to school discipline and safety
may be appropriate for all schools. Urban schools, rural schools, suburban schools all face different circumstances, resources
and constraints. As well, the local neighbourhood, parent attitudes, school staff norms and the students themselves all mix
together to establish a context that may require choice from among three alternatives: universal, selected or intensive
response. This differentiated approach is worthy of further exploration.

To follow up on this preliminary assessment, the following activities should be explored to support schools at the grass roots level.

• An interactive web site should be used to offer a schools a comparative school assessment which is able to publish a
confidential report to the school on how well they are prepared and functioning in respect to school discipline and safety. This
report should offer comparisons to other, similar schools or to all schools in the country or in their province. The school
assessment component could be linked to tailored web-based documents to assist schools in their research to identify suitable
planning and other resources. The database of school responses should be opened up to researchers and policy makers (on
an anonymous basis to enable them to ask pertinent questions about the reality of schools. The site should also enable school
principals to exchange information with similar schools in a manner that does not conflict with strong social/professional norms
in schooling that one cannot lose control of their classroom/school.
• should be developed for school principals and school resource officers in cooperation with universities, CAP and police
associations. The course should use the latest instructional design to incorporate text, video and audio so that role-plays and
real life scenarios could be examined and discussed. Academic credit should be arranged with cooperating universities so that
participation in such a course would be maximized.
• A national, comparative, descriptive study, documenting the current situation in schools and the policies and programs being
used to respond to those situations, is urgently needed. Such a study should examine all three levels in the school system as
well as the corresponding levels of the youth justice and law enforcement systems in the country.

Principals’ Perceptions of Zero Tolerance Policies and School Discipline

A Report on Focus Group Discussions


As part of a regular meeting of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Association of Principals, 19 practicing school-based
administrators were asked to discuss six questions relating to zero-tolerance policies and school discipline. Subsequent to the meeting,
a summary of the discussions was prepared and sent to participants with a request for further comments. This report summarizes the
findings of this consultation with the education professionals who are truly in the frontline of applying school discipline policies.

Summary of Discussions:

1. There was considerable variance in the interpretation of the term “zero-tolerance”.

Participants struggled to develop a consistent definition of zero-tolerance policies. They were unclear as to whether or not
such zero-tolerance policies were always accompanied by predetermined consequences for noncompliance with expected
behaviours. As well, participants were not comfortable in simply grouping certain offences by their severity and thereby stating
that it was appropriate to have predetermined consequences for serious offences. Further, participants noted that the severity
of the incident was open to different interpretation, both by individuals having different experience levels with infractions and by
the context in which the incident occurred.
2. Currently, there is little tolerance for any misbehaviour in schools. However, the interpretation, community support,
parental support, school capacity to respond and the consequences may vary.

Most participants reported that their school or school board have well-established school discipline/student conduct policies
that stipulate consequences for student misbehaviours. In almost all cases, there is no tolerance for such behaviours within
the school. The problems arise from things other than the definition of a predetermined consequence. They come from three

First, participants noted that the capacity of the school to prevent such misbehaviour is constrained by their community
context, parental support, the availability of services from other agencies, the resources available to the school, the willingness
and ability of their staff and the general social climate in the school.
Second, participants also felt that the time and resources required to ensure due process and the right to appeals, etc. were
significant. The process has become more complicated and confrontational.

Third, participants were not certain that expelling or suspending students were the only consequences that should be
considered. However, alternatives such as in-school suspensions, diversion programs, student courts, community service, etc.
all require resources and staffing.
3. School-based administrators want discretionary authority to respond to the needs of their students.

Generally, participants were not comfortable with lockstep disciplinary procedures. They want to be able to match their
responses to their school, to their students and to individual students. While not disagreeing with significant consequences for
severe infractions, school principals also want to exercise their professional judgment. Participants noted that some students
need more help than others. Incremental consequences need to be applied for some individuals. Zero-tolerance is good for
some students and not for others, depending upon family factors and individual circumstances.
4. School administrators are aware of alternatives to suspension and expulsion of students. However, they are also
aware of the practical steps and resources that need to be in place for these alternatives to be successful.

Participants were able to identify several alternative consequences to infractions that could be used instead of suspending or
expelling students. These included alternative schools and classes, behaviour management programs, loss of privileges, in-
school suspensions, partial attendance, home schooling, etc. However, participants also noted that such alternatives require
resources. For example, in-school suspensions require that there be suitable space in the school with staff or volunteers to
supervise it. Teachers have to supply alternative work to the student, some of which may be difficult to coordinate with ongoing
class activities.
5. Administrators were concerned about the possibility of unintended consequences of zero-tolerance policies (i.e.
inappropriate suspension for a minor or single infraction) but were not aware of widespread misuse of such policies.

Participants expressed concern about the possibility of inappropriate use of zero-tolerance policies but did not identify any
examples of where this had happened in their experience.

Zero Tolerance, School Discipline and School Safety:

Report on Preliminary Review of the Research Literature


It should be recognized that this research literature review is preliminary in nature, seeking to identify relevant areas for further inquiry
only. This review, when coupled with the practical concerns of school-based administrators, a review of provincial/territorial guidelines
and a contents analysis of a sample of school policies on student conduct, helps us to understand where theory can help practice on
this critical topic. However, each component of this review is worthy of a full investigation. This is well beyond the scope of this
preliminary review.


A keyword search for research documents was done for this project in the following databases: Canadian Business and Current
Affairs/Repere, Criminal Justice Abstracts, Access to Justice Net, Medline, CINAHL, PsychInfo and ERIC. Where possible, searches
were limited to entries published after 1995. Search words were used in various combinations and included: violence prevention, school
environment, schools and conduct problems, suspensions, violence repression, school discipline, juvenile delinquency and education,
zero tolerance, conduct problems, behaviour problems, expulsion, discipline problems, in-school suspensions, academic probation,
withdrawal education, sanctions, discipline policy. Further analysis and research would be useful but was beyond the scope of this
inquiry. As well, an Internet search using several search engines was used to identify online documents. Several thousand entries were
located. A limited selection was made from those entries in order to answer the questions identified at the beginning of the study.


This preliminary search did attribute any specific weight or detailed analysis to the research evidence identified in this review. Meta-
analyses were identified whenever they were found. However, this review did not critically examine case studies for methods such as
random sampling, equivalence at baseline, accounting for non-participation, duration of effects, fidelity of implementation, and multi-site
replication of the program or approach. This type of analysis should be done in future work

A Framework for this Review

A specific question for this inquiry is to assess the impact of zero-tolerance approaches to student misbehaviour in school. For the
purposes of this project, a zero-tolerance policy is one that assigns predetermined consequences/sanctions (suspension) for selected
serious offenses. However earlier research (Day et al, 1995; Gabor, 1995) has noted that definitions and understandings of the zero-
tolerance approach may vary.
This investigation of zero-tolerance policies was accompanied by an examination of their potential impact on the rights and
responsibilities of students, parents and educators, as well as, the fairness of the procedures associated with such policies. Further,
this review sought evidence of the effectiveness of school imposed sanctions as well as related procedures to reintegrate offending
students back into school.

Further, this investigation examines zero-tolerance policies (or its counterpart, discretionary policies) within the context of a
sanctions/punitive approach, then a behavioural expectations (school discipline) approach. Moving outward, such school discipline
policies are also considered within the context of school efforts to improve the school’s social climate through prevention and
intervention strategies. These efforts would provide support for appropriate behaviours through rules and procedures affecting the
behaviours of students in the school, on playgrounds and buses and in classrooms. However, instructional strategies (e.g. conflict
resolution) and other strategies such as mentoring and peer mediation are not reviewed here.

The following diagram illustrates the concentric nature of this investigation. However, while looking at the diagram, one should note that
the two outer rings (safe schools and safe communities) are not examined in this review. This literature search is discussing only
behavioural rules, norms and the application of sanctions or policy-oriented preventive or remedial measures.

This categorization of approaches is similar to that used by Day et al (1995), where their typology included four categories:
response/sanction, behavioural, identification/prevention and community. Similarly, Gottfredson (1998) organized school-based
interventions into two categories: environment change strategies and individual change strategies. Coben et al (1994) categorized
school violence prevention efforts in four categories: educational, environmental-technological, regulatory and combined.

Zero-Tolerance or Discretionary Decision-Making

The choice to introduce a zero-tolerance approach is usually targeted at significantly harmful behaviours within the school (National
Center on Education Statistics, 1998). This review will assess the rationale for assigning predetermined sanctions for these behaviours,
the implications of this new approach on the fairness of procedures used to implement this approach, the immediate impact of the zero-
tolerance choice on all students and the offending students as well as the long-term impact on the safety of the community.

This review sought to determine if research had answered these questions.

Do the trends or statistical evidence in levels of unacceptable or inappropriate behaviours in Canadian schools indicate that traditional
approaches to school discipline/student conduct need to be modified? Are there more or less incidents, serious incidents, suspensions
or expulsions? What is the current level of use of zero-tolerance in Canada and elsewhere?
Is there any evidence suggesting that giving discretionary authority to school principals or school authorities results in too lenient or
inconsistent sanctions?

Does the predetermination of consequences/sanctions for selected unacceptable behaviours result in more effect in:

a) improving the safety/school climate for all students either in removing the students causing problems or acting as a deterrent
(immediate output)?

b) correcting the behaviours of offending students (immediate output)?

c) enhancing the overall safety of the community (long-term outcome)?

Is there evidence suggesting that some unacceptable behaviours are better suited to a zero-tolerance (non-discretionary) approach?

Does the introduction of predetermined consequences/sanctions abrogate the rights of alleged offenders? (Right to due process,
natural justice, punishment to fit the crime, individual case, etc.)

Is there evidence suggesting that predetermination of consequences results in the application of inappropriate sanctions for some
students or in some cases?

The Effect of a Sanctions Approach

A school can impose a variety of sanctions to correct behaviours of offending students, act as a deterrent to others, improve the safety
and discipline of all students and help to maintain an ordered learning environment. Again, this review sought to locate research that
reported on these three effects for the following sanctions:

Does the sanction improve the school climate for all students? (output)

Does the sanction correct the behaviours of the offending students? (output)

Does the sanction enhance the overall safety of the community? (outcome)

The sanctions to be examined are:

• reporting misbehaviour to parents

• additional assignment of school work
• detentions
• restitution to victims/restorative justice measures
• mandatory service to school or the community
• in-school suspensions
• short-term suspensions (5 days or less)
• long-term suspension (to end of term or year)
• transfer to a different regular school/class
• placement in an alternate class in same school
• placement in an alternate school
• sending to bootcamp/challenge program
• expulsion from regular school/placement in institution with alternate education

Prior to looking for evidence of the effect of these sanctions, we looked for research evidence and professional consensus on how
these sanctions should be developed and implemented. Specific questions relating to these implementation issues are:

What support/involvement is required from parents/guardians/caregivers? How can this support be encouraged?

What support is needed from teachers”

What support/involvement is required from police? law enforcement? the courts?

What support/involvement is required from other publicly funded agencies?

What support/involvement is beneficial from community volunteers or organizations?

What support is required from senior school administrators and school trustees?

Are there good examples of effective use of sanctions in Canada? elsewhere?

The Effect of Behavioural Expectations (School Discipline/Student Conduct Rules)

Once again, this review sought to identify research that suggested three types of effects that might be attributed to the use of school
discipline/student conduct rules:

Do the rules improve the school climate for all students? (output)

Do the rules correct the behaviours of offending students? (output)

Do the rules enhance the overall safety of the community? (outcome)

Prior to discussing the potential effects of school discipline/student conduct policies, we sought to identify research that told

What topics should be covered in such policies?

How should these school discipline/student conduct policies be developed and implemented?

Are “good” school discipline/student conduct policies in place in most schools in Canada? elsewhere?

What professional skills/practices are needed among teachers and school administrators to implement these policies effectively?
Are the most appropriate roles of classroom teacher, guidance counselor, social worker, school psychologist, school principal
clearly defined?

Are there adaptations of such policies for sub-populations of students? (students with emotional or behavioural disorders, others)

What support is required from senior school administrators and school trustees?

What involvement is needed from teachers outside of their classrooms?

What support/involvement is required from parents/guardians/caregivers? How can this support be encouraged?

What support/involvement is required from students? How can this be encouraged?

Are there good examples and models of “good” school rules in Canada? elsewhere?

The Effect of Positive School Climate

In this final section, this review examines how various preventive programs and rehabilitation interventions can maintain a positive
school climate. Comprehensive preventive programs aimed at improving the school climate (such as Effective Behaviour Support,
Peaceful Schools or Anti-Bullying Programs) are considered. We also examined specific prevention activities such as improving
classroom management/teaching, police protocols, school security measures, school uniforms, truancy prevention, early identification
and referral procedures. Interventions aimed at rehabilitating and reintegrating offending students are also considered, including
individual education plans, crisis intervention/aftermath procedures and coordinated case management.

Again, this review sought research evidence indicating that these comprehensive or singular prevention or intervention programs had
an impact on three levels:

improving the safety of all students (output)

correcting the behaviours of offending students (output)

enhancing the safety of the community (outcome).

As well, this review sought research to indicate that policy-makers and/or practitioners had developed agreements on how these
programs and services should be implemented. Specific questions in this regard include:
Is there agreement on what constitutes a positive behaviour support program such as EBS or Peaceful Schools?

Is the use of these positive school climate approaches widespread in Canadian schools? elsewhere?

Are there professional norms, backed by research, on good practices in implementing the specific prevention or intervention
strategies mentioned above?

What support is required from senior school administrators and school trustees?

What support/involvement is required from students? How can this be encouraged?

What support is needed from teachers?

What support/involvement is required from parents? How can this be encouraged?

What support/involvement is required from police and the youth court?

What support/involvement is required from other publicly funded agencies?

What support/involvement is beneficial from community organizations?


The disciplining of our children is inextricably linked to the basic values we hold as human beings. Those values will guide us in the
writing of our laws and in the codes of conduct that we establish in schools. This basic truth has been explained well in the research
(Leonard, 1999; McCarthy, 1997). Consequently, it is appropriate that we begin this review with a short discussion of the
conceptualization of discipline for children.

The Canadian Paediatric Society (1996) has presented a positive, healthy view of discipline which was often supported in the research
reviewed for this project. Slee (1997) has presented the theories underlying professional approaches to discipline and behaviour
management that show punitive approaches to discipline are self-limiting in their effect on children and youth. Fox (1987) tells us how a
thoughtful approach, that stays focused on long-term goals and the mutuality of the process, can help us to avoid that punitive and
short-term approach.

The National Crime Prevention Council (1995) has taken this positive philosophy in its paper, Clear Limits and Real Opportunities: The
Keys to Preventing Youth Crime. MacDonald (1997, 1998, 1999) in her study of junior high schools in Alberta, argues against “chasing
the storm clouds: and, instead, seeing discipline as an opportunity to teach social skills rather than punish wrongdoers. She also shows,
in a practical way, how the conceptualization of discipline and violence influences the behaviour of school principals, one of the key
influencers in the school process.

The importance of conceptualizing discipline in a positive way is underlined by some of the research located in this review. Differing
perceptions and multiple realities may cause conflict and confusion in schools and homes over discipline. There are a variety of
perspectives about parenting and schooling that will influence the development of school discipline plans (Wyness, 1996). As well, our
conceptualization of the problem of school violence is critical. Teachers and administrators tend to conceptualize the problem of
unacceptable behaviour in schools as a community problem (Pietrzak et al, 1998).

Other studies (Sewell & Chamellin, 1997; MacDonald and Da Costas, 1996) report that there are some significant differences in the
perceptions held by students, teachers and administrators about school violence. While educators, parents and others may see the
levels of violence in school as disturbing, students may have come to see such behaviour as “normal” and, consequently, be unwilling
to report the majority of incidents for fear of reprisals or being outside the prevailing norms. (MacDonald, 1997a).

Situated within this potentially murky, muddled and multiple set of conceptions and perspectives, this review has found that the term
“zero-tolerance” has unfortunately become a confusing piece of rhetoric. Gabor (1995) and Thompson (1994) have commented on this
lack of clarity. Many Canadians understand the term to be “no tolerance for unacceptable behaviours”, accompanied by an assurance
that there will be a consequence for each infraction.

However, recently in Canada, and often in the United States, the term “zero-tolerance” has come to mean there will be a
predetermined, automatic consequence for serious infractions, with no discretion on the nature of the punishment. It is this latter
definition that is discussed in this review. There is widespread consensus that the first definition should be followed. The second
definition is the subject of controversy which this review will explore

In beginning this review, we reread a publication of the American Association of School Administrators (Brodinsky, 1980) published two
decades ago. The contents of that manual offer an interesting insight. We note that several of those 1980 topics that are still with us
today, including school board policy, school codes of conduct, student handbooks, student-parent-teacher training, curricula to support
rules, in school suspensions and suspension/expulsion. However, instead of the problem behaviour of vandalism and smoking we now
talk of violence, weapons, gangs, and drugs/alcohol. We also note the growing trend in Canada and the U.S. that provincial/territorial or
state governments are stipulating what will be in student codes of conduct. Two decades ago, this was left to school boards and

We conclude these introductory remarks with this thought. School policy will not be enough. There is a remarkable consensus in the
materials reviewed that zero-tolerance, sanctions, a student code, school discipline or even efforts to improve the school climate are, by
themselves, insufficient to ensure that a school is safe and caring. Instruction to develop student skills, beliefs and knowledge is
required. Social support, in the form of peer programs, parent action and community policing programs is needed for schools. Efforts to
situate the school within a safe and caring community need to be made. Without these things, school rules will be insufficient to protect

As well, as we begin this discussion, we need to be careful that we do not fall into these traps identified by Horner et al (2000). These
six strategies will all likely lead to problems.

• getting tough is enough

• focusing on the different
• looking for a quick fix
• finding one powerful trick
• believing someone else has the solution
• believing more is better

Hopefully, this preliminary review will help us avoid those traps, to the benefit of students, educators and parents.

That leads us to our final introduction note. In reviewing the research measuring the effect of sanctions, codes of conduct and
prevention/intervention strategies, we sought to identify research that reported on three types of effects; on the safety of all students, on
the behaviour of offending students and on the overall safety of the community.

Gottfredson (1998) has noted that researchers are now trying to measure these direct and indirect effects through studying delinquent
and violent behaviour in schools, withdrawal from school, the prevalence of conduct problems in the community and the prevalence of
low self-esteem among individual youth. In other words, if we are going to use a comprehensive approach to preventing school
violence, we should be using comprehensive measurement tools.

Key Findings

There is considerable confusion over the term “zero-tolerance”. It should be discarded in future policy discussions. We suggest using
“automatic suspensions for serious offenses”

There is little evidence that the prevalence of anti-social behaviour is increasing or decreasing in schools. There is no regular, reliable
data collection in Canada. However, public and professional perceptions indicate a concern, to the extent that policy-makers are
responding with new legislation or policy directives. Immediate research on the prevalence of inappropriate and unacceptable
behaviours in schools is needed.

There is little evidence that a non-discretionary approach to serious offences is more or less effective than a discretionary one. The
number of serious offences that occur in schools is very small and the solutions to them are multidisciplinary in nature.

There is little evidence about the efficacy of the sanctions most often used by schools to respond to minor offences with the exception
of extensive research on alternatives to suspension and expulsion. Only one study was found (Education Testing Service, 1999) and it
did include students who had dropped out of school. More research on lighter sanctions is required.

More research on the implementation of in-school suspensions is required to determine the barriers to its use. This strategy has been
recommended for decades and we still do not have data on the prevalence of its use.

There is no regular, reliable data on the sanctions, policies and prevention/intervention programs used in Canadian schools.

Several provinces/territories, states and other countries have recently revised or introduced legislation or regulations to require schools
to establish codes of conduct, programs to maintain a positive school climate or to ensure the management of students with behaviour

There appears to be a significant gap in the supervision of hallways and playgrounds at school. Little research has been done on what
strategies are most effective. In particular, measures to ensure an active staff response to minor incidents and ways to encourage
students to report their concerns are required.
Proven promising programs have been developed and are being implemented in many schools that deliver school-wide effective
behaviour support to all students, promote peace or prevent violence or bullying through school-wide approaches or that deliver
positive behaviour support to students with special needs.

We need studies of parent, student, teacher and administrator attitudes/beliefs and practices relating to school discipline. This
investigation should differentiate between serious and non serious offenses.

Research is needed on how effective partnerships can be formed among students, parents, educators and police. As well, their specific
roles need to be clarified and evaluated for effectiveness.

Research into differentiated policy choices among schools experiencing dramatically different levels of violence needs to be done.

The roles of different levels of authority and their appropriate scope of action in school discipline needs to guide our analysis. This
research needs to also examine the corresponding levels of authority in police and youth justice sectors.

A. Zero-Tolerance: An Answer? A Distraction? An Understandable but Misdirected Reaction?

This examination of the potential value of “zero-tolerance approach”, where there are automatic suspensions or expulsions for serious
student infractions such as physical assault, use of weapons, drugs or threats, will examine six related questions.

Is there evidence that the level of unacceptable behaviours in schools is increasing? A related question will also be asked: Has there
been an increased number of suspensions or expulsions?

Is there evidence that administrator/school discretion has been too lenient or inconsistent?

Does the automatic suspension or expulsion of students lead to safety for all students, correcting the behaviour of offending students
and/or greater safety in the community?

Is there evidence that some behaviours are better suited to a zero-tolerance (automatic) response?

Does the application of automatic suspensions/expulsions result in the abrogation of student rights?

Is there evidence that the application of zero-tolerance policies lead to unintended or inappropriate sanctions?

The next section of the paper will address the efficacy of various sanctions. However, it should be noted that there is considerable
evidence showing that suspensions/expulsions from school are ineffective in changing the behaviour of young offenders, unless they
are accompanied by long-term, appropriate and intensive services to the student and family as well as appropriate well-resourced
alternative education programs.

Are Inappropriate and Unacceptable Behaviours Increasing in Schools?

There are no regular, reliable and national surveys of the prevalence of serious or non-serious offenses in schools (Shannon & McCall,
1999). The proportion of youth charged with crimes under the criminal code declined from 26% in 1992 to 20% in 1997. Fifteen per cent
of those crimes occurred on school property (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2000). However, these data do not capture other
less serious forms of aggression.

A small number of Canadian research studies have some data on in less serious school aggression. In B.C. (McCreary, 1998), students
reported that, between 1992-1998, there was no change in the proportion who had been involved in fights (42% of boys, 18% of girls).

The Auditor-General of B.C. (2000), in its survey of teachers, reported that a number of aggressive behaviours had increased among
elementary and secondary students, including: (These behaviours were reported as occurring “often”)

Elementary Secondary
swearing or trash talk (other) 14 52
rough play (other) 27 19
verbal abuse (threats) 19 33
physical abuse (fighting) 13 9
drinking/drug use 1 41
vandalism/theft 3 15
In Alberta, Gomes et al (2000) reported these prevalences of aggression at school:

property damage 15.3

theft 22.0
something taken by force 5.3
threatened 21.8
slapped/punched/kicked 22.0
something thrown at them 8.5
threatened with a weapon 2.4
attacked by group or gang 1.6
someone exposed themselves 3.1
sexually touched against will 4.8
someone said something sexual 10.7

An international study done for Health Canada (Health Canada, 1999) found that 56% of boys and 40% of girls in grades 6 and 8
admitted that they has bullied someone that year. As well, 43% of boys and 35% of girls said that they had been victims of bullying.

The John Howard Society (1998) has summarized various reports on youth crime. Once again, the downward trend in youth crime
generally was reported.

The above reports should be a source of concern. There are levels of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviours in schools that need
to be addressed.

However, it should be noted that serious crimes such as weapons or gangs have not increased in Canadian schools. Skiba & Peterson
(1999), found a similar pattern when comparing U.S. schools between 1990-1991 and 1996-1997 - serious crime rates in schools either
stayed the same or declined.

Canadian elementary schools were seen to be safe in an analysis of the first cycle data of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children
and Youth (Frank & Lipps, 1997). This report showed that 98% of students are not truant. Only 28% were disciplined for verbal conflict,
11% for fighting and 5% for harassment. Ninety-five per cent (95%) of school pupils in those elementary schools said they have never
had to deal with drugs, staff assault, weapons or theft.

Gabor (1995) in his surveys and focus groups with educators, police and youth, reported that they collectively perceived that most
offenses were committed by a small minority of students (between 1% and 10%). Day (1995) found similar educator concerns.

An American analysis (Education testing Service, 1999), using the data from the 1998 National Education Longitudinal Survey (NELS)
found that students were “bipolar” in their attitudes towards a range of behaviours. Relatively large proportions of students (29%) felt it
was “ok” to commit some minor offenses but only 3% said it was ok to bring a weapon to school. Only 5% of students in that survey had
ever been suspended from school.

This is not to say that the public and professionals are not concerned. Gabor (1995) reported on the sharp increase in the coverage of
youth crimes in the Canadian media. This review identified a number of similar references in the years after Gabor’s report (Education
Monitor, 1998; Canadian Press, 1998; Calgary Herald, 2000; Cloud 1999; Leschart, 1999). In 1993, an Environics Poll reported that
violence was the top concern for schools (MacDougall, 1993).

Dalton (2000), in discussing the contradiction between declining youth crime and increase concern about school violence, suggests that
the increased concern may be due to several factors, including; new laws requiring automatic suspensions/expulsions, the media
reports, pressure from human rights legislation, increased awareness of civil liability and less lenient attitudes towards bullying.

Governments have responded to increased concern with new laws and regulations requiring schools to establish zero-tolerance
policies, school codes of conduct, school-wide plans to prevent violence and special measures to ensure that students with behavioural
disorders are managed properly. This has occurred in the UK (Department for Education and Employment, 1999) and across the U.S.
(Education Commission of the States, 1998). The legal responses have included automatic suspension/expulsion for serious offenses,
mandatory school codes, mandatory school safety plans, notification of student records, gang prevention, firearms prohibition and
alternative education.

In the U.S., approximately three-quarters of schools have automatic expulsion policies for serious offenses (94% for firearms, 91% for
other weapons, 88% for drugs, 79% for violence and 79% for tobacco use). The Education Testing Service Study (1999) showed that
American school administrators were likely to follow these policies immediately for serious offenses, but were more likely to be lenient
with first offenses for less serious infractions.

In Canada, Oppenheimer & Zeigler (1990) found that suspensions were used less frequently in Toronto schools than their American
counterparts, but more often than British schools. Day & Golench (1997) reported from their 1995 survey that most Canadian schools
saw suspension and expulsion within a more preventive approach. The first zero-tolerance (i.e. automatic suspension for serious
offense) appeared in Canada in 1993 (MacDonald, 1996).

Recent changes to provincial/territorial guidelines and policy support documents have been made in Newfoundland, New Brunswick,
Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. In Quebec, the Superior Council of Education, an advisory committee to the
Minister is preparing a submission.

Does professional discretion in the application of discipline result in overly-lenient or inconsistent sanctions?

Gabor (1995) reported from his surveys and focus groups that police officers, educators and students were increasingly concerned with
school discipline problems. They favoured consequences that were consistent, predictable yet flexible. They also favoured the
protection of the majority, if necessary, over the rights of the minority causing the problems. He also reported that all three groups felt
that sanctions were not preventing the “hard core” from misbehaving in schools. The reasons for this were: youth offender laws, family
breakdown, erosion of the school’s authority, peer pressure, violence in the media and poor rule enforcement.

In British Columbia, the Auditor-General (2000) reported that appropriate student codes of conduct had been developed by all schools
and school districts. However, adherence to those codes varied significantly. Expectations and consequences need to be made clearer.
Students need to be encouraged to report their concerns. School staff need to consistently follow-up to make it clear that the codes will
be enforced. For example, the survey done for that report noted that BC secondary school codes were “mostly” supported, enforced or
understood by only 77% of school administrators, 41% of staff, 33% of parents and 69% of students.

MacDonald (1997), in her study of five schools in Alberta, noted that students were not satisfied with the responses from school staff to
violence and misbehaviour. One small exploratory study (O’Brien, 1998) asked teachers why they did not intervene with unruly students
in hallways (but did so effectively in their classes). The reasons were: too busy, not knowing students, viewing misconduct as typical
and lack of support from administration or other teachers.

Do Automatic Suspension/Expulsions for Serious Offenses Work?

The introduction of automatic suspensions/expulsions for serious offenses in schools has generated considerable debate in Canada
and elsewhere. Lipsett (1999), originally from the Scarborough School Board that introduced the first zero-tolerance policy, reported
that the implementation of the policy was accompanied by 50% reductions in the average number of serious incidents reported by
schools. (She also noted that early data showed an increase in the number of reports of less serious crimes such as verbal threats.

The Education Testing Service (1999) analysis of longitudinal data shows that schools with more severe penalties had few incidents of
serious infractions. This was true, on average, but unpacking the data, the study showed that severe penalties were correlated with
fewer serious incidents in urban and public schools. That study also found that schools with zero-tolerance policies had more incidents
of a less serious nature. (Again, please note that school dropouts were not in this sample.) The National Center on Education Statistics
(1998) also reported that schools with lower rates of crime were less likely to use zero-tolerance policies.

Skiba & Peterson (1999) use that NCES data to show that the use of zero-tolerance policies has not made those schools safer, despite
being in place for four years. They are still less safe than the schools without zero-tolerance policies.

A survey done in the U.K. for the Youth Justice Board (Market and Opinion Research International, 2000) reminds us that we need to
measure the impact of zero-tolerance policies in the community as well as the school. That survey showed that 72% of students who
had been expelled from school admitted that they had committed serious offenses, including vandalism (69%), shoplifting (60%),
carrying a weapon (51%) and buying drugs (54%). In contrast, 72% of students who were in school had committed no offense.

Skiba & Peterson (1999) point out that suspending a student is one way that schools “push out” students from schools. These troubled
students are more likely to find more trouble in the streets. Other studies, to be discussed later in this review, show that zero-tolerance
policies increase the number of students who are suspended or expelled from school.

Finally, we need to return to our earlier point about the efficacy of suspensions/expulsions that are not accompanied by alternate
education, intensive and multiple services and other supports. Without these services, zero-tolerance policies can only shift the problem
from the school to the community.

Gabor (1995) called for some sort of “middle ground” in resolving the zero-tolerance vs. discretion option. He suggested identifying
automatic sanctions well in advance and stipulating clearly when the police would be notified. He also suggested that school staff
should always conduct the initial investigation, unless there was an immediate threat to safety.

• There is not sufficient evidence to say that automatic suspension for serious offenses is a serious deterrent to school violence.
• Automatic use of suspensions/expulsions requires that additional resources be made available to other agencies and families
to support youth who are expelled from school.

Evidence Suggesting That Some Behaviours Should Lead to Automatic Suspension/Expulsion

There appears to be a policy consensus among the proponents of zero-tolerance policies that they should only apply to serious
offenses like weapons, drugs and assault. However, this search found no research showing that this automatic sanction approach was
effective for any specific behaviour or crime.


• There is no research-based evidence to suggest that automatic sanctions are more effective in deterring any particular

Zero-Tolerance and the Rights of Students

A review of several reports and articles available in the databases searched for this review were analyzed for this section. However, no
search was done on legal databases. There may be jurisprudence being established on zero-tolerance laws, but this methodology did
not locate any.

There is a sizable and stable set of knowledge and case law that has been established in Canada regarding student rights and school
discipline. The introduction and implications of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Dennis, 1996; Harte & McDonald 1996) has
initiated analysis and discussion. As well, corporal punishment (Rettig, 2000; Obrien & Pietersema, 2000) and the Young Offenders Act
(Jaffe & Baker, 1999) have both prompted legal and other advice. However, these sources did not include any references to zero-

Recent Canadian case law (Alberta Teachers’ Association, 1999; Education Law Reporter, 1999, 1998; Green, 1990, Edulaw, 1996)
has sought to clarify the rights of students. However, these reviews did not refer to zero-tolerance.

Rohr (1998) and Keel (1999) have outlined the steps that should be taken and criteria to be met when a student is suspended from
school. Timelines, appeals and procedures were all discussed. Zero-tolerance was not discussed.

A limited number of American sources (Beyer, 1997; Antonucci, 1994; Beyer, nd; U.S. Department of Education, 1996) were reviewed
in this search. Only Antonucci (1994) referred to zero-tolerance and the reference was brief. He discussed the liability of a principal who
does not suspend a student when authorized to do so. He also referred briefly to the automatic suspension for carrying a firearm.
Schwartz (1997) has noted that the U.S. Courts have been divided in their decisions about student rights under searches and seizures.

An non-authored website was identified in this search (www.tso4u.com/lphs_expell) that lead us to several media articles on abuses to
student rights. That website had a link related to case law, but unfortunately the website is no longer functioning.

Zero-Tolerance and Inappropriate Sanctions

A number of media reports were identified in this search that indicate that zero-tolerance policies are causing inappropriate sanctions
for some students. A boy in York, PA was suspended for possession of nail clippers (National Post, 2000). Students who “high five”
each other in Fall River, NS will be suspended (Smithson, 2000). One Cape Breton school board suspended 2000 students in 1998-
1999 (Canadian Press, 2000). A review by Education Week (Portner, 1997) reported that, as a consequence, zero-tolerance policies
were getting a second look. A USA Today report (Cauchon, 1999) reviewed those stories and reported that zero-tolerance policies
were inflexible and ineffective.

On a more scholarly note, Curwin & Mendler (1999) and Skiba & Peterson (1999) have made similar complaints about zero-tolerance
policies. Skiba & Peterson (1999) have documented several examples of inappropriate sanctions being applied.

The Connecticut State Comptrollers Officer (Commins, 1998) has expressed concern that zero-tolerance policies have increased the
number of expelled or suspended students and that the policy may be counterproductive. The rate of suspensions in that state
quadrupled between 93-94 and 96-97. As well, these students were not being provided with alternative education or support services.

Other reports (Civil Rights Project, 2000; Keleher, 2000) indicate that zero-tolerance policies and suspensions may disfavour minority
students. Also, the Australian Drug Foundation (1998) has stated that zero-tolerance policies in their schools have interfered with their
“harm reduction” approach to reducing drug abuse.
Jay (1997) in a study of 59 student codes in the U.S. found that the wording was often not clear, particularly with terms such as foul
language. In some zero-tolerance policies, the interpretation of terms such as “weapons or objects used as weapons”, “threats” or
“harassment” may be subject to interpretation. Some reports indicate that some principals may chose to err on the cautious side under
pressure of liability claims and suspend students for inappropriate reasons. Training may be effective in eliminating these subjective
interpretations, but no evidence to that effect was located in our search.


• There appears to be little change or even declines in the number of serious youth crimes, in schools or in the community, in
Canada and elsewhere. Automatic expulsions for these offenses, which are not increasing, may not be necessary. However,
less serious offenses may be increasing and appropriate remedies need to be developed or implemented.
• Increased public and professional concerns about the levels of unacceptable behaviours in schools may be due to a number
of factors, not only media reports. These concerns should be addressed in public policy. These concerns are primarily aimed
at less serious, but apparently increasing levels of student misbehaviour.
• Zero-tolerance policies are only one of several policy options being exercised by governments in several countries.
Provincial/territorial responses in Canada indicate that different choices are being made in different jurisdictions. (See analysis
in this project.)
• No case law or legal advice was identified that indicated the rights of students were being abrogated under zero-tolerance
policies. However, from a lay person’s perspective, it seems that natural justice principles imply that each case should be
judged on its own merits, including assigning a punishment commensurate with the offense and individual circumstances.
• There may be inconsistencies in the application of school discipline in respect to non-serious offenses. (These are not
addressed by automatic expulsion for serious infractions.) More attention needs to be paid to ensuring an active, adult
presence in the school and in encouraging students to report their concerns. Consistent and visible follow-up is also required.
• Zero-tolerance policies are resulting in inappropriate sanctions for some students. (There were no sources identified in this
search showing that these errors could be rectified in the appeals process.)

B Sanctions and Deterrence

This section of this review addresses the effective uses of various school-based sanctions. Again, we were seeking to identify
information on the effect of these sanctions on all students, on offending students and on community safety in general.

We searched for research evidence on how to best engage the partners in the sanction process. These partners include the students,
parents/guardians/caregivers, the police, health/social/employment agencies, community organizations and the senior
administrator/school trustees of school boards. Very few sources were identified under these headings so we have consolidated them
under the school discipline/behavioural expectations section of this review.

The following sanctions were the subjects of our investigation:

• reporting misbehaviour to parents

• additional assignment of school work
• detentions
• restitution to victims
• service to the school or community
• in-school suspensions
• short-term suspensions (less than 5 days)
• long-term suspension
• transfer to another regular class or school
• placement in an alternate class in the same school
• placement in an alternate school
• placement in a temporary challenge program (boot camp/widerness camp)
• permanent expulsion and delivery of alternate education/incarceration in institution.

We begin this section with a general outlook at these sanctions, how they can and are being implanted and any general evidence that a
sanctions focused approach can be effective.

Effectiveness and Use of Sanctions Approach

Oppenheimer & Zeigler (1990) reviewed several options in the use of sanctions. Like most others, they focused on the use of
alternatives to suspension. However, there has been little research that has differentiated the types of sanctions to be able to describe
their impact (Educational Testing Service, 1999). For example, we need to know if light sanctions, such as detentions or additional
assignments, are able to deter students from more serious misbehaviour. Also, are there ways to apply light or medium strength
sanctions that are more effective in deterring misbehaviour?
The Education Testing Service (1999) analysis of the 1988 National Education Longitudinal Survey is the only analysis of this type
identified in our search for this review. They analyze student attitudes towards a range of offenses as well as the different types of
sanctions used by schools in the U.S.

They found that sizable minorities of American students felt it was “sometimes ok” or “often ok” that students misbehaved in these

• cutting classes (29%)

• copying homework (29%)
• talking back to a teacher (16%)
• disobeying rules (16%)
• cutting class (16%)
• cheating on tests (11%)
• making sexist remarks (9%)
• making racist remarks (5%)
• having a physical fight (8%)

They also found that American students were far less tolerant of serious misbehaviour in school; Only 3% found it “sometimes or often
ok” to bring a weapon to school, 2% to destroy school property, 2% to drink, 1% to sue drugs at school, 1% to abuse teachers.

This analysis suggests that policy and program responses might be better if they strongly differentiated between serious and non-
serious offenses.

A B.C. document was cited in the review by the Auditor-General of BC (2000) that presented misbehaviours as a continuum, ranging
from disrespect to pushing and fighting to gangs or hate crimes. However, participants at a national meeting on safe schools (Shannon
& McCall, 2000) were not comfortable in using that continuum in a joint statement. Research needs to determine if violence is a step-
by-step continuum or if there is a direct pathway to serious offenses.

The Education Testing Service (1999) also described the sanctions and discipline policies used by American schools. They found that
schools that used preventive policies such as hall passes were associated with lower levels of non-serious offenses. However, these
policies did not have any impact on serious offenses or drug use. Here are their findings.

Common Discipline Policies and Sanction in U.S. Schools


This chart also shows that in-school suspensions were rarely used as sanctions, despite decades of researchers and experts promoting
its use. Research is needed to determine if this policy is widely used. If it is not, then research should also describe the barrier to its use
and how they can be overcome.


• Research on student, teacher, parent and administrator attitudes/beliefs about a range of offenses, sanctions and discipline
policies should be conducted.
• Research should be conducted into the prevalence of use of in-school suspensions. If this highly recommended strategy is not
widely used, then the research should identify the barriers to its use.
• Research into the differentiation of policy/program responses to non-serious and serious offenses should be done.
• Research into the relationship between the characteristics of the school- (urban, suburban, rural, SES, etc.) and the
appropriateness of sanctions and specific school rules should be conducted.

Research on the Effects of Specific Sanctions

We now attempt to analyze the behavioural impact of specific sanctions.

Little Research on Impact of Light Sanctions

This search did not locate any research on several forms of lighter sanctions; the ones used most often by schools. (The concepts of
detention, transfer for discipline, additional assignments, community service for sanctions were not even found in the ERIC Thesaurus
of search terms.)
This absence of research needs to be addressed quickly if schools are to be enlightened about how these strategies can be used
effectively. Strategies for which we did not locate any research are:

• reporting misbehaviour to parents

• detentions
• restitutional service to school or community
• transfer to another regular class or school

Restitution is Effective

Gottfredson et al (1996) reviewed several school and community-based restitution programs and concluded that this approach was
effective in correcting the behaviours of young offenders.

In-School Suspensions/Alternatives to Suspensions

This approach has been well discussed in the research literature. For example, 20 years ago, an American guide on school discipline
(Brodinsky, 1980) referred to in-school suspension as “the top alternative of the 1970s”.

Day et al (1995) cite several sources that describe the value of in-school suspensions or alternatives to suspension/expulsion (Aleem &
Moles, 1993; Ontario Ministry of Education, 1994). Sheets (1996) has classified in-school suspension under four categories; punitive,
problem-solving, academic and individual. He suggests that ISS programs can modify student behaviour, protect the learning
environment and protect the community.

Guindon (1992), in a review of the literature, reports that in-school suspension programs can be effective if they are accompanied by
counseling, parental involvement, shared decision-making and continued academics. The Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory
(nd) suggests that ISS programs include guidance support, planning for reintegration and opportunities to build new skills. A review
done for the Leon County School Board (nd) in Florida, has a similar list of important elements for success, including; a philosophy of
clearly stated rules, adequate resources, continuous program and intake monitoring, a student stay of at least 10 days, referrals for
serious offenses only, a coordinator, full support from the principal and parent involvement from the start.

Many case studies of successful ISS programs were identified in this search. Canadian examples were found in Calgary (Jones, 1985),
Abitibi (Polyvalente de la Forêt, nd), Etobicoke (Zammit, 1999), Kingston (Kingston Police, nd) and North York (North York General
Hospital, nd). A new federal program in the U.S. is awarding $10 million for demonstration projects that provide alternatives to
suspension. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (1995) has also identified several promising programs.

Short-Term Suspensions (less than 5 days)

Gabor (1995) cited research studies that indicated that short-term suspensions can be effective if students agree to stipulated
conditions and if parents are involved. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (1995) review of research indicates
that short-term suspensions are not an effective deterrent to student misbehaviour.

Long-Term Suspensions (until the end of year or term)

Several reviews of the research (Day et al, 1995; Oppenheimer & Zeigler, 1990) have reported that long-term suspensions are not
effective in correcting student misbehaviour. O’Reilly & Sargent (1994) report that suspensions can protect the rights of other students,
provide a consequence, act as a deterrent and communicate seriousness to the parents. However, suspensions do not provide a way
for the offending student to change their behaviour, may jeopardize the student’s academic progress and may jeopardize the
community as the expelled youth roams the neighbourhood.

Gabor (1995) reported that Canadian educators and police saw long-term suspensions and expulsions as a last resort. A survey of
head teachers in Scotland (Munn et al, 1997) found similar views to those of Canadians.

Placement in an Alternate Class in the Same School

Gottfredson (1998), in a comprehensive review of school violence prevention strategies, suggests that reorganizing classes and
regrouping students into alternate classes or “schools within schools” is a promising practice, although the research evidence on their
effect is somewhat mixed.

Schwartz (1997) says these programs can be effective as long as their goal is to return the student to regular class as soon as
possible. Cortez & Montecel (1999) reviewed such alternate classes in Texas and found them to be “dumping grounds” for undesirable
students. They also found that students were not provided additional support once they were placed in these classes.
Royer (1996) has described several successful examples of these classes and “schools of the second chance”.

Placement in an Alternate School

Several reviews of alternate schools were located in this search. Most of these sources indicate that alternate schools for troubled
youth can be effective if they are adequately supported.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (1996) describes the characteristics of effective programs. They include:
lower staff-student ratio, strong leadership, carefully selected and trained staff, a shared vision, district-wide support, innovative
presentation of course content, good relations with other parts of the school system as well as other agencies, links to local workplaces
and intensive counseling and monitoring.

The Southwest Regional Educational Laboratory (1995) has identified similar characteristics of the effective alternate schools, including
a student choice to be involved, a focus on the whole student, caring relationships, an expanded role for the teacher into caregiving, a
sense of community, high expectations of students, small size, relative autonomy, comprehensive program, counseling, safe
environment, separation from traditional schooling, links to agency services. The Center for Prevention of School violence (1999) has a
similar list of eight “lessons”.

Gottfredson (1998) examined the various types of alternative programs funded by the Justice Department of the U.S. She concluded
that the program content and goals were too varied to form a conclusion about the effectiveness of alternative schools. Cox (19965), in
a meta-analysis of these programs, found that they can improved academic and social skills but had little impact on delinquency.

Lipsey and Wilson (1997) synthesized the results of 117 studies of juvenile offender programs where the young offender was treated
outside of an institutional setting. Alternate schools were often a big part of these programs. On average, these programs reduced
recidivism by 50% if they included counseling, multisystemic therapy, training programs, parent training, were longer than 25 weeks,
were implemented faithfully and used mental health professionals rather than juvenile justice personnel.

Temporary Challenge Programs (boot camps, wilderness camps)

All of the reviews and meta-analyses of boot camps and wilderness camps indicate that the temporary “shock treatment” approach is
ineffective in correcting youth behaviours. Sherman et al (1998) in their review of effective crime prevention programs for the National
Institute of Justice, report that boot camps are not effective in changing the behaviours of young offenders. They cite several studies
including Cowles et al (1995), Cronin (1994), Henggeler & Shoenwald (1994) and Mackenzie & Souryal (1994). Gabor (1995) reported
that Canadian police and educators did not view boot camps as effective. A 1997 report from the John Howard Society of Alberta
reached the same conclusions after reviewing the literature and discussing examples in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. Zachoriah
(1996) also reviewed boot camps and found them to be ineffective.

Lipsey & Wilson (1997) reviewed wilderness camps as part of their meta-analysis of young offender programs and found them to be
ineffective. Similar findings were reported on wilderness camps from other reviews (Stiffman et al, 1996; Greenwood, 1986; Mulvey et
al, 1993).

Expulsion from School/Educational Delivery in an Institutional Setting

Most of the evaluations of residential programs that delivered high quality alternative educational programs as part of the treatment
program for young offenders were positive.

Garrett (1985), Greenwood (1986) and Mulvey et at (1993) found that residential programs that focused on academic and vocational
outcomes were successful with young offenders. The U.S. Department of Education (1999) found that residential programs can reduce
court appearances and eliminate continual suspensions from school. Effective programs provide anger and impulse control training,
psychological counseling, effective academic and remedial instruction, vocational training, active family involvement, guidance and
ongoing support when the student returns to regular school. Cornell (1999) suggests that such programs can be effective with young

Lipsey & Wilson (1997), in a meta-analysis of 83 studies of residential treatment and education of young offenders found that recidivism
rates were reduced by 12% on average. They suggest this is cost effective. However, they also report that they found that several
programs that are currently widely used in the U.S. were not effective.

Stiffman et al (1996), after reviewing several programs, suggest that institutional programs are not effective with young offenders.

Fitzsimmons (1998), in reviewing several programs funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education, suggests that it is in the interest of
the entire community when these troubled students are served well with appropriate programs.

C. Behavioural Expectations (school discipline/student conduct policies)

This section discusses the use of school discipline policies, student conduct rules or school codes of behaviour. Once again, we are
looking for immediate outputs in regards to a safer school for all students an din correcting or deterring the behaviour of offending
students. We are also looking for the long-term outcomes of a safer community.

Little research was identified in this search in regard to the effective participation of students, teachers and administrators and parents,
as well as other partners such as police, school district staff, other agencies in regards to zero-tolerance, sanctions, school
discipline/codes or promoting positive school climates. Consequently, we have consolidated what we found on these items in this

We begin the section with a general outlook at discipline rules/codes, reporting on research on how they can be effective, what should
be included and how they can be and are being implemented. We also look for policies that have been adapted to meet the needs of
students with behavioural disorders and students who are at high risk of offending.

We then review the roles of each of the partners in the process of discipline/codes of conduct; students, parents, teachers and school
administrators, school district administrators/trustees, police officers, other agencies, community-based voluntary organizations,
education ministries, justice ministries and other ministries. We also discuss their respective roles in zero-tolerance, sanctions and
maintaining a positive school climate.

General Advice on School Discipline/Codes of Conduct

There is a consensus among those that have reviewed school discipline/codes of conduct (Day et al, 1995; Gottfredson et al, 1996;
Sherman et al, 1998; Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice, 1998; Gushee, 1984) that school policies that set reasonable,
clearly understood, actively enforced behavioural expectations, for students and staff can be effective in protecting the safety of all
students as well as in correcting the behaviours of offending students.

Larson (1998) suggests that these codes or discipline policies be “judicious” in their approach, with students actively engaged in
discussing their rights and responsibilities. The Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice (1998) has produced a model set of
rules that recognize the perspective of the school principal. Short (1994) argues for an approach that helps students to develop their
mental and moral capacities.

Thompson (1994) suggests that these discipline rules and codes of conduct need to address the issues that are relevant to the school
as well as combine content (the rules) and process (whereby students, parents and teachers become engaged in the rules). This
perspective suggests that researchers ought to consider the respective roles of government, the school board and the school in
formulating these rules.

If students, teachers and parents in a school are to be truly engaged, what scope should they have at the school level to decide what
the rules should say? Does it make sense to have the all rules, or some rules, apply to all schools?

Finally, Gaustad (1992) has underlined the fact that good school rules are not enough. Good teaching, strong administrative leadership
and long-term, school-wide planning and programs are required.

Lots of Advice on Content

There is no shortage of advice on what ought to be included in school codes of conduct. Day et al (1995) have listed 35 policy
components. (These have been used in another part of this project so they are not reproduced here.) Thompson (1994) has
recommended both content and process. Education ministry documents in almost all jurisdictions contain recommended or obligatory
content. (See list in that part of the project report.) Gabor (1995) has listed some principles that should underline the policy content.

Day et al (1995) have stated that those policies need to be internally consistent, congruent with instructional programs, comprehensive
in scope, have a community (what this project calls a safe schools) approach, include supplemental consideration for aggressive and
special needs students and address the root causes of violence. They also go on to list the criteria for effective policies:

• policies need to be seen as only one major step in policy prevention

• achievable goals
• clear rules and procedures
• foster positive school climate
• be implemented in a fair, just and consistent manner
• respect democratic principles
• involve all students
• hold high expectations
• preserve the dignity of all
• have specific, predictable consequences for violations
• rarely use punishment
• consequences are commensurate with the infraction
• rules are developmentally appropriate.

Thompson (1994) has suggested a set of headings for such policies including: philosophy, purpose, terms, references to legislation,
guidelines for prevention programs, guidelines for intervention incidents, procedures and reporting forms, visitors to schools.

Horner et al (2000) suggest that schools should identify, define, teach and support a small set of expected behaviours rather than
presenting students with a laundry list of unacceptable behaviours. These over arching behaviours can include things such as: be safe,
be respectful, be responsible, be kind. They also suggest that school districts develop specific policies for students who consistently
violate behavioural expectations.

The U.S. Department of Education (1998), in cooperation with many of the education and justice organizations in that country, has also
described the characteristics of effective policies. Their list includes: high expectations and support, reinforce positive
behaviour/highlight sanctions against aggressive behaviours, inform all stakeholders, clear, broad-minded, fair rules, developed in
collaboration with the community, are communicated clearly, include statements on harassment and violence, have specific
consequences, reflect local values and the goals of the school, include implementation activities such as class discussions, school
assemblies, student government, student participation in discipline teams, consequences are commensurate with offenses, negative
consequence is accompanied by positive activity to teacher appropriate behaviour and zero-tolerance (automatic suspension) for
weapons, drugs or alcohol with support provided to suspended or expelled students.

There are numerous sources, both Canadian and elsewhere, for schools and school districts, to consider in developing school codes of
conduct (Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, nd; B.C. Safe School Centre, 1996; Pritchard, 1990; Thom & Thom, 1990;
OSS 1992; Saleh, 1994; Perron, 1995; Alberta Teachers’ Association, 1981; B.C. Principals Association, 1999). They are too numerous
to discuss here. As well, the National School Boards Association (1995) has online samples and advice to offer. In Canada, two online
policy sample collections exist (Canadian Education Policy and Administration Network) and a larger collection being published as part
of a document collection on safe and healthy schools (Canadian Association of Principals).

This project has provided a beginning to an in-depth policy analysis, but an interactive online resource that provides both policy
development and implementation advice should be considered.

Research on Roles and Policy Choices at Different Levels

One issue that has not been adequately considered in the research is the respective roles of education authorities in the development
and adoption of school discipline rules and codes of conduct. A logic model needs to be developed that reflects the actual capacities of
the four levels of authority in the school system; government, education ministry, school board and school. A very rough model is
presented here to illustrate the type of logic model required:

Possible Roles for Education Authority on School Discipline/Codes of Conduct Policies


• Establish interministry policy for prevention, intervention

• Provide funding to local agencies to implement policies
• Monitor programs and impact

Education Minister/Ministry

• Consult and decide upon basic policy choices for all schools (i.e. require or recommend zero-tolerance (zt),
sanctions (s), school rules (sr), positive school climate (psc) or safe schools (ss) approach)
• Approve funding to implement that policy choice
• Monitor progress and impact

School Board/District Administrator

• Supplement or select basic policy choice (i.e. require or recommend zero-tolerance (zt), sanctions (s),
school rules (sr), positive school climate (psc) or safe schools (ss) approach)
• Provide guidelines to all personnel
• Provide funding and administrative support to schools
• Train staff
• Set up formal agreements with local agencies, police
• Monitor programs and impact

Shool/School Principal

• Supplement or select basic policy choice (ZT, S, SR, RSC or SS)

• Engage students, parents, teachers
• Cooperate with police officer/other professionals
• Monitor progress and impact

Research into the efficacy of a model like this should be done in the context of descriptive studies analyzing how school
discipline policies can be best implemented. For example, studies on other topics (McCall et al, 1999) have shown that
implementation and roles in “open, loosely-coupled and bureaucratic” systems such as schools mean that it is virtually
impossible for governments to simply establish policy without active consultation and ongoing support. To date, there has
been little research into implementation issues in preventing school violence.

Sprague et al (1999) and Linquanto & Berliner (1994) have developed analyses and models that suggest that each school
should make policy choices about “universal, selected or intensive/targeted” approaches to school discipline. Regular data
collection and analysis of teacher referrals should guide this choice. These findings are consistent with the Education Testing
Service (1999) analysis that urban public schools have different situations than suburban or private schools. Consequently,
research evidence should be used to develop an adequate policy-making model.

Little Research on Implementation

Only two references were located in this search that described implementation approaches in Canada. The Auditor-General of
B.C. (2000) found that all school districts and schools in that province have established appropriate codes of conduct. These
policies were developed with input from students, staff and parents. However, that survey found that these codes of conduct
are not always understood, followed or enforced, particularly by secondary students or staff.

Here are the survey results:

School Code/Rules Implementation

The Auditor-General study also found that the education ministry and Attorney-General of B.C. had published suitable guides
and documents and that 70% of school principals had reviewed these guides.

Day et al (1995) conducted a survey of Canadian school board policies. They reported that a majority (48.8%) of these policies
had sanctions/response approach. One-third (30%) used a behavioural expectations approach, 8.3% used a
prevention/intervention model and only 3.7% were using a comprehensive, community approach. The groupings of these
responses were done in the analysis of responses to 35 policy items.

The National Center on Education Statistics (1998) in the U.S. has reported on school discipline policies. They found that
schools had these policies:

• school uniform policies (3%)

• closed campus/restrict visitors to school (80%)
• controlled access to buildings (53%)
• conducted drug searches (19%)
• random metal detection (4%)
• metal detectors at entrances (1%)
• police officers for more than 30 hours/week (6%)
• formal school violence prevention program (78%)

The Education Testing Service (1999) analysis of 1988 school data found these results:

• visitor signs (97%)

• forbid some types of clothing (91%)
• hall passes to office, counseling, etc. (83%)
• permission required to leave school during day (78%)
• bans on gangs (78%)
• school uniforms required (5%)
Special Policies for Students With Behaviour Disorders

The need to develop specific policies and procedures for students with behaviour, emotional or other disorders has emerged
as a concern in Canada and other countries (Steffanhagen, 2000; Canadian Mental Health Association, 2000; Shamsie &
Hluchy, 1991). Sgro et al (2000, in a survey of school boards in Ontario, found that 4.6% of students had been diagnosed as
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disordered.

There are several reviews and sources that were found in this search that suggested that there are two appropriate policies to
respond to these needs: Positive Behaviour Support and Functional Behaviour Assessments (ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education, 1993; Wager, 1999; Clark, 1998; Council for Exceptional Children, nd; Wielkiewicz, 1995;
Rutherford & Welson, 1995; Sinclair et al, 1996; Gregg, 1996; Boder, 1997; Council for Exceptional Children, 1996). Other
sources were found that elaborated on these options and their legal ramifications (Osborne, 1996; Maloney, 1998). Shatz
(1994), in a comprehensive report to the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, has also elaborated on the policies and
programs that should be established.

Recently, the federal government in the U.S. has passed a law stating that all schools receiving federal funds for students with
disabilities are required to implemented PBS and FBA procedures. In Canada, some provinces have prepared or revised their
guidelines for special education services. An example of this can be found in B.C. (B.C. Ministry of Education, nd). Scott
(2000) suggests that FBA procedures for these students require extensive training and support and should be exercised with

Special Policies for Students At High Risk of Offending

Horner et al (2000) have suggested that alternative, specific policies need to be developed for disruptive students. They
suggest that these policies and procedures include rapid, efficient responses, high intensity support for high intensity
behaviour problems and a “culture of competence” where schools are required to invest time in every student.

Kupper (1999) in her review of programs for students with chronic behaviour problems had a similar analyses. Policy should
direct programs to 1) formally assess the student and follow through, 2) coordinate multiple interventions, 3) address a
constellation of related factors as well as the behaviours, 4) ensure the sustainability of the programs, 5) provide a
coordination of proactive, corrective and instructional strategies, 6) be developmentally appropriate, 7) include parent
education and family therapy, 8) intervene in early childhood whenever possible, 9) emphasize positive actions over punitive
ones, 10) be fair, consistent and free of racial bias.

Several case studies for students with chronic behaviour problems were identified in this search (Juvenile Justice Alternative
Education Program, nd; Project Student Assistance, nd; Project SOAR, nd; Thorban, 1995; Stevens et al, 1996; Houck, 1997;
Winborn, 1992; Putnam County School Board, 1996; Noguera, nd; Linker & Marion, 1995; Netolicky, 1998; Altschuler &
Armstrong, 1994; Miller & Sonner, 1996).

However, researchers have yet to sort out the policy options for disruptive students and to test them in large scale, replicated
studies. This would be an urgent area of concern for most school systems.

What Support is Needed from Partners?

For school discipline policies to be effective, each partner in the process needs to be involved. This review, however, found
very little evidence to describe the most appropriate roles for these partners and the most effective ways to engage these
partners, not only in discipline but in implementing sanctions, maintaining positive school climates or maintaining safe schools.
Some documents describe actions that these partners should undertake, but few researchers have evaluated their efficacy in
specific terms. These partners include students, teachers, school-based administrators, parents, school district
administrators/trustees, police, other agencies, education ministry, other ministries.

Engaging Students

There is a growing body of knowledge in Canada and elsewhere on how to engage youth in public policy (Shannon & McCall,
1999). However, not enough of this research has gone into critical examination of outcomes. With respect to actively engaging
students in discipline/crime prevention in schools, very little research evidence is available.

The following roles could be ascribed to students (U.S. Department of Education, 1996)

• follow the school rules (and participate in the function of those rules)
• avoid harm at school (Be Safe)
• report incidents or concerns
• promote peace or prevent violence/bullying in voluntary school activities
• support peers in resolving conflict (peer mediation)
• support peers in preventing other risks (peer helper programs)
• learn about and how to live peacefully
• participate in community safety activities and community service outside of the school.

The first three roles are within the scope of this review.

Only a few Canadian references were found that described how students felt about following the school rules (Auditor-General
of B.C. 2000; Macdonald & Martin, 1996). Gabor (1995), in focus group discussions with youth, reported that they perceived
the application of the rules to be disorganized.

Gomes et al (2000), in a self-report survey of Alberta youth, reported that 56% said they had engaged in at least one
delinquent behaviour in the past year. 15.6% reported that they had brought a weapon to school in the past year. Little
evidence was found on how students can be involved effectively in the development of school policies.

As well, little evidence was located in this search on how students can be involved effectively in the implementation of
discipline policies. Teen courts, where students are involved in school discipline teams, may be one answer (to be added)

The Auditor-General of B.C. (2000) and MacDonald (1998) have noted that encouraging students to report incidents and
concerns at school is difficult. They fear reprisals or non-action by school staff. School Watch programs, where students are
able to report incidents anonymously, may encourage students to report incidents. (Day et al, 1995)

The National Center on Education Statistics (1995) in the U.S. has described student strategies to avoid harm at school.
Students were asked if they:

• took a special route to school

• avoided certain places in the school building
• stayed away from school events
• stayed in a group while at school
• skipped school because someone might harm them.

One-half of grade 6-12 students indicated they do not use any of these strategies. 25% reported they used a combination of
these strategies. Twenty per cent (20%) said they used the single strategy of staying in a group.

No research was located in this search on whether it is effective to tell or teach students to use these strategies.

Case studies describing successful student driven programs such as Peacebuilders. School activities were located in this
search (Kelder et al, 1998; Wiist et al, 1996; National Crime Prevention Council, nd). No meta-analysis or reviews of these
school activity type programs was located. (Please note peer mediation programs were considered to be outside the scope of
this inquiry.)

Support from Teachers Outside the Classrooms

The role of the teacher in managing the discipline in their classroom and teaching effectively is discussed later in this review.
This section focuses on these non-classroom roles (U.S. Department of Education, 1996):

• participating in the development and adoption of school discipline policies

• actively supporting and enforcing school rules outside of their classrooms
• promoting a positive school climate.

No data was located in this search about effective ways to engage teachers (and other school staff) in the development and
adoption of school discipline or conduct policies. However, we can presume that there is an abundance of good research on
this topic covered under the rubric of effective schooling. The Auditor-General (2000) study in B.C. indicates that both
elementary and secondary teachers understood the school rules and followed them.

However, that same BC report noted that the school rules were enforced “mostly” by only 41% of “other staff”, including
teachers. O’Brien (1998), in noticing the difference between classroom and non-classroom enforcement of discipline by
teachers, found that teachers did not actively enforce rules because they were too busy, did not know the students, saw
misconduct as typical and perceived a lack of support from administrators and teachers.
Although many collective agreements stipulate that teachers are not required to supervise lunchrooms or playgrounds, it
seems reasonable that they be expected to enforce school rules as they walk through hallways. (The Auditor-General (2000)
study of B.C. teachers went off a tangent about teachers not being willing to report on each other because of codes of ethics.
This does not seem to be on point.) Do teachers actively enforce school rules when they interact with students outside of the
classroom? That is the important question.

Other School Personnel

The school custodial staff, bus drivers, secretaries, voluntary or paid lunchroom or playground supervisors and even
designated security staff all have a role to play in school discipline as well as sanctions and prevention.

Very few references were located in this search on the role and efficacy of using this personnel. Schwartz (1997) had practical
suggestions for secretaries, bus drivers and custodial staff. The Auditor-General of B.C. (2000) found that playground and
lunchroom supervisors were often untrained or were volunteers.

School Administrators

Kadel & Foliman (1993) and Hill & Hill (1994) have described the critical role of the school principal in maintaining school
discipline, applying sanctions and promoting a positive school climate. With regard to discipline, they suggest:

• maintaining a visible profile

• visiting classrooms often
• expressing positive feelings to students
• developing a good relationship with key student leaders (formal and informal leaders)
• developing a crisis management plan
• linking suspensions with rehabilitation.

MacDonald (1999) has shown how the perceptions of school administrators will lead them in different directions in responding
to violence and enforcing school rules. How they conceptualize violence and discipline will influence their decision-making.

However, this review did not locate any descriptive studies showing how school principals actually enforce school discipline or
which techniques are more effective in training or motivating school principals to do so. The only descriptive study we located
(Auditor-General, 2000) reported that 95% of elementary school administrators and 99% of secondary school principals
“mostly” or “often” enforced school codes of conduct.

The Role of Guidance Counselors, Social Workers and School Psychologists

The roles of these three professional positions were not well described in the searches conducted for this review. However, it
is likely that this information is buried in the professional literature describing the appropriate practices of these types of school

In brief, the guidance counselor can act as a consultant (to teachers, students and parents) on school discipline issues
(Bernshaff et al, 1994). The social worker has an important role in locating the necessary support services for offending or at-
risk students (TBA). The school psychologist plays an important role in the trauma and aftermath of a crisis or violent
confrontation (Young et al, 1996).


The role of parents in supporting school discipline has been relatively well described in the literature. These roles can include:
(U.S. Department of Education, 1996)

• setting standards of behaviour, limits and clear expectations for their children, in and out of school, as well
as, establishing mutually agreed upon rules about homework, extracurricular activities, grades, curfews, chaperoned
parties and places that are off limits
• teaching and demonstrating standards of right and wrong
• discussing the school’s discipline policies with their child
• encouraging their child to talk about school, after school activities and their trips to school
• being involved in their child’s homework, meeting teachers and attending school functions
• building a network of other adults to refer to in the event of discipline problems
• volunteering in school activities when possible
• monitoring the TV and video games that their children use
• encouraging their children to participate in safe, healthy after school activities
• working with school parent groups to plan and implement safe school activities.

Barth (1979) and Atkeson & Forehad (1979) report that programs to involve parents in reinforcing behavioural messages can
reduce the number of problems.

A considerable number of sources were identified in this search that have suggested positive and practical ways that parents
can support school rules and instill discipline in their children. Moorish & Boyer (2000) suggest 12 keys to positive discipline for
parents and teachers. Reese et al (2000) describe the risk and protective factors that families can provide to their children.
Worrel (1997) provides a number of blunt suggestions to parents from an educator’s perspective. Kersey (nd) describe
effective and ineffective strategies. Freedman (1999) and the American Psychological Association (nd) give parents a number
of strategies to avoid violence and deal with teasing.

However, to involve parents in these ways, we need to be informed about parent views and perceptions about discipline.
Friesen-Ford (1995) surveyed parents in Saskatchewan about their opinions on student discipline. McCarthy (1995) has
described how messages from home and school can become mixed. Clancy (1992) and Rich (1985) have reflected upon
parental perspectives about discipline.

There is considerable research on how to involve parents, through schools, in social development and health promotion
(Negeow, 1999; Shannon & McCall, 1996). There is also considerable evidence on how to involve parents in schools,
including parents of at-risk youth. However, that research is just beginning to be applied to violence prevention.

Flaherty (1999) has discussed how to recruit and retain at-risk parents in violence prevention training programs. Parents in
that study emphasized the need for a positive experience in initial sessions and for communications between sessions.
Salomon (1998), in a small exploratory study, reported that parents of children with and without behaviour problems reported
equal levels of support that they provided to their children. However, the parents of non-violent children believed more strongly
that they had to assist their children in times of trouble.

The John Howard Society (1997) reviewed the impact of parental liability laws, that make small financial claims on parents for
the offenses of their children. This report suggested that this strategy was not effective in fostering parental involvement in
their children’s lives and tends to target poor families disproportionately.

The Auditor-General of B.C. (2000) found that 91% of elementary school parents “mostly” or “often” supported school policies.
However, only 66% of secondary school parents did so.

A Health Canada project (Roberts et al, In Progress) will report on best practices in youth drug abuse prevention. This report
will include an analysis of programs like Families and Schools Together (FAST).

School District Administrators/Trustees

There has been some research on the policies that school boards should adopt in regard to school discipline and school
violence. There is likely to be legal advice to school district partners on liability and the student/parent appeals process.
However, there has been little analytical research on roles such as:

• actively supporting school personnel in implementing policies

• training school-based administrators and teachers
• negotiating and implementing agreements with other agencies, including police
• promoting a climate of peace in the community.

No items were located in this search that examined the effectiveness of these activities in supporting school discipline policies
or peaceful school climates.

Police Officers/Police Departments

Police officers can be supportive of individual school discipline policies by:

• assisting in truancy programs

• working with students, teachers and parents in violence prevention
• ensuring that serious incidents are promptly investigated, concluded and feedback provided to parents,
students and the school staff
• agreeing with the principal on how police investigations will be conducted in the school.
Police departments can assist school districts and schools by:

• offering school resource officers to all schools

• sponsoring or encouraging alternative diversion programs for offending youth
• sponsoring or encouraging positive, healthy recreational and other activities for at-risk youth
• developing and implementing comprehensive community policy programs
• establishing an agreement with the school board on how investigations will be conducted and how
information will be shared.

This search did not locate significant numbers of evaluative research studies on these roles. Most of the items either described
unevaluated programs or outlined potential strategies. A case study of school resource offices located in this search (Scheffer,
1987) reported that SROs teach about safety and justice issues, counsel students and conduct investigations. Key issues
identified were: student-officer relationships, guidelines for counseling troubled students, officer selection procedures, training
and evaluation of officers.

The Center for the Prevention of School Violence (nd) has published a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Justice on
what is know about school resource officers. That review provides a clear definition of the SRO role from U.S. federal
departments. A historical review of SRO development in the U.S. is provided, as well as a description of how they are
deployed. Based on surveys, the Center attributes three key roles to SROs; law enforcement, law-related education and law
counselor/advisor. They note how those three roles will vary in response to the conditions in the school. Schwartz (1997) notes
that the law enforcement role of the SRO will dominate in violence-prone schools. Johns & Keenan (1997) suggest that
schools and police clearly define when and how the police are to be notified.

The Center identifies five key issues for future investigation:

• communications; maintaining effective communications

• expectations; understanding the SRO assignment does not mean the school is unsafe
• the nature of SRO programs; funding, liability, law-related counseling/not counseling
• the officer; training, qualifications, selection, current deployment
• relationships; overcoming turf wars, knowing the difference between the law and school rules.

They report on a North Carolina survey of school principals where 88% rated the SRO program as being effective. A US
Department of Education (1999) guide recommends the use of School Resource Officers.

Ryan and Mathews (1995) presented an extensive list of school-based police programs offered by police departments.
However, few evaluations of these programs were available and the report did not provide a critical framework. Similarly, a
Quebec based coalition, the Table provinciale de concertation sur la violence, les jeunes et le milieu scolaire (1999), has
published a lengthy guide, with both recommended principles and procedures. A website for school resource officers (nd) has
an archive of discussions that are helpful and practical. Bartlett (1994) has described a similar model protocol statement to
guide joint investigations. Wagar (1999) has described school-based police programs in a general way, as well as the roles
that school resource officers can play.

A limited number of evaluative and descriptive studies were located.

Gomes et al (2000) report that 53% of Alberta students in their survey had a school resource officer or an officer who regularly
visited their school. This would accord with Ryan and Mathews (1995) assessment that three-quarters of police departments in
Canada offered school-based police programs of some description. Most student contact with police was through a police
presentation at school (Gomes et al, 2000).

The National Crime Prevention Council (nd) has described the importance of community policing. Case studies, mostly
American, are cited in that report showing that community policing policies and programs can reduce crime rates. Little
mention is made of the role that schools play in such community policing programs in this NCPC overview.

There have been some evaluations of police-sponsored educational programs in schools. These include Magruff, The Junior
Police Academy and DARE. Most of the evaluations of the DARE program have been negative, showing that this program
does not result in changed behaviours (Roberts et al, In Progress). However, many earlier reports (Carter, 1995; Ringwalt et
al, 1994; Silva, 1994) have been positive in their descriptions of the reach and the popularity of the program.

Hughes (1997) reports on a California investigation into the training provided to school resource officers.

A case study from Houston, Texas, (Houston Police, 1997) noted that when police officers assisted schools in truancy
programs, student absenteeism was reduced.
Other Agencies/Other Professionals

The search undertaken for this project did not locate resources on the roles that other publicly funded agencies should
undertake in cooperation with schools to prevent violence. These include:

• early childhood programs that promote good social development

• child welfare agencies that place youth in foster homes, group homes
• employment agencies and job training programs that should work closely with alternatives to schools and
local employers to crate real opportunities for at-risk youth
• justice/law enforcement/diversion programs that need to coordinate closely with school officials in
rehabilitating and reintegrating young offenders
• public health professionals and agencies that need to include violence prevention in their school-related and
children/youth policies and programs.

No descriptive or evaluative sources were identified in this search on any of these roles that need to be played by such
publicly funded agencies. School personnel, if no one else, need to articulate their needs to these agencies. Research is
urgently required to evaluate the efficacy of such programs, policies and practices.

Community-Based Voluntary Organizations

The U.S. Department of Education (1996) has described the roles that community and business groups can play in school
discipline, and school-based violence prevention.

Community groups can:

• participate on school or school district or safe school committees or plans

• sponsor extracurricular and cultural activities; job-seeking projects and community projects
• assist in creating safe routes for children traveling to schools
• organize alternative education/diversion programs for youth.

Business groups and local employers can:

• adopt and support a school

• adopt policies that encourage parents to visit schools often
• cooperate in cooperative education activities such as job schooling, field trips, and internships
• promote awareness of career training opportunities
• sponsor fundraising events.

A significant example of these two groups coming together can be found in the creation of community-based youth justice
coalitions. These coalitions can:

• coordinate youth justice and crime prevention initiatives

• facilitate the coordination of services and programs on a voluntary basis
• seek funding for and then deliver comprehensive, community-school alternative programs for young
offenders or youth who are at greater risk.

This search did not locate many descriptive or evaluative research studies on the role of community groups, business
groups/local employers or community-based youth justice coalitions.

One published case study (Well Community Council, 1997) was located. Unpublished materials were also obtained from the
Alternatives for Youth Coalition in Muskoka, ON (Berry, 2000).

Further research is needed on the relationship and cooperative programs that community and business groups can undertake
in cooperation with schools.

The Education Ministry

A policy has already been tentatively described for the education ministry earlier in this paper. Other program roles that should
be described are:
• development and publication of appropriate guidelines and resource documents to assist school districts and
• funding and dissemination of innovation and demonstration projects
• networking and sharing of information with school districts on safe school topics
• active collaboration and communication with other ministries.

This project found no published materials on these or other roles that education ministries can play in promoting safe schools,
with the exception of the Auditor-General’s (2000) report in B.C. That report noted that several appropriate guides had been
published (some had been used extensively by schools, others had not). The BC Safe School Centre was playing a facilitating
and communications role reasonably well but need to upgrade its electronic capability.

Other work in this area has identified the fact that safe school coordinators positions had been created in several jurisdictions
in Canada (NF, NS, NB, ON, AB, BC, NT). However, no descriptive studies of the role that might be played effectively by that
personnel were located in our search.

Other Ministries

The roles of Justice, Law Enforcement, Social Services and Health Ministries in regards to working with schools has been
largely ignored in any published works on school violence.

In general, one could reasonably expect such ministries to:

• establish policy to facilitate how local agencies work with schools on violence prevention
• train, support and guide agencies in working with schools.

The Minister of Justice/Attorney-General are likely to play a more active role than others. They should likely play these roles:

• ensuring that police-school protocols are in place

• training police staff in the implementation of these protocols
• co-funding joint materials and resources
• co-funding joint inservice training for police and educators
• funding community-based and youth organizations to work with schools.

Once again, this search found no descriptive or evaluative studies on the roles that these ministries should be playing.


• More research is needed on the impact of lighter sanctions such as detentions or transfer to another regular
school or class.
• Research is needed on the current student, teacher, parent and administrator attitudes/beliefs and practices
in regards to school discipline/codes of conduct.
• Research is urgently needed on the roles that all partners can play in school discipline and violence
prevention. There is a shocking absence of descriptive or evaluative research on the role of students, parents, other
agencies and ministries, the police and law enforcement ministries, the role of senior school district
administrators/trustees, education ministries.
• Research into different contexts and different types of schools (urban, rural, suburban, etc.) needs to be
done to validate emerging hypotheses that differentiation of policy/program resources should be done. Some schools
may need universal, prevention only type response, while others may require intensive protection and intervention.
• Research on implementation and the barriers to implementation needs to be done, assuring the way in
which provincial/territorial policies are implemented at the school district and school levels.

D. Maintaining A Positive School Climate

This final section of this review examines behavioural/discipline/security strategies to maintain a positive school climate. (Please note
again that instructional and formal social support strategies such as peer mediation are not included in this review. They form part of a
broader safe school approach.)

This section first addresses the notion of a positive school climate approach, assessing the impact of this approach based on research
identified in this search. Then four types of comprehensive, preventive program strategies are briefly discussed; improving school
capacity, effective school-wide behaviour support, peace building and anti-bullying/anti-violence. Third, several specific strategies for
prevention (improving classroom management, school uniforms, security precautions, early identification and truancy prevention) and
intervention (individualized programs, crisis management and multi-systemic treatment) are reviewed briefly.

Positive School Climates Work

Day et al (1995) have cited the work of Weissberg and Elias (1993) to argue the case for a comprehensive, school-based approach to
promoting student well-being and health. This effectiveness of the approach has been well documented in the research literature and a
consensus on that approach has been established in Canada. (Canadian Association for School Health, 1990). A recent study (McCall
et al, 1999) reported that almost all education ministries and one-third of school districts explicitly support this approach. Positive school
climate strategies are an essential element of this approach.

The idea of promoting a positive school climate to promote positive behaviour has been discussed in education for several decades in
Canada (Watson, 1985; Janosz, 1993; Dray 1994; Canadian Education Association, 1994; Sackney, 1994; Jones, 1996; Zak, 1998)
and elsewhere (Howard et al, 1987; Brophy, 1996; Suarez, 1992).

The application of school climate improvement strategies to violence prevention has also been well discussed. Battisch (1997) and
Brian-Meisdelt & Selman, 1996) has demonstrated the correlation to anti-social behaviours.

To improve the climate and consequently the safety of the school, a number of coordinated interventions are required. A number of
sources were identified in this search and have described the necessary components of these coordinated approaches to positive
school climate. Walker et al (1990) argue that the school can play a central role in delivering these interventions. Johns and Keenan
(1997) list other components; including a formal evaluation of the safety of the school, following conflict resolution principles, combating
truancy, working with police, deciding when police will be notified, dress codes, guidelines for legal searches, sexual harassment
guidelines, procedures to deal with perpetrators, gang prevention, crisis intervention for traumatic events and school security

The U.S. Department of Education (1996) has defined the characteristics of a safe school, as have other documents (B.C. Safe School
Centre, 1998). Schwartz (1997) has suggested that schools need a safety committee and coordinator. Aleem & Moles (1993) have
emphasized that schools should emphasize academics, firm/fair/consistent standards and an ethic of caring. Gottfredson et al (1993)
have emphasized that schools need a sense of order. The New Brunswick (1999) Positive Learning Environment policy is an example
of this approach.

There is clear evidence in the research that this comprehensive approach to promoting positive school climate is effective in reducing
antisocial behaviours. Gottfredson (1998) in a rigorous review of effective PSC programs for the National Institute of Justice, reports
that building the school’s capacity to offer an ordered, positive learning environment is an effective way to protect the safety for all
students. She also describes the necessary elements of the school’s capacity to do so. Stiffman et al (1996) formed similar conclusions
in their review. Longitudinal evaluations of examples of this approach have demonstrated their impact (Gottfredson 1986; 1998;
Goldstein, 1999; Positive Behaviour Support, 1999; Royal & Rossi, 1997).

The Auditor-General of B.C. (2000) reported that a comprehensive program (Effective Behaviour Support) has been implemented on a
widespread basis in that province. Staffs in those schools reported significant reductions in the numbers of incidents. Day et al (1995)
reported that this "prevention/intervention" approach was stipulated in 18.3% of school board policies surveyed.

There appears to be four similar ways in which these comprehensive approaches to improving school climate can be implemented in
schools; overall school improvement, anti-bullying/violence and peace building.

School improvement or "invitational education" approaches to reducing school violence have been discussed in Canada (Conrod, 1999;
Campbell, 1991) and case descriptions have been published (Baril, 1989; Hindle & Sedo, 2000). Schwartz (1996) and Howard et al
(1999) have reviewed the research and found school improvement strategies to be effective in reducing school violence.

Ducklow (1998) has described a prime example of the schoolwide Effective Behaviour Support (EBS) system, a program being used in
many Canadian schools. A Website document (schoolwide PBIS) explains the components of this approach. These elements reflect
closely the findings of the research review (Cotton, 1990) on effective schoolwide discipline practices. This schoolwide and positive
approach ensures that school rules are seen and understood by students in a positive light. This EBS approach also ensures that staff
are actively committed to and monitoring their school environment (Fitzsimmons, 1998).

Fitzsimmons (1998) and Korinek (nd) have described the components and the impact of schoolwide discipline systems. Similar reviews
of the research (U.S. Office of Special Education, nd; ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education, nd; Schoolwide
Behavioral Management Systems, 1997) have all found this approach to be effective.

Comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-violence programs have also been demonstrated to be effective. Oleweus (1991), with his work
on bullying in Norway, was the pioneer in these programs. Peplar et al (1993), Zeigler & Peplar (1993) and Cornell (1999) have
reviewed the research on these programs and found them to be effective. Cole (1999) has provided a framework to describe the
comprehensive nature of these anti-violence programs. That National Crime Prevention Centre (nd) has described the important role of
the school in responding to bullying.

Successful case studies of anti-bullying and antiviolence programs were also found in this search, including the London Family Court
Clinic (Suderman et al, 1996) program, a program evaluated by the Toronto Board of Education (Brown, nd), the Resolving conflict
Creatively Program (Lantier et al, 1996) and an assessment of bullying prevention programs in Scotland (Mellor, 1995).

The "peaceful schools" model is another example of a comprehensive, schoolwide approach to maintaining positive school climates. In
Canada, the League of Peaceful Schools (1998) is active in Nova Scotia, PEI and Saskatchewan. A very similar approach is being
promoted in Alberta under the banner of "safe and caring schools". (Mather, 1999). That programs philosophy has been well articulated
in foundation documents for that initiative. The Muttart Foundation is coordinating a three year formative evaluation of the initiative.

Bodine et al (1995) has reviewed the "peaceful schools", based on Kreidler‘s definition, as including cooperation, communication,
tolerance, positive emotional expression and conflict resolution. Six skill areas are also need to achieve a peaceful school; including
building a peaceful school climate, understanding climate, understanding peacemaking, mediation, negotiating and group problem

Other evaluations of similar "peaceful school" programs have been conducted by Haynes (1996), Orpinas et al (2000), Day et al (1995)
and Embry et al (1996). All showed positive impacts on student behaviour.

Prevention-Oriented Supports to Positive School Climate

Research in the following areas indicate that schools can support a peaceful school climate strategy through the use of several
behavioural/discipline/security activities.

Improving Classroom Management

Several Canadian sources were located in this search that highlight the view that good school discipline begins in the classroom (Kruk,
1984; Lam et al, 1996, Canadian Education Association, 1996; Bickmore, 1998; Maintaining Order, 2000).

Practical advice to teachers is available from several sources identified for this review, including King (nd), ERIC Clearinghouse on
Handicapped and Gifted Children (1990), Gross-Davis et al (nd), disciplinehelp.com (nd), Proteacher.com (nd), Evertson et al (1994),
Emmer et al (1994).

A five year case study on the effect of improved classroom management (Solomon et al, 1980) showed that all children can become
more supportive and respectful of each other. Bennett (1999) emphasizes the importance of this "everyday stuff" in the classroom
where effective teachers, good dialogue with students and well planned group work for students can be very effective.

The rigorous evaluation of case studies done by Gottfredson (1998) found that changes in teacher effectiveness resulted in greater
attachment to the school. Seven longitudinal studies were reviewed in this meta-analysis.

School Uniforms/Dress Code

The research on the effectiveness of requiring school uniforms or dress codes is mixed. Isaacson (1998) has reviewed the arguments
for and against this prevention strategy. She also outlines five policy choices; 1) no dress code, 2) dress code with general goals, 3)
itemized dress code throughout the school district, 4) a voluntary school uniform, 5) a mandatory school uniform policy. She suggests
three issues need clarification: Are these dress codes legal? Do they actually restore order? Are less restrictive dress codes (e.g.
preventing gang colors) more effective?

Anecdotal evidence (Potner, 1996; McLean, 1999; U.S. Department of Education, 1996) is often used to support the use of school
uniforms. But the research evidence is mixed (White, 2000). Paliokas & Rist (1993) suggest they have no impact. Coben et al (1994)
suggest that they do. Gluckman (1996) suggests that dress codes can reduce gang activity in the school. The U.S. Department of
Education (1999) has published an manual on how to use school uniforms.

Despite the mixed evidence, school uniforms and dress codes appear to be making a comeback. This project has identified several
examples of school uniform/dress code policies in Canada. Requirements for school uniforms are being established in Ontario
(Canadian Press, 2000) and Alberta (Suidal, 2000). Ontario is also introducing a requirement that student sing the national anthem
(Canadian Press, 2000).

The Education Testing Service (1999) quotes a NAESP survey of schools that reported that 11% of U.S. elementary schools have
uniforms policies and an additional 15% are considering them. White (2000) reports on an American parent survey that reports that
18% of parents say their children are in school uniforms and that 56% of those parents support these policies.
Security Precautions

A number of behavioural and security precautions can be taken to support a positive school climate and an ordered, school discipline.
These include:

• conducting a formal school safety audit (U.S. Department of Education, 1999; National Association of Secondary School
Principals, 1996; Blauvelt, 1999)
• implementing school watch programs (Day et al, 1995)
• use of metal detectors (random or full-time) Harrington-Luecker, 1992; Konshem, 1992; Centers for Disease Control, 1993;
Baskin & Thomas, 1986)
• searches of lockers and desks (Gaustad, 1991; U.S. Department of Education, 1996; Addiction Research Foundation, 1988)
• identification of "danger zones" (Kneedler, 1990; Murdock & Gartu, 1993; Security Lighting, 1993)
• hiring of in-school security staff/training of adult volunteers/use of police officers (Schwartz, 1997; Troup, nd)
• increased adult supervision of hallways and playground (U.S. Department of Education, 1999; Oleweus, 1991)
• use of on-site probation officers (Schwartz, 1997)
• closed campus/restrictions on visitors (Symons, 1993; U.S. Department of Education, 1999; California Department of
Education, nd)
• use of security cameras, two-way communications devices, panic buttons, alarm systems, self-locking doors and other
specialized equipment (Gilbert 1996; Kosar & Ahmed, 2000; Whitehouse et al, 1991; Haworth-Roberts, 1989)
• adjusting students schedules to minimize hallway time (U.S. Department of Education, 1999).
• designating a school safety coordinator (Trump, nd)
• school property cleanups and beautification activities.

There were a number of sources identified for each of these items (noted above). However, in each case, there were no definitive
findings of research evidence that any particular precaution was effective, by itself, in preventing violence in schools. Some argue that
the introduction of these precautions into a school counteracts other efforts to create a positive school climate. Others argue that some
of these measures can support the safety of students (Hernandez, 1996). This search did not find any evidence to support either side of
that debate.

Early Identification of Potential Offenders

The research evidence about effective and appropriate ways to identify students who may be at risk of offending is not limited to the
U.S. However, this search did not locate sufficient evidence to evaluate the impact of such strategies.

Carter & Stewin 91999), in an analysis of school violence in the Canadian context, have used a formal diagnostic tool to identify
psychopathology among junior high male students. Fey et al (2000) and Lafee (2000) suggest caution against the use of police profiling

Junke et al (1999), Lumsden (2000) and Walker et al (1998) suggest that informal, professional and normal assessment done by caring
teachers can be adequate to identify at risk students and refer them to intervention or support services.

Truancy Prevention

John & Keenan (1997) suggest that truancy prevention should be part of a comprehensive approach to school violence. Such programs
should be implemented through community coordination, enforcement, recognition of good attendance and parenting classes.

The U.S. Department of Education (1996) included a chapter on truancy prevention in its manual on safe and drug free schools. That
chapter provides examples, program characteristics and principles for effective programs in truancy prevention.

Gullatt & Lemoine (1997) have reviewed evaluations of truancy prevention programs and conclude that such programs can be effective
at reducing student absenteeism.

Positive School Climate Interventions

The U.S. Department of Education (1999) has defined a number of principles that should guide the efforts to intervene with students
who are misbehaving at school. These guidelines form a beginning for this brief overview of interventions that schools can use to
intervene so that troubled youth are well supported and positive school climate can be maintained. These principles are:

• shared responsibility
• information to parents and listen to them
• maintain confidentiality and privacy
• develop the capacity of staff, students and families
• support students in being normal
• simplify procedures used for staff to request assistance for children
• make interventions as available and convenient as possible
• use multiple, coordinated interventions
• analyze the contexts of school, home and peer group for problems
• build on and coordinate internal school resources
• intervene early.

These principles have applications to all of the following specific interventions.

Individualized Education/Behaviour Plans

Sherman et al (1998), in their review of what works in crime prevention, found that individualized reintegration programs that taught and
counseled youth in anger management were effective in facilitating re-entry into school. They also report that intensive coaching of high
risk youth is effective as the intervention.

Schwartz (1997) suggests that these individualized plans should always aim to return the student to regular classes.

Garrett (1985) found, in a meta-analysis, that academically-oriented programs for at-risk youth were successful because they
reestablished real opportunity for youth. Similarly, Stiffman et al (1996) found that vocational programs were successful.

Sherman et al (1998) found that individual and peer group counseling were ineffective in correcting the behaviours of troubled youth.
Peer group counseling may end up being counterproductive.

Crisis Intervention (Aftermath (Postvention)

The school needs to have immediate access to crisis response procedures and support teams in the event of a traumatic incident
(Collison et al, 1987). As well, aftermath or "postvention" services need to be available for victims and bystanders to reduce the
lingering effects of such incidents (Braeden & Braeden, 1988; O’Neill, 1992). The U.S. Department of Education (1999) has detailed the
things needed for such crisis response systems. A Canadian example of such crisis response procedures can be found in B.C. Ministry
of Education (1999).

Coordinated Case Management

The aspect of coordinated case management considered in this review is to the extent to which school staff are involved in the
decision-making and communications about troubled youth. The Canadian School Boards’ Association (1996) has published a guide on
this issue and is implementing a national project that should provide substantive information.

The Auditor-General of B.C. (2000), in its review of B.C. Safe School policies, found that case management is generally poor in that
province, particularly for children who have been assigned resource workers from the Ministry for Children and Families. Better
information sharing is required between case workers and school staff. That study found that 79% of teachers who sought information
from case workers had difficulty in obtaining it.

There were no entries found in this search that evaluated or describe how coordination should occur or is occurring with juvenile court


• More research is required on how schools can work effectively with social services, and juvenile court personnel in
regards to the role of the school in diversion, alternative and reintegration plans. This partnership urgently needs to
be examined in demonstration projects and meta-analysis.
• More research, both evaluative and descriptive, needs to be done or gathered in how the agencies responsible for
intervention services can work more effectively with schools.
• Research is required on the effectiveness of security precautions in schools and whether their introduction changes
the perceived nature of the school climate for students, parents and teachers.
• More research is needed on the prudence of schoolwide behaviour support, anti-bullying/anti-violence,
peaceful/caring schools and school improvement programs to ensure they are widely implemented.

Descriptive studies should be done to determine the current state of school and classroom social climate in Canadian
Analysis of Provincial/Territorial Guidelines


The following preliminary analysis was done to determine the policy context for schools and school districts across Canada.
Education ministries are taking divergent paths in determining the basic approach that schools should be using in response
to perceived increasing levels of school violence. This analysis, when linked with a repeat of the work done by Day et al
(1995) and with a national survey of current existing school codes of conduct/approaches to school violence, should help
policy makers determine if their decisions are having the desired impact.


Policy documents were requested or retrieved from the websites of all 13 education ministries in Canada. In a manner similar
to Day et al (1995) as well as that of Gottredson (1998) and Coben et al (1994), a categorization system was established to
illuminate the policy choices being made by the jurisdictions.

The diagram below shows the different choices that can be made by education authorities. As well, this study sought to
determine if those policy choices were “required” or “recommended “ by the guidelines or directives.

In comparing this analysis to that of Day et al, (1995), we decided to separate “zero tolerance” policies (i.e. automatic
suspension or expulsion for serious offenses) from a “response/sanctions” approach. The zero tolerance approach is
relatively new and somewhat confused in its understanding across Canada. Consequently we have defined it carefully and
looked for it in the policy documents.

Further, we delineated four other types of approaches:

1) “behavioural expectations” (school discipline/student codes)

2) “positive school climate” approaches (combining prevention and intervention strategies

3) “safe school” approaches.

4) safe community approaches

Day et al used three categories:

1) expectations for behaviour

2) identification/prevention (note intervention is not mentioned)

3) community

We also noted that policy documents were being produced on two separate issues since the Day et al study. Consequently,
we have looked for policy supplements on Students with Behaviour Disorders and Policies for Disruptive Students (Non-


This study is a preliminary contents analysis only. Ministry policy documents were scrutinized to determine only general
policy choices. A more detailed analysis would be enlightening but was beyond the scope of the present inquiry.

Key Findings:

• A study should be undertaken across Canada of the three levels of the school system to determine if the policy
choices being made at a provincial/territorial level or at a school board level have influenced the type of policies and
practices being adopted by schools.
• Further, this national study should test the perceived appropriateness of those province or district wide choices
among different types of schools. There is emerging research that suggests that no one policy choice is best for all
Documents Analyzed:

Newfoundland and Labrador

Programming for Individual Needs: Policy, Guidelines and Resource Guide on Discipline, School Violence and Safe Schools
Teams (1996)
Balancing Students Rights and Responsibilities for Primary Grades (In Progress)

Prince Edward Island

Awaiting response to request

Nova Scotia

Discipline Handbook for Nova Scotia Schools (1993) and Discipline Policy in Nova Scotia Schools (1993)
(Currently being revised)

New Brunswick

Positive Learning Environment Policy (1999)


Superior Council (Advisory to Minister) report Ministry Advisory Document on Behaviour problems


Ontario Schools Code of Conduct

School Uniform Announcement


Special Education Guidelines


Overview of Caring, Respectful Schools Initiative


Safe and Caring Schools Initiative Description/Binder

(Alberta School Act amended in 1999 to require school boards to ensure caring, safe school.)

British Columbia

BC Safe Schools Planning Guide

Focus on Suspension: A Resource for Schools
Keeping Schools Safe: An Administrators Guide to Safe Schools
Teaching Students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder


Reference to School Code being developed under new Education Act

Northwest Territories

Junior High School Handbook -Inclusive Schooling- (Based on Ministry School Reform Plans)

Education Act Students and Parents (Currently under review)

Policy Choices on School Safety: Required or Recommended Directives to Schools

Automatic Sanctions Behaviour Positive School Safe Schools Community Policy Policy
Suspension for Approach Expectations Climate Approach Approach Supplement for Supplement
serious (School Approach (Partnership Behaviour for
Offenses (Zero Discipline or between (Community Disorders Disruptive
Tolerance) Code community and is lead Students
Approach) school) agent)
NF Recommended Required Required Required Required
PEI Published in Published in Published in Published in
cooperation cooperation cooperation cooperation
with local with local with local with local
school boards school boards school boards school boards
NS Required Required Required Recommended
NB Recommended Required Required Required
QC Recommended Recommended Guide
by CSE by CSE published
ON Required Required Uniforms Required
Anthem (Police
MB Ministry plays Ministry plays Ministry plays Ministry plays Guidelines on
consultative consultative consultative consultative emotional
role only role only role only role only behaviour
SK Recommended Recommended 1989
in principles of in principles of Handbook
CRS initiative CRS initiative being revised
AB Recommended Required Recommended
BC Inschool Recommended Recommended Policy on
Suspensions FAS
Recommended students
NU New School Act Considering
will include EBS Program
Code of
NWT Implied in
about school
YK Required

Analysis of Sample School Board Policies/School Codes and Procedures


To begin the development of a model process and suggested content for school board and school Codes of Conduct for use
by school-based administrators.


This preliminary analysis of a convenience sample of 125 school board policies on student conduct, suspensions and other
topics related to school safety is intended to lay the groundwork for an interactive discussion of school policy issues. An
online search for school board policies and an examination of the two Canadian school board policy databases led to the
identification of 50 sample school board policies, and several provincial/territorial guidelines. Then a rudimentary analysis
was done to categorize these sample policies into five general categories and to describe the coverage these policies gave to
both relevant content and effective policy-making process. The work of Day, Golench, MacDougall and Beals-Gonzalez (1995),
Gottfredson (1998) and Coben et al (1994) were the primary sources for content. For process, a summary prepared for the
Canadian Association of School Administrators (McCall, 1995) was used as the primary source. The collection of policy
documents collected for this review can be found at www.schoolfile.com and those for school dress codes can be found at:

Key Findings

There are three key findings from this preliminary policy investigation.

1. The variety of policy samples and their various components and wordings show that it is possible to develop a
comprehensive school policy and procedures framework that can respond adequately to inappropriate behaviour,
promote fair student conduct/discipline policies, create a positive social environment in the school and ensure that
schools work with their communities to promote safety and prevent crime
2. Most school board policies and school discipline/conduct procedures are narrow in scope and do not contain all the
elements recommended by the research evidence. This finding is similar to the earlier work of Day et al (1995).
3. A process to enable school-based administrators and others to work through these policy issues with their students,
parents and staff would lead to better school conduct/discipline policies and safe schools. The use of an interactive
web site should be explored in this regard.

Good Policy-Making Combined with a Good Understanding of the Issues and Potential Solutions

The research on effective school policies clearly indicates that policy-making is a cyclical process. A cyclical model (McCall,
1998) therefore has been used in this rudimentary analysis. As well, effective school policies cover the relevant issues as well
as potential long-term solutions. The work of Day et al (1995) has been adapted here for this purpose. This analysis includes
both school board policies as well as school-level decisions about their school code of conduct.

A Checklist and Guide for School Board Policies and School Codes of Conduct

1 Problem Formulation

A common understanding of the problem, qResearch 1.Is the problem seen as being
as well as a shared view of the role of the primarily a:
school in responding to the problem, are
needed as the foundation for the school
board policy and school codes/procedures. qFocus Groups qstudent driven problem
This phase should also provide information
on how the problem was handled in the
past, where it fits with current priorities and qNeeds Assessment qparent/family issue
what policy options are open to the school
board and school. qResources Inventory qissue for police/courts

qMeeting with agencies qa key issue for all schools? some

qMeetings with students,
teachers, parent qa problem for other agencies
qa problem for the entire community
qReview of laws, regulations,
directives, school board policies 2.Is there reliable data on the size of
the problem? (statistics on incidents,
recent surveys, anecdoted evidence,

3.Has the nature of the problem

been discussed widely in circulated
reports or documents?

2 Policy/ School Agenda

The policy issue needs to be placed on the qAdvice from a committee is 1.Was the issue raised because of
agenda of the school board and of each sought an incident?
qIssue is raised by an 2.Was the issue raised because of a
elected/appointed directive from the government or
representative school board?

qIssue is identified in goal- 3.If one group or one person is

setting, planning or priority- raising the issue, how will others
setting process react?

qThe regular, recognized

policy-making process is

3. Policy/School Code Formulation

In this phase, a broad cross-section qConsultation with police/law enforcement 1.Does the policy/school
of public and professional opinion is code include a long-term
gathered. Strengths and qConsultation with students, including at-risk vision/goal statement on
weaknesses of current policies are youth
assessed. Formal consultations qhow inappropriate
and/or surveys are undertaken. behaviours will be
qConsultation with parents, including at-risk
parents managed

qConsultations with teachers qwhat behaviour is

expected of all members of
the school community
qReview of collective agreements
qhow a peaceful school
qReview of budgets community will be
promoted and problems

qhow the overall safety of

the school/community will
be maintained

2.Does the policy/school

code ensure respect for the
principles of natural justice
and due process?

4. Policy/School Code Adoption

This is when the school board qPublic hearings 1.What is the basic orientation of the
and/or school, recognizes publicly policy/school code? (Choose one)
that the problem needs to be qReview by lawyers/experts
addressed in a positive, long-term qresponse/sanction only
manner. The decision-making
process needs to be transparent. In qLinks with school board or
addition to policy/school code goals school mission and priorities qbehavioural expectations (school
and objectives, the policy conduct/discipline only)
statement needs to address such qAdvice from an ad-hoc
topics as: representative committee on qpositive climate approach
the content of the (identification/prevention)
policy/school code
• administrative
responsibility for the qsafe school/community approach
policy implementation qAdditional support to (comprehensive promotion/prevention
and evaluation students so they can truly
• changes to staff participate 2.Does the policy cover all of the
or school roles inappropriate behaviours?
• budget needs
• inservice training ?drugs/alcohol
• curriculum needs
?threats/bullying harassment


?physical assaults


?verbal assault

?sexual assault

3.Does the policy cover the potential

sanctions and how they are to be used?

?report to parents

?additional assignments


?restitution to victim

?service to school/community

?in school suspension

?short-term suspension
?long-term suspension

?placement in alternate class

?placement in alternate school

?expulsion/placement in alternate

4.Does the policy stipulate mandatory

sanctions for some behaviour? or are
there guidelines to be followed when
school authorities exercise discretion? Is
there a process to ensure that the
meaning is understood in the same way
by students, teachers, ???? parents?

5.Does the policy cover and establish

ways to recognize positive behaviours?

?peaceful schools approach

?positive behaviour support

6.Does the policy/school code ensure

that due process, adequate right of
appeal and principles of natural justice
are respected?

7.Does the policy cover ways to identify

risks and prevent incidents?

• crisis intervention
• interagency coordination
• police protocol
• students with disorders
• school security
• early identification and
referral procedures

8.Does the policy place student

behaviour within the content of a safe
school and community?

• conflict resolution
• peer mediation
• security measures
• police school resource
• mentoring programs
• anti-racist education
• substance abuse
• parent/guardian
• community involvement

9.Does the policy stipulate aftermath

and reintegration services?

• individualized plans

• aftermath counselling

5. Policy/School Code Implementation

This phase should include qa timetable for 1.Have teachers been trained in the use
descriptions of how school board implementation is part of the of the new policy/school code?
and school departments will play a policy
role in implementing the policy of 2.How are students to be informed about
school code. Goals for involving qthe plan for communicating the new policy/school code?
parents, staff, students, police and the policy each year is part
other agencies should be of the policy
described. Strategies such as 3.How are parents to be informed about
inducements, capacity-building or the new policy/school code?
staff development should also be qa communications network
described. within the school district or 4.Will police and other agencies be
school should be established involved in the implementation of the
to support implementation new policy/school code? How?
and feedback.

6 Policy/School Code Evaluation

The policy statement or school qparticipant surveys 1.What administrative data (incidents,
code should also include: reports, etc.) will be collected to evaluate
qelectronic feedback the impact of the policy/school code?
a stipulated reporting Does everyone agree that these data
procedure for reports back to are meaningful?
qanalysis of reports,
the school board/principal documents
2.How will students be able to provide
a process to gather formative feedback? Will they be surveyed?
qregular meetings with staff
or process evaluations on policy
3.How will staff be able to provide
the criteria for the success of feedback? Will they be consulted?
qregular meetings with
the policy/school code students, including at-risk
students 4.How will parents be able to provide
a process to gather summative feedback? Will they be surveyed?
(impact) data. qregular meetings with
parents including at-risk 5.How will police and other agencies be
parents able to provide feedback? Will they be


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