28
Sep

We Don’t Need Group Punishment

Vlog Summary: Group punishment is still happening in some Deaf schools, in classrooms and on sports teams, even though research shows it is ineffective. Sharon Duchesneau explains how group punishment hurts those children who were not involved in inappropriate behaviors. Instead of adults expecting children to “discipline” their peers through disapproval, it is more appropriate for effective consequences to be given to those who break the rules and positive reinforcement given to those who behave well.

To cite:

Duchesneau, S. (2007, September 28). We Don’t Need Group Punishment. ASC on the Couch. Retrieved September 28, 2007, from http://www.ascdeaf.com/blog/?p=324

38 Comments
  1. TJ September 28, 2007

    Yes, I agree with you. My youngest brother experienced group punishment by cleaning the restroom for a whole week last year. A student had made a huge mess in the bathroom. Someone had reported it to the teacher. In conclusion, all of middle school kids have to clean up the mess that they did not do it. It is not right! PJ said that he felt belittled and hurt because they made him to clean up after something that he didn’t do it. This kind of situation will cause kids to lowered their self-esteem and self-confidence to able to stand up for their rights. They knew that they couldn’t speak up so they have to accept and do it to avoid more problems.

    Reply
  2. Cheryl September 28, 2007

    Hi,
    yes I do recall the times in 1970’s all kids got punished who were innocent..no matter what…but years later, they changed the system. To this day, I wish that the students did have strong minds and stand up for themselves for their rights. Yes I do agree with you 100 percent.

    Reply
  3. A Deaf Pundit September 28, 2007

    I’m so glad you vlogged about this. Peers tend to punish each other more severely than adults would. That, imho, can lead to increased bullying, and before you know it, it’s turned into a vicious cycle.

    Group punishment never made sense to me. For instance, if a student did outstanding on a paper or project, we praise that individual. We do not praise the entire class for that. We need to recognize when collectivism and individualism is appropriate.

    Thank you for raising awareness about this.

    Reply
  4. White Ghost September 28, 2007

    I agree that there is no need to have the group punishment WHEN they are in “kid’s sport programs.” Kids should learn what sports they want to play. It is a part of the education.

    However, the college-level and professional players should get the group punishment. All they want to protect themselves from the drugs and conspiracies. The reason why many colleges have their own directors of the compliance in Sports in order to protect and follow the regulations/laws.

    Unfortunately, Gallaudet University is facing several problems in Sports because they do NOT have the director of the compliance in Sports.

    White Ghost

    Reply
  5. diamond September 28, 2007

    yes that happened to my son this year already! on first day of school teacher gave the class homework and then they went to class next day, all of his class mate didnt get homework right so teacher decide punish whole class by have private lunch.. i strongly disagree with that, if all children didnt get it right, teacher didnt teach or sign clear.. my son said he felt bad for one of his class mate cuz she did longest paragraph still teacher wasn’t satisfy. and guess what! my son learned new rule today that children not allow talk at all on bus. that is at florida school for deaf.. and i have iep meeting coming on oct 8 th. I of course will object some things, wish me luck at the meeting.

    Reply
  6. The Expatriate September 28, 2007

    Group punishment serves no purpose anywhere, anytime and anyplace.

    It is like demanding a wee child to apologise for hitting another wee child in front of a group of daycare children. The only effect is horrible embarrassment and the children will not learn empathy this way.

    Group discipline is akin to corporal punishment only it’s mental/psychological.

    I truly appreciate you vlogging about this.

    Reply
  7. michele September 28, 2007

    Hi,

    I’m glad you are bringing this up. Not only some schools employ this method, some families do that as well. Like if a sibling misbehaves, the parents may decide to cancel their vacation for the whole family.

    This kind of punishment is very demeaning, oppressive and does not allow for individual remorse. I believe in communicating and discussing over why this “crime” was done, how it could be prevented, encourage people to express their feelings, and learn from one another and provide solutions. This allows people to develop more empathy and come to a common ground in solving problems.

    I hope one day, you will talk about spanking. I am against spanking but a lot of parents spank their children. It needs to be outlawed.

    Thanks for bringing this issue up.

    Reply
  8. Diane September 28, 2007

    I agree with you. It will affect their self esteem! In my own experience, I had been there too! Glad you bring this up here.

    Reply
  9. Jean Boutcher September 28, 2007

    I cannot agree more on this point. To uphold and to maintain the high standards at all schools, it is very imperative that faculty and staff members take psychology, sociology, and education courses every year in the summer. Many students are not that stupid and feel cheated, thereby having qualms about the low morale as well as losing their respect for about the low morale. My concern has it that some deaf students cannot explain their qualms because their parents do not know sign language enough to complain to the superintendent that their children have been wronged.

    I must also agree with Deaf Pundit (see above) in regard to a paper project. Teachers with an audistic attitude are wont to automatically give lower grades to deaf students and give the highest grades to students who are hard-of-hearing or hearing because — in their mindset — deaf students “must never” surpass hard-of-hearing and hearing students. (Deaf students will eventually pick up the English grammar.)

    Reply
  10. Lantana September 29, 2007

    As far as I know, “group punishment” has been OUT for at least 20 years. We did not use it at all when I was working. It was forbidden. As you mentioned, peer pressure can work much better than anything we could do.

    I myself am from the “old school”, having attended a residential school, and I must tell you that the “boot camp” mentality did a great deal to develope my character. None of us grew up to be whiners or to live off of the government.

    Reply
  11. Gary September 29, 2007

    I was a late-deafened student at The Georgia School for the Deaf, from 1972, until 1974. During those two school years, I lived in the dorm and, just like Sharon said, we were all punished, if one stepped out of line.
    It was like, every morning, when we had to clean up, if one or two students didn’t do their work, the entire dorm was punished that afternoon.

    Or, when the kids played around in class, instead of doing classwork, the teacher would punish all of us – no recess, which wasn’t fair to those, who did our work.

    Somehow it seemed that the teachers had forgotten what it was like to be a kid.

    Reply
  12. ASL Risen September 29, 2007

    Good morning Sharon Duchesneau!

    Great to see you back! I totally agreed with you that should not punish a whole group! Each individual do have different lifestyle from their home backgrounds (isolated from hearing parents and hearing sibs) including they do learn from their hearing neighbors (gangs) lifestyle that they did used cussing words. What if the student still stubborn using cussing words? How that will help the student stop using cussing words? Most jobs are looking to hire good reputuation person to work for the company. Deep sighs!

    Great vlog! Shawn

    Reply
  13. Jules NelsonHill September 29, 2007

    Hello Sharon,

    In the past, I’ve worked as a dorm employee and saw first hand the results of “group punishment” on deaf kids and did not like what I saw. So I agree with your vlog.

    Yet, when I asked my deaf colleagues why this was used the response from various colleagues all said basically the same thing: group punishment was what they knew and that it had worked for them. The individuals I spoke with mentioned that they were very close with their classmates and had a heightened sense of bonding because they all went through the same thing (i.e. group punishment). Admittedly, at the time, they didn’t understand the reason behind group punishment but they did understand very well the concept of bonding through shared experiences. It is this send of bonding that my deaf colleagues remember and treasure the memory of. I do not question that at all. What I question is something else entirely…related, yes, but different:

    In my mind, to some degree, this is also what Fraternities and Sororities also foster: group “punishment” via hazing and group “think” and projects done as a group for the sake of doing it as a group and with seemingly no other ulterior motive than to cement in pledges minds that the GROUP is more important than anything.

    My question for you, Sharon, is what is it that is so alluring to individuals who willingly accept, as adults, group “punishment/hazing”? Yes this is a rhetorical question. Let me tell you why I am so puzzled:

    I was a part of the historic 1986 Great Peace March 9-month walk from Los Angeles to Washington, DC and the consensus among my fellow Peace Marchers is that we’re forever a Family.

    To this day, it is still said that any relationship on the March that lasted a month was equal to a year’s worth of relationship development back in the day-to-day world of jobs, family and etc. For this reason, The Peace March was an incredible bonding experience. We literally lived together in tents, ate together, walked together, worked together, slept together, bathed together, learned together, did laundry together, and walked some more together: for nine-months!

    All of our decision-making occurred in Town Hall meetings utilizing a consensus-building agreement format that stressed respect for ourselves and others in turn-taking to speak what was on our minds. It meant a lot of patience in listening to everyone who wanted to speak. Granted, the consensus building we practiced wasn’t perfect, and yet 1200+ men, women and children made it across the country to a final, highly emotion-laden day at our final campsite in Takoma Park, MD that very slowly became smaller and smaller over a two-week or so period. Nobody wanted to leave. That was how powerful our bonding was.

    We had, as a group, frowned on any form of violence, including verbal expressions. We felt safe together and yet were empowered to go out in the countryside, towns and cities we walked through to do what we called “MITH”, short for Marcher In The Home. Not quite every night, but many nights we slept over at people’s homes along the way. These people came to our camp, called Peace City, at a specific time and picked up a group of Marcher’s to bring back to their home for a one-night sleepover and a chance to dialogue over the dinner table between family members and the Marcher’s guesting with them. MITH was our most successful PR program the entire 9-month walk. It was such a peaceful, respectful and bonding experience that many MITH hosts came back a second and third or more night to pick up Marchers. That bonded us with our “neighbors” as Peace City is everyone’s neighbor.

    Thus knowing that so many people bonded without any form of negativity I remain puzzled that anyone would agree to the use of hazing as a form of bonding. Group punishment, to me, is also a form of hazing. How can two such negative experiences form a healthy bonding experience? (I am assuming the bond that my deaf colleagues mentioned is indeed a healthy one. I am perhaps wrong to assume so?)

    Jules -oo-

    Reply
  14. Lantana September 29, 2007

    Thank you Jules, you know what you are talking about! I admire your input very much.

    Example: Swimming night at the local pool. ‘An incident that I recall and one that I feel good about. I was working alone one evening in the dorm. A group of deaf girls went to the local swimming pool for their weekly dunk. The girls’ pool dressing room was mostly deaf students, and the 3 hearing students that were there were all close friends. One of the hearing girls had an expensive leather jacket stolen out of her locker. Since she was with 2 other close friends, she knew it had to be one of the deaf girls and was reported immediately to the activities co ordinator. The cordinator was male, he could not search the girls, so he came to me and asked my help.

    Referring back to my own dormitory days when I, myself was a student, I went into action. I posted a notice that the dorm was CLOSED, no coming and going, no basketball game, no cheerleading, nothing, until that jacket showed up in my office. Several cheerleaders were in the group. Everyone went into a huddle. I let it be known that my office door had been unlocked and that the jacket could/should be placed in there and there would be no questions asked. No punishment would be forthcoming. We just wanted the jacket returned to the hearing girl.

    The jacket appeared in my office within a short time. I know who put it in there, but no one else did, and the subject was closed. And was not mentioned again. And from all the vibes in the dorm that night,I think a lesson was learned.

    Reply
  15. Susan September 30, 2007

    Lantana

    I am sorry to say, but I think you misread Jules’ comment. She is not supporting group punishment. In fact, she said, “Group punishment, to me, is also a form of hazing.” She discussed how hazing is negative.

    I understand that you used group punishment and it worked years ago. Because it WORKED, it doesn’t mean it was RIGHT. It is almost like some parents said spanking worked and their children stopped doing this and that after spanking. Spanking is STILL wrong.

    Another example is using torture/interrogation techniques used in wars (another form of group punishment). You know you can get anyone to confess to anything if the torture’s bad enough.

    Again, group punishment IS a form of INHUMAN treatment of people since it involves some innocent people.

    Thanks, Sharon, for speaking your mind. We certainly need to get rid of old-fashioned techniques.

    -Susan

    Reply
  16. Lantana September 30, 2007

    In a large group setting such as a dormitory, group punishment is sometimes necessary. LIFE IS NOT FAIR, remember?

    My own generation was raised in a deaf boot camp and it made us into strong, self supporting individuals. The younger generation nowdays are being brought up to be soft, clinging whiners.

    I do not believe in group punishment either unless it will solve a difficult problem and provide all involved a lesson. My solution worked, and the girls in that group will never forget it.

    How would YOU have gotten the jacket back to the rightful owner? Or would you have just let the thief keep it?

    The reputation of our whole school was at stake and I was being depended upon to solve the problem.

    Many of my former students post on DeafRead, including some of those involved in the jacket incident. Ask them.

    Lantana

    Reply
  17. Jean Boutcher September 30, 2007

    Susan,

    I am glad that you have drawn the comparisons of the group punishment and hazing. Prior to entering Gallaudet, a “BWC” Gallaudet graduate who is a former member of a sorority as well as a former editor-in-chief of The Buff and Blue was mentoring me for the entire summer. She said she broke away with the sorority and advised me not to join the sorority that teaches you and members to obey unthinkably. “They (members) have become like-minded” and have lost their individual values, including individual identities, that they previously possessed. Sure enough, a year or two ago, I read in news magazines that the torture at Abu Ghraib was the idea from one of Yale University’s fraternities, “The Skull and Bones,” instructed to the CIA employees by none other than CIA’s Director George W. H. Bush.

    Amnesty International, a member of the United Nations, condemned the Bush Adminsitration for applying — what our Sharon terms “group punishment” — at Guatemala Bay. Meanwhile, NEWSWEEK said that hazing was utterly inhuman and one of the forms of abuses. It said that hazing should, therefore, be absolved from fraternities and sororities in the USA.

    Old-fashioned, uneducated houseparents from small towns also apply group punishment.

    Not only is group punishment morally and ethically wrong, but it also is detrimental to the children’s mental health down the road.

    I hope that someday in the near future psychotherapists would help
    educate faculty-staff in schools for deaf children.

    Reply
  18. Lantana September 30, 2007

    Jean, for your information there are “no longer any “undereducated houseparents from small towns”. That might have been true 50 years ago, but is no longer.

    No one is hired for the dormitories now unless they have an education and know fluent ASL. I should know, I sat on the hiring board.

    And everyone has to attend frequent workshops and educational groups regularly if they want to keep their jobs.

    Dormitory personnel are no longer called “houseparents”. They are Student Life Counselors and are well paid if they qualify.

    If your post was meant as an insult, you know nothing about me. Wny monkey around with the unknown?

    Most people here do not even know what “group punishment” is. Comparing a well-run dormitory to a prison camp is ridiculous. Common sense prevails here. A fancy education (obviously) does not give a person common sense.

    Lantana

    Reply
  19. Jean Boutcher September 30, 2007

    Dear Lantana,

    Please rest assured that my post was not meant as an insult to anyone on the blog. No way. I have always admired you. Smile. I am glad that time has changed since the last time I visited my alma mater in the early 1970s and that dormitory personnel are currently called Student Life Couselors. The ones during my student days did not attend college. All except two had no knowledge of sign language.

    Have a great day, Lantana.

    Reply
  20. Andrea S. September 30, 2007

    I was fortunate in that, for MOST of my childhood, I was not subjected to “group punishments.” But on a few occasions I was. And it made me feel powerless and angry, because most of the time I was very well behaved–I was very rarely the cause of trouble, especially by the time I reached my teens. So in the few instances when I was punished for something some OTHER kid did, I felt violated. (I can’t remember specific instances now–only the emotions of helplessness are left with me.)

    I think if I had been subjected to group punishment all the time in all settings then eventually I might have started asking myself, “Why do I even bother to behave well if I’m always going to be punished when other people do bad things? I might as well go ahead and break the rules, especially in circumstances when I know we’re all going to be punished anyway.” I’m not sure how far I would have gone–maybe I really wouldn’t have broken the rules, but I think I would have felt increasingly resentful, probably to the point where that resentment and anger would have spilled over and burst out in other, non-constructive ways. It would have made me feel like there was just absolutely nothing I could do whatsoever to control my circumstances–like there was nothing I could do to avoid punishment because there would always be someone else in the group who didn’t care who got punished for their behavior.

    And if teachers really think that children will pressure a misbehaving peer to behave well, they’re kidding themselves. I know speaking for myself, the few times I tried to pressure someone else to behave appropriately, they just blew me off, which made me wonder why I even bothered. (In hindsight, I suppose they probably didn’t want to be seen listening to someone who they probably saw as a “goody two shoes” — kind of like bossy Hermione in the Harry Potter books, except I was usually much too shy to be nearly as bossy as her.) Also, some rule-breakers may be bullies who their peers are afraid of, so who would try to pressure them to behave appropriately? Or, conversely, they might end up being the victim of bullying from peers angry at being punished for something they didn’t do. And I don’t see how that helps anything, except to destroy their self-esteem. There must be more constructive ways to help children learn to follow rules that does not involve essentially giving children license to bully each other.

    There might well be exceptions when teachers really do need to resort to group punishment. Possibly the jacket incident was one instance (though I also agree with the people who said just because it seemed to work in this one instance doesn’t mean that it is necessarily going to be universally effective or appropriate. Even torture may once in a while produce a confession that seems to prove true upon investigation; however, most evidence seems to indicate that, in most cases, torture is very very COUNTER productive because people may be so desperate to escape torture they’ll just say anything they think their torturers want to hear whether or not it’s accurate. I think it can be a similar case with group punishment. If all you want is to get that jacket returned to the girl it was stolen from, then maybe. But if you’re trying to actually identify WHO did whatever it was you’re punishing people for, then you might end up with false confessions from innocent students who are desperate to end the group punishment.

    As for people who claim that group punishments (or hazing) can produce a sense of bonding: excuse me, but no, I can’t see how any resulting “bonding” can be in any way healthy or positive. Sharing a traumatic experience such as an Earthquake or child abuse in the same home can also produce a “bonding” experience, but I don’t see anyone suggesting that we create national disasters or child abuse just to foster national (or familial) bonding. You get too many negative psychological side effects to be worth it, and I suspect the same is true with sustained/repeated group punishment. There are far more healthy, positive ways to produce the same sense of bonding without the destructive side effects to individual self-esteem, or individual understanding of BOTH bad AND ALSO THE GOOD consequences of one’s own, individual behavior: overcoming mutual challenges, for example.

    The only context I could see allowing group punishment is if you ALSO reward the group at least as often, if not more, for the GOOD behavior of a few members of the group. But even then, I would have to question the effectiveness of that strategy in the long term.

    Reply
  21. Deaf Socrate's Trail September 30, 2007

    That is a type of collectivsm instead of focusing each individuals to develop the displine better but many places like school for the Deaf have same concept of collectivsm, not only at school, also at my work where there are very strong union they often make strict policy toward a group not individual, if so the union would accuss the managament to do favorism that is kind of displine often use collectivsm I often deal with that I despise!

    Reply
  22. Lantana October 1, 2007

    Thank you, Jean for clearing that up. I think you will find that there are many, many DEDICATED DEAF Student Life Councelors out there. And personally, I know of NO staff at my former place of employment who are not fluent in ASL. The prospective SLC go through an extremely rigid process before they are even considered.

    There is a very long and involved account that goes with all of this, which I think I will save for a blog post on my own blog when the time is right. My words, hopefully will yield a more understanding public towards residential schools for the deaf.

    ‘Kindest personal regards,

    Lantana

    Reply
  23. ASC October 1, 2007

    Hello everyone,

    Great to see the lively discussion on group punishment here. It’s clear that people have strong feelings about it.

    TJ – I’m sorry about your brother’s experience in being forced to clean the restroom. It makes me wonder how the students who actually made the mess feel – they got away with it AND they saw that others got punished along with them.

    Cheryl – Yes, it’s true, most schools today don’t use group punishment and some even ban it completely.

    A Deaf Pundit – I’m also concerned about the bullying aspect…I can just imagine a situation in which a group of students is punished and they all decide to gang up on one innocent student and bully that student into “confessing”.

    White Ghost – It is interesting to consider the differences between children’s and adults’ when it comes to group punishment.

    Diamond – Punishing a class for not doing homework correctly? Ouch. The bus situation sounds extremely controlling – makes me wonder what the adults have or have not been doing so far that resulted in their decision to ban talking on the bus. Good luck at the IEP meeting – I hope things work out. Come back and let us know.

    The Expatriate and Susan – I agree, even though group punishment might be “successful” sometimes, it’s like the old saying, “the end doesn’t justify the means”. Corporal punishment, torture, and hazing are all banned in schools for a reason…and I think group punishment (meaning punishment that involves innocent students), in the majority of cases, should fall in the same category.

    Michele – I agree, there are other effective ways to discipline children, without having to resort to group punishment or “entire family” punishment like you mentioned. Thanks for the suggestion to do a vlog on spanking – we’ll add it to our list!

    Diane – True, many things do affect children’s self-esteem, including being punished or accused unfairly.

    Jean – I do think it is important for all professionals who work with children to have ongoing training in how to work with them most effectively and humanely. I know many schools provide trainings, but it seems somewhere, the message isn’t getting out as well as it could.

    Lantana – I am really glad to know that the leather jacket showed up very quickly. In this situation, it seems that the timing worked out well enough. You had no doubt one of your girls had the jacket. Just for the sake of discussion, I have two questions:

    1. What would you have done if the jacket hadn’t turned up? How many weeks/months would the punishment go on? What if the jacket had been thrown away on the way home from the pool and couldn’t be turned in?

    2. What if it the leather jacket was stolen from a workplace by a co-worker and the boss decided that everyone had to stay at their desks for lunch from now on, no more coffee breaks, no leaving at noon for exercise, etc., until the jacket showed up? What if it never did show up? Any difference between this situation and the dorm situation?

    I am sure you have lots of insight and experience about how to handle these kinds of situations….and I would love to hear your thoughts.

    Gary – Exactly what I mean…when group punishment is given out again and again, it is a pretty obvious sign that it isn’t working. I can’t imagine if getting punished if one of my neighbors didn’t mow his lawn. I’m sure everyone on my street would object if the city decided to fine us all for the neighbor’s unmowed lawn. Why is it okay to punish children as a group? Do they have fewer human rights than adults? Something to think about.

    ASL Risen – I agree. I don’t see how it will help to punish a whole group when only a few are using cussing words, especially if they are stubborn and don’t change, like you said. Again, group punishment doesn’t even work if they students keep cussing.

    Jules – You have a good point about the role that sororities and fraternities play in encouraging group punishment. I don’t think the teachers, dorm counselors, and coaches are intentionally trying to hurt the students who are innocent. They are just making decisions based on their own experiences and what they think is right. Bonding through shared experiences, like you and your fellow marchers did, is a wonderful thing. The sorority and fraternity people are adults who made a conscious choice. They agreed to group punishment, but they could also walk out anytime if they didn’t like it, theoretically (I know some felt they really didn’t have a choice). Children in school and on teams never agreed to group punishment. They don’t have a choice. So, group punishment for adults in sororities and fraternities is one thing. It doesn’t make it right for children.

    Andrea – Thanks for sharing how you felt about the group punishments you experienced. I’ve worked with many adults who were subjected to group punishment as children. Many felt traumatized. Some had to clean feces off bathroom walls – after unknown students made messes in the bathroom. It affected them psychologically. In Lantana’s leather jacket example, it was fortunate that the problem was resolved very quickly. I am not sure what Plan B would have been, though, if the jacket didn’t turn up. Some people might resort to harsher and harsher group punishment if the first group punishment doesn’t work.

    Deaf Socrate’s Trail – Yes, important to have a balance between individualism and collectivism.

    Reply
  24. Susan October 2, 2007

    Lantana

    I am waiting for your response to Sharon’s questions. We are curious. Does silence mean you don’t know the answers or are uncomfortable to say that group punishment is not a good idea because we would scream if our boss does that to us co-workers. Why is it okay to treat children like that, but not okay to treat adults like that? I wonder.

    Reply
  25. Lantana October 2, 2007

    Susan, that tirade was uncalled for. I am at our farm on Dialup which does not work well for this type of thing. I did write a long response and then it disappeared!

    When I get back to civilization you will get a response from me. And yes, I know what I am doing, I have a great deal of self confidence and have the experience under my belt that many of you do not have.

    Sincerely, Lantana

    Reply
  26. Susan October 2, 2007

    Lantana

    I am sorry and realize my tone may be interpreted in a wrong way. I did not intend to insult you. Tirade is a strong word. It was not what I was trying to do. I was just wondering if silence means something. I shouldnt assume that everyone has access to computer all the time, but it was not necessary for you to tell people again and again that they DO NOT have experience you have. Of course, you are much older than most of us. You have more years of experience, but it does not mean younger people are dumb. I feel your tone was a bit condscending.

    Reply
  27. Lantana October 2, 2007

    Susan, you literally “stomped your foot” and let me know that you were NOT PLEASED that I had not answered questions here immediately. And if I sounded condscending, everyone who knows me can tell you I am perfectly capable of giving as well as I get.

    I have a a life and I only blog because I feel that I have a great deal to offer. Have you ever read “Tuesdays With Morrie”? There are many things one cannot learn from a book and regardless of one’s education, if the person does not have COMMON SENSE, they are crippled, their hands are tied forever.

    “The Jacket”

    The activities director who was in charge of the deaf girls at the swimming pool had a very good description of the deaf girl who swiped the jacket. He (the activities director) and I were reasonably certain we knew who the culprit was, but we had to act fast. The timeline was also in our favor. The girls, both hearing (3) and deaf were in the dressing room a very short time, so we were able to narrow everything down. We got the jacket back, our school name was not tarnished and the whole dorm unit received an education! (And we, the staff had employed common sense).

    When one works in a dormitory you absolutely MUST have the respect of the students. And you do not earn that respect by being pals. After your group get’s to know you and what to expect from you, and what you stand for, a little clowning around can be fun and will lighten up some anxious moments.

    To compare a dormitory to a prison, and group punishment to being prisoners of war, is worse than ridiculous. A dormitory is HOME, we are all sisters, and there is love and compassion in the air. For some students, the dorm was the only consistent home they ever knew. Because of this, peer pressure often works much better than anything WE can do. Do you wear a dress again and again after someone tells you that it’s ugly?

    A dormitory has a pulse. A heartbeat or a drum beat, depending on the situation at that particular time. When a good Student Life Counslor hits the floor at the beginning of her shift, she/he can feel all of these vibrations.

    One of our favorite tricks was to “call a meeting”. Everyone had to go to the lounge and if the situation was serious we would close the door to the lounge. It is amazing what a closed door can do! At no time were these students told they could not leave the room. At “A Meeting” the unwritten rule was that you were there for the long haul. To leave that room would make you look guilty.

    There were times when we failed. (Drum beat). I have one particular incident in mind. This is about a newer girl, one who had mainstreamed all of her life, a beautiful, tall svelte, intelligent young woman who’s parents were wealthy. She had beautiful clothes, class and handled herself well. Her unit was very jealous of her. Besides being new, she had no faults that any of her fellow dorm mates could see. She was “perfect” and even spoke fluent ASL. One day someone snuck into her room and CUT THE CROTCH out of some of her expensive jeans, her underwear and her swimming suit. This was someone’s way of saying to her, “Piss on you!” Horrible? Yes, worse than horrible. While we had a pretty good idea who did it, we could not be sure, there was no proof, so we let it go only after “A Meeting”. If I remember right, the school itself reinbursed the girl and her parents for the destroyed clothing.

    Our unit had a community kitchen. Each girl who used the kitchen had to sign in and out on a clipboard. More than occasionally, someone would use the kitchen, leave it a mess and vamoose. No one would ever confess. So in this situation we would close the kitchen, for a week or so to EVERYONE. *That* is “group punishment”, it is not “cruel” and it works!

    I am not here to defend myself. I lasted a long time at my job and to this day, I have former students calling me and asking for advice. They call me on the VP, lift up their shirts and show me their pregnant bellies. I feel that I did a great deal of good and I have no regrets.

    Reply
  28. ASC October 2, 2007

    Lantana – Many thanks for coming back and sharing your stories and perspective. I completely agree with you that anyone working with students in a dorm, classroom, or gym needs to have their respect. It seems to be a big problem today, with many parents, teachers, coaches, student life counselors, etc. being too permissive with their children. They don’t need to be army sargeants, but they do need to be clear and follow through with consequences consistently (maybe that is another vlog, smile).

    It sounds like you did have the girls’ respect. The “Meeting” certainly got their attention! It’s like the “Look” that some parents give their children and the children know immediately that enough is enough.

    My objection to group punishment is because the times I have seen or heard of it being used, it was always as a last resort. There were plenty of earlier opportunities to discipline students individually and take care of problems early on. Instead, things just got worse and worse, until the adults whipped out the group punishment without any warning, and included innocent students in the punishment.

    I hope that student life counselors, parents, teachers, coaches and others who work with children will learn how to be firmer and more consistent with discipline, and not afraid to give consequences from the very beginning (i.e., give a consequence for any disrespectful behaviors). This will go a long way toward eliminating last-ditch resorting to group punishment. Of course, there are always exceptions – like the Jacket story – but in general, there is more to lose from group punishment, than to gain. That’s why it has been out of practice for at least 20 years, like you said in your first comment, and also why it is banned in many schools.

    Reply
  29. allen October 3, 2007

    Sharon – Someone told me about your blog. I am inclined to agree with you since more and more schools do not allow group punishment anyway. Some schools are good at keeping up with the trend, but some schools are behind. Also, I agree because I see that you emphasize it is not good for the INNOCENT children. You were not talking about the children who are GUILTY. Correct me if I am wrong. I am sure group punishment would be good for guilty ones. I cannot support punishing INNOCENT children like you said. If we don’t know who is guilty or who is not, we have to become better detectives, I guess. Hire more dorm staff to watch them? Any ideas? I look forward to more blogs from you and your staff on different topics related to child development. I know people are always discussing HOW to discipline children for YEARS and YEARS.

    Reply
  30. B.A.D. October 19, 2007

    Hi Sharon – GOOD TOPIC!!
    In someways I agree/and disagree with your perspective.
    First of all, what if the student that is GUILTY of doing something wrong, and ALL the kids will not tell the staff/teacher that the person who did it, is guilty. I think Group punishment is reasonable?
    Then again, the kid(s) who are GUILTY of doing wrong, and everyone pointed out who did it, and knew who did it, but STILL had GROUP punishment, I think maybe, just maybe…it would make the kid who is guilty…change? Sensitivity grows within, realizing that h/she messed up and will not do it again. I believe – they become FAMILY, friends and fights (just like families) so therefore Group punishment CAN be a good, to tell the other kid to STOP and not to do it again… MAYBE just once?
    BUT then again 🙂 you’re right it would not be fair to PUNISH everyone when ONE did the wrong thing….it has its pros and cons.
    I’m just glad there are MANY school NOT doing Group punishments, if there is still group punishments upon schools, SOMETHING has to be DONE.

    Reply
  31. Lantana October 19, 2007

    VERY good post, B.A.D. You know what you are talking about!

    How many people here have worked in a group situation? Most of these peeps think, “Oh poor little kids”, when these same kids are street smart (dorm smart) and absolutely know what they are pulling.

    Young peopole today are alot more educated, thanks to t.v. And now that they know they cannot be touched, they are getting by with murder.

    “Poor little kids”, Ha! I know better than that.

    Lantana

    Reply
  32. ASC October 20, 2007

    B.A.D. – Thanks for sharing your view. Every situation is different when it comes to group punishment. Sometimes it works quickly, with little harm done to innocent parties. Other times, the harm done to innocent parties seems unnecessary.

    In your example above, just for the sake of discussion, what if none of the children felt safe telling the staff who the guilty party was? Suppose the children were afraid to tell because they feared that person or friends of that person might try to get back at them later? Of course, in an ideal situation, nobody would be afraid to tell…unfortunately, with all the bullying that goes on in schools, there is a very real fear of being bullied for “tattling” on peers.

    I agree with you that schools that do group punishments need to address other issues like bullying, giving more support to staff (many of whom may be overworked or spread thin due to understaffing), etc. LIke you, I am also glad many schools don’t do group punishments often anymore.

    Reply
  33. allen October 20, 2007

    I am a bit surprised that there are some people who still think children who are innocent should be punished with the guilty ones. I know one parent who was upset that her daughter was punished even though she was not physically at the cafeteria when the incident happened involving players fooling around with food. The child was at home. The coaches decided to punish ALL players including the child who WAS NOT at the cafeteria. I do not support that kind of punishment. The coaches KNEW who were not guilty because some of the girls were not at the cafeteria. Glad to know the majority does not support group punishment. That is a big relief.

    Reply
  34. B.A.D. October 20, 2007

    Sharon – thanks for your response.

    Like I said it has its good and bad sides with “group punishment” (to be honest – MOST part of me do not like “group punishment”).

    Your question: True, kids will not tell on another kid(s). It’s mostly kids vs teachers/staff when this happens. You’re right about the bullying/”revenge”. It would not be right to “group punish” because of that. Do teachers/staff realized that kids won’t tell on kids? Yet they go ahead and punish everyone? That’s uncalled for.

    Teachers/staff should be more responsible in understanding how kids think and try to analyze WHO they are. Like for example: you need to know and understand your clients. Teachers/staff should know how to “handle” the situation, but sadly alot of them don’t, and decide to go ahead and do “group punishment”. (Laziness? Couldn’t think of another word?)

    Reply
  35. Jean Boutcher October 21, 2007

    B.A.D. mentions “bullying / revenge” (vid. supra). Is ostracisation amongst the revenges? The reason for asking is that ostracistion
    happened at some residential schools for the deaf in the past. I do not know if it still happens in the 21st century. To experience being ostracised is detrimental to a child’s mental health down the road. The pain may last for months, for several years, or even for life. Therefore, I hope that student life counselors very keenly observe the behaviour of younger and older students to ensure that
    no one is ostracised.

    Reply
  36. B.A.D. October 21, 2007

    Interesting discussion.
    For Jean B: I looked up the word “ostracize” and am wondering if ya meant abt children being banished out of school or among friends in school? I wouldn’t allow ostracization environment among the children as it will do more damage to their well beings and self esteems. I haven’t heard this happening lately…but would like to know if it is happening elsewhere…does it? Anyone want to share this with us?

    Reply
  37. Jean Boutcher October 22, 2007

    B.A.D.

    Now that you have not heard it happen as of late, it is a good sign that the practice has discontinued. In the old days, a leader would
    make students ostracise a student by not speaking or smiling to
    her. I use “her” because it invariably happened in girls’ dorms,
    not in boys’ dorms. I see that the dorm life in residential schools has been much better attributed to the well-educatedness of student life counselors who are opposite to the ones called “houseparents” whose mentality was very paternalistic.

    Reply
  38. Sarah November 6, 2012

    Interestingly enough, I have a friend who likes to often apply group responsibility to things like polluting the environment. I told him that was like group punishment for a collective in a classroom. He of course did not get the point.

    Reply

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