New York, NY- Before 1965, there were only a handful of legal challenges in which schools were taken to court over their disciplinary procedures. Since then, there have been more than 1,500 cases in which a school’s right to discipline students was contested and considered in U.S. appellate courts. This dramatic turnaround has made school discipline more difficult than ever before and undermined the quality of public education, argues New York University Professor Richard Arum in his new book, Judging School Discipline: The Crisis of Moral Authority (Harvard University Press).

Arum will launch the book at a book-signing event on the NYU campus (246 Greene St., Room 300) on Monday, Sept. 29 at 3:00 p.m.

In the book, Arum and his colleagues examine every court case involving student discipline through 1992. Through their analysis of both court cases and several decades of nationally representative data on students and schools, Arum shows a striking relationship among court decisions, disciplinary practices, and student outcomes. Judging School Discipline represents the first significant empirical study of the impact of legal cases on these aspects of education.

“Clearly, just the threat of lawsuits restrains teachers and administrators from taking charge in their classrooms and schools,” said Arum, chair of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department in the Professions at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education. “Rather than reaffirming civil liberties, litigation has prevented schools from enhancing educational opportunities for all.”

In addition, Arum and his colleagues note, schools are responsible for more than the cognitive development of their students. They also play a critical role in shaping individuals’ attitudes and social dispositions.

“When the American public thinks about what is wrong with contemporary public schooling, they are struck by the failure of public schools to provide institutional encouragement for the proper socialization of youth,” Arum said. “When middle class parents remove their kids from public schools and place them in private schools, they are often as much concerned with how public schools fail to provide school climates conducive to socialization as they are troubled by the rate of learning that occurs there.”

A former teacher in the Oakland, Calif., public schools, Arum has done work in the sociology of education, social stratification, and the sociology of organizations. He has co-edited, with Irenee Beattie, The Structure of Schooling: Readings in the Sociology of Education (McGraw-Hill, 2000). His co-edited The Resurgence of Self-Employment, with Walter Mueller, will be released by Princeton University Press in the spring of 2004.

EDITOR’S NOTE The Steinhardt School of Education prepares students for careers in education, health and nursing, communications, and the arts and to serve as a source of continuing education for working professionals who seek career advancement and enrichment. On the graduate level, specialized training is offered within the context of one of the country’s leading centers of research. The school is also a center for research and community service, especially committed to activities aimed at improving the urban environment.

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