Detention is Ineffective Discipline

Schools use detention as a form of discipline in an attempt to promote responsible behavior. The premise is that punishment redirects irresponsibility.

When giving public seminars, I often ask how many of the attendees were in schools that had detention. Most attendees raise their hands. I then ask how many find that very often the same students are serving detention.

Inevitably, the same hands go up. I then comment, “Doesn’t that say something about the ineffectiveness of detention?”

Perhaps the best paragraph I have read on the issue is from LouAnne Johnson in her book, “The Queen of Education.”

Using detention as a catchall cure for student misbehaviors is like using one medicine for every physical ailment. We would not expect a single prescription medication to cure a cold, flu, broken bone, ulcer, headache, heart attack, and cancer—yet we expect one punishment to address tardiness, aggression, bullying, emotional illness, inattention, fear, anger, laziness, excessive talking, defiance, child exuberance, alcoholism, daydreaming, forgetfulness, profanity, truancy, immaturity, drug abuse, cheating, lying, stealing, and extortion among schoolchildren. (page 65)

It’s clear that detention does not serve its intended purpose. Implementing “Guided Choices”—the third phase of the Raise Responsibility System—by ELICITING a procedure or consequence from young people to help themselves become more responsible is such a simple and commonsense approach that one wonders why, in the 21st century, schools are still resorting to such counterproductive discipline approaches as detention.