Opinion: The Downsides of Collective Punishments

We all remember those times in elementary school when we were forced to spend our recess inside with our heads down and the only sound filling the room was the laughter and screams coming from the kids outside enjoying their recess. That same feeling follows us through middle and high school with collective punishments. But when it comes to certain situations, are they really fair for the students doing the right thing? 

Single graded group projects are part of the pain. When grades depend on peers who sometimes do not put into consideration that their procrastination is what hurts us, it can cause one student to do all of the work. The purpose of group projects is collaboration.

Another example is the bathroom restriction policy. There are 42 minutes of class, and students are not allowed to go to the bathroom in the first and last ten minutes of class. That leaves only 25 minutes where students are not able to go to the bathroom, including the time it takes to get to class. 

With the long line, the fact that most classes have to use the bathroom and the common problem of never needing to use it when allowed, there are so many situations like these that prove this rule to be just plain dumb. 

To a more extreme situation, the previous hazing incident at Damascus High School now results in all MCPS locker rooms being locked at certain times during lunch, before and after school. Although for safety, this inconveniences students involved in after school activities that have used the locker rooms to change. There are only so many bathroom stalls that they can use to change in, and with multiple sports going on, there just is not enough room for everyone. 

This system also seems to pin students against each other. Not only are students mad at the punishment they have received, but they become annoyed at the classmate that made it happen in the first place. Especially if it happens consistently, classroom tension rises, which creates an unfriendly atmosphere. 

So if collective punishments are out of the question, what other options do teachers have? Well, the obvious answer is to make severe punishments for only the students that misbehave. Give zeros to those who procrastinate on group projects. Call the cops on the next kid who arranges another hazing incident. In classrooms, teachers can start to make lessons more engaging since there would not be as many punishments to hand out if classes were more interesting.

The original intentions were good: protect students and create controlled classroom environments. But in certain situations, it seems unnecessary and even pointless to subject all students to the same discipline when only a few are deserving. It is not always reasonable to do. But if collective punishments were used in only necessary situations, it would only then be fair to students. Just because they are the easiest punishment for teachers does not mean they are the fairest punishment for students.