• December 2, 2023

That detention is popular does not mean it is productive or effective.

I read somewhere that some teachers consider detention, especially lunch or recess detention, to be a very effective punishment for bad behavior. Bad behavior, in any context, can mean a lot of things, and I think that this is the first problem with detention in elementary and high schools all over America.

What is the point of detention?

There is no point that I can see… But that’s just me. However, here’s an example that shows a popular point those in favor of school detention tend to bring up;

A student is not paying attention in class, which is “bad behavior” because all students should pay attention. The solution is to isolate these students, especially when their peers or friends are taking a break from schoolwork so that they can learn to pay attention in class.

That example is the point of detention. Many schools adopt detention and believe that it effectively informs better behavior in students.

Does Detention Work? (+ that One Solid Argument)

As a learning specialist, I believe in restorative justice, as in, when you create a problem, you fix it. This idea of restorative justice goes against the point of detention, which focuses on punishing offenders by making them sit and do little to nothing (i.e., punitive justice).

I actually know of quite a few students who report that they LIKE detention because it was quieter, and they could focus on their work. The fact we are assigning a punishment that does little and some kids actually LIKE is double contradictory and double ABSURD.

Furthermore, we can agree that there can be over a million reasons when a student isn’t paying attention in class. Sometimes, these reasons have nothing to do with a student trying to be bad intentionally. Matter of fact, the label of bad behavior can be a negative one-size-fits-all that does not reflect the erring student’s struggles with their learning material.

That is why detention is not effective.

It is a one-size-fits-all that may help some students (like the ones that prefer the quietness) but causes them to need to misbehave to gain the privilege. On the other hand, the punitive punishment or scar/traumatize other students (e.g., students that negatively identify with being isolated from their peers).

Replacing Detention With A More Productive Alternative

As I mentioned earlier, I believe in restorative justice over punitive justice. There are some exceptions to this rule, of course, especially when some students are incredibly aggressive and disrupting learning for other students. But even then, behavioral intervention and restorative justice seems to be a more effective and productive option then simply hiding the problem behavior in a different room. Detention is not an excellent option for correcting bad behavior in the classroom, and we should explore more productive approaches.

The whole point of adopting more productive alternatives to detention is that no teacher makes the wrong assumptions about why a student is not paying attention in class. The difference between a student who can rise above their distractions to focus more in class and a student who grows more aggressive after a series of detentions that do not address the root cause is positive rechanneling.

Students that are performing poorly or inattentive in class can use some positive re-direction from their teachers. Instead of detention, we can all keep in mind redirecting the student’s attention or finding out the actual cause for their inattention or disruption is the most effective strategy to produce positive results.

I hope this helps!

Desmond utilizes his knowledge of education policy from his undergrad, his Masters of Education from Johns Hopkins, and a variety of advanced certifications such as CHPC and LWT to construct prime academic intervention programs and homework/executive functioning support for all his students.

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