Sociological System: The Crime of Punishment

In many of the cases in how we treat bullying, the root cause of the issue is not addressed and we are left to punishing students for their behavior. This not only doesn’t help anyone; it actually makes things worse. In the cases of treating bad behavior with grounding, detention, isolation (like suspension or expulsion), the behavior typically worsens and it actually pushes students into a further state of becoming a bully/target or even a worsened state of mental health.

The elements here would be a bit more abstract. Rather than speaking in terms of students or bully –> target, I believe it is better to speak in terms of our actual system of punishment. So, in the way that I’m framing it, the elements are the action and the treatment. The interconnections are shown in the diagram below:


We need to be looking at how we can achieve that green box and stay out of the orange ones. In order to break the loop, we have to change something about the way we handle punishment within schools.

Some may be thinking, well, bullying is simply a part of foundational education; it happens. However, students who are subject to reprimand are known to be put back in detention and other forms of punishment, and this is part of the school-to-prison pipeline: students believe anything they do will result in them failing, so they change their behavior to purposefully do things that result in some kind of recognition, even if it is bad. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Additionally, this idea can be expanded to look at our criminal justice system. Statistics show that people who are jailed once are more likely to return to jail. This means that rather than–to put it generally–improving their quality of life, these people are continuing to commit crimes. Altogether, we are creating a cyclical system.

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