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Behavior Management Tips: Court in the Classroom


Encourage classroom behavior and an understanding of legal procedures by using a discipline court in the classroom.


Order in the Court!

Involving older students in the discipline process often improves behavior and morale. At Hudtloff Middle School in Washington State, Digna Artiles "tries" those accused of offenses against students in a classroom court. She uses the following process.

Six students are appointed as court officers. They give out tickets:

  • 1st ticket: Warning
  • 2nd ticket: Last chance
  • 3rd ticket: See you in court. (Sometimes, they receive this automatically, depending on the severity of the offense.)

The Chief, another student, keeps a running list of the tickets, writes down the specifics of each case, and then copies them onto a white board when court is convened.

Want More?

Looking for more information about how middle-school students view the court process? Read the Education World article Middle School Students Suggest School Improvements.

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On court day, the teacher is the judge. Six students comprise the jury. They ask such questions as: Who? What crime? Who are the witnesses? They also take notes, deliberate, and decide on sentences -- which must be approved by the judge. The consequences also must fit the crime. For example, if the crime is against a person, the sentence must somehow "pay back" that person; if the crime is talking in class, the consequence is isolation.

Two students are prosecuting attorneys. They defend the rights of the class as a whole. Two students are defending attorneys. They defend the accused -- if they are hired. Defendants must defend themselves if they don't make arrangements in time for an attorney, who needs time to prepare, talk with witnesses, get all the details, and so on. One student is the bailiff. The bailiff says, "All rise for the honorable Judge....," swears in witnesses, and keeps a running list of students in the audience who are talking. Those students are found "in contempt" of court and receive a ticket to appear at the following court session. The court reporter takes notes and records the proceedings.

Court is held every two weeks. All students are required to "dress for success" on court day. Otherwise, they also are held "in contempt."

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
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