Teachers Call for Stricter Discipline Policy

Evy Nigh, Staff Writer

After freshman and former West Shore student Megan Miles started attending Eau Gallie High School, she witnessed students directing obscenities at teachers, complaining about work and refusing to participate in class.

“One of the first things I noticed was how little respect most kids showed for the teachers, straight to their faces too,” Miles said. “I didn’t realize how      well-behaved West Shore students were until I came here.”

From her experience at both West Shore and Eau Gallie, Miles said she believes the behavior of West Shore students is different due to their academic drive.

“I think they act differently towards teachers because it’s a totally different environment,” Miles said. “Some kids at Eau Gallie don’t seem to care much about their education, so they don’t even try to participate in anything related to school.”

English teacher Adrienne Gent, who previously worked at Central Middle School, said she saw the same disrespect 30 years ago that Miles sees today.

“I taught at Central for seven years and loved it, but the discipline issues from thirty years ago are like what you are seeing now,” Gent said. “There were pretty severe discipline problems. Kids acted inappropriately on all levels. There was also crime, violence and physical and verbal disrespect toward teachers.”

Gent said the issue of discipline lies with the parents of these students.

“West Shore is such a great model of a school because it shows what parent involvement creates,” Gent said. “Yes, we have good teachers, but to me, our secret recipe is the families being the backbone of the kids. It comes down to the child having respect for the parents because then they’ll behave for the teacher.”

She said the consequence of parents being uninvolved is a complete lack of respect for authority.

“When I was growing up, kids would get spanked,” she said. “Now, you can’t even embarrass a kid. They think no one can 


do anything to them, and if the parents are completely unplugged, they have no fear of authority all together.”

Since COVID-19, teachers nationwide have noticed a dramatic increase in disrespect from students, including Eau Gallie principal Jeremy Salmon.

“I would say all schools face this issue to some degree,” Salmon said. “EGHS is no different; we have seen an increase in this behavior since COVID. The expectation of student behavior and academic performance is vastly different here than at a middle school or even an elementary school,” Salmon said.  “Students’ coping skills for adversity and or conflict were lacking. Many students have struggled with that transition; last year was difficult.”

Teachers have argued the disciplinary system is too lenient, especially after a 6-year-old boy purposefully shot his teacher at a Virginia elementary school. Administration was alerted three times about this student, who possessed a handgun and made threats, but faculty did not act on it. The teacher, 25-year-old Abigail Zwerner, said the shooting was entirely preventable and is now intending to sue the school district. The Newport News Public Schools school board said it would take the “necessary steps to restore public confidence” in the school system.

The Brevard County School Board is seeking to identify issues with past incidents and procedures and will create new policies and procedures to address the concerns they uncover. Traditional discipline that was once revoked because of racial inequities is now being reconsidered. Salmon said the more lenient discipline style created confusion.

“Two superintendents ago, we had a superintendent that brought in a discipline plan model from Broward County, which involved multiple levels instead of a standard policy,” Salmon said. “It caused more confusion on how to treat certain offenses. Since then, a lot of administrators erred on the side of not being too strict, which sent mixed messages.”

Gent said she is uneasy about the thought of something not being done about discipline in schools.

“Eventually, the problem will continue to grow and the police are going to have a big problem on their hands because the kids have most likely not been disciplined at all,” she said.