Classroom and Student Management Systems in Public Schools

Urban/public school systems have adopted disciplinary policies that have “normalized” suspensions, yelling, and various scare tactics as a way to manage and discipline students. Todays public school system has created a climate of systemic and institutionalized racism, classism, and bias. In a place where students should feel safe and nurtured they are instead being treated as criminals. To fix the problem we have created for our students in the public school system we must examine and start a conversation about a couple things.

  Examining the Problem and Starting a Conversation:

 What Do We Look At and How Do We Do It?

 -  Where it all started: The history of urbanization and industrialization in the public school system.

 - Where does the problem lie?

- Connecting these problems to the real world through experiences.

- Possible solutions and best practices to allevate the problem.

  Where it all started:

  The history of urbanization and industrialization in the public school system.


During the 1800's the United States education system underwent massive changes. During this time period the country shifted from a predominantly agrarian society to an industrialized economy. This shift called for increasing numbers of workers to be educated and trained for a factory setting leading to assembly line education. Schools acted as assembly lines producing a skilled labor force for the new industrialized economy. Adding to the industrialization of our society and economy was a dramatic shift in demographics. Our nation saw an influx in a more racially, religiously, and ethnically diverse population of children. Urban and rural areas saw increases in student populations. The decentralization of schools to meet the growing number of students further reinforced racial, religious, and class privileges within the system. Effects we are still seeing today. 

  Where does the problem lie?  

There are a number of factors that effect classroom and student management systems in public schools. The most prominent being race and class. To understand why class and race effect our approach to classroom and student management we must first examine how each factor is effecting our students and our beliefs. To put the problem into context and perspective we will analyze statistics and research on the policies/practices within schools that further fuel systemic and institutionalized racism, classism, and bias within our public education system. 


According to the U.S. department of Education of the 49 million students enrolled in public schools in 2011-2012:

  • 3.5 million students were suspended in-school;

  • 3.45 million students were suspended out-of-school;

  • 130,000 students were expelled 

People of color make up 40% of the student population but only 17% of the teacher workforce.

On average, teachers in high-minority schools were paid $2,251 less per year than their colleagues elsewhere.

Districts that reported expulsions under zero-tolerance policies, Hispanic and black students represent 45% of the student body, but 56% of those expelled under such policies.


Students who receive free school lunch are at increased risk for school suspension (Skiba et al.,1997; Wu et al., 1982).

According to a study done by Vanderbilt University high achieving black students are half as often placed in gifted programs as their white peers with identical math and reading achievement scores. However that gap is narrowed significantly when the black student has a black teacher. They are three times more likely to be assigned to gifted programs.  

A study done in 1991 by Brantlinger showed that when interviewed about school discipline adolescent students from both high and low income residential areas agreed that low income students were unfairly targeted by school disciplinary sanctions. They also agreed that there appeared to be differences in the types of punishments given to students of different social classes. While high income students often times reported receiving mild and moderate consequences ( teacher reprimand and seat reassignment), low income students reported receiving more sever consequences ( yelled at in front of class, made to stand in the hall all day, search personal belongings). 

Research conducted during the last decade has shown that teachers consistently differ in their treatment of students in inner city versus suburban schools (Leacock, 1969)

Connecting these problems to the real world through experiences.

"A school where I taught once faced the dilemma of how to deal with a sixth-grader who took a few bucks from a teacher’s classroom. Like the incident in South Carolina, the school felt the police were better prepared to deal with this problem. As a result, two officers showed up at the classroom to ask the 11-year-old kid to step out. In the hallway the student was interrogated and handcuffed, then escorted outside of the school into a patrol car and taken to a juvenile delinquent center."

 Excerpt from: Why Many Inner City Schools Function Like Prisons; By, Alan Singer

In 2015 video that has since gone viral depicts deputy Ben Fields, a South Carolina school resource officer, grabbing a female student from her desk and dragging her across the floor after she reportedly refused to leave class.

A Louisiana school district kicked a student who practices the Rastafarian faith out of school for wearing dreadlocks in 2014. He was able to return after the American Civil Liberties Union came to his defense. 

  Possible solutions and best practices to allievate the problem.
When addressing the problems teachers and students face when dealing with classroom and student management in our public schools. It is important to first recognize our own bias and mindset relating to students of different cultural backgrounds. Teacher training in classroom managment skills, appropriate rules adequately communicated to students, and the support of mental health staff and adminstration can all assist in developing a more supportive classroom environment (Bullara, 1993)
There are a number of strategies that can be employed in the classroom that are both non-discriminatory and engage students in learning. One such strategy being restorative justice. The idea of restorative justice is to bring students together in peer-mediated small groups to talk, ask questions, and air their grievances.
























The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education: David B. Tyack
An Overview on Urban Education: A Brief History and Contemporary Issues

Kristine J. Massey, MA Amber S. Warrington, MA Kathlene A. Holmes, MEd

The University of Texas at Austin

Volume 2, Issue 2, pp. 173-183 (2014) Available online at


Schools’ tough approach to bad behaviour isn’t working – and may escalate problems

By, Anna Sullivan


Why Many Inner City Schools Function Like Prisons

By, Alan Singer


The Color of Discipline: Sources of Racial and Gender Disproportionality in School Punishment. By, Russell J. Skiba, Robert S. Michael, Abra Carroll Nardo, and Reece L. Peterson


Educational Differences Between Inner-City Classrooms and Suburban

By, Jamie L. Machik


Classroom Management for Urban Teachers Lessons from Films and Real-Life Experiences By, Krystal N. Heard


A Tale of Two Teachers | Melissa Crum | TEDxColumbusWomen


Why American Public Schools Are Failing Students AJ+




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