What helps teachers punish students

The reader question

I wonder what penalties elementary school teachers are allowed to pronounce and when they are appropriate. For example, is it okay to have a second grader picked up by their parents during class because the teacher cannot calm them down? If you go on spinning: What kind of consequence would have to follow if children argue with one another or even fights break out?

The answer

If teachers punish students for misconduct, they should adhere to the "principle of proportionality", says the Bavarian Law on Education and Teaching (BayEUG). And it can be quite proportionate that a primary school child who does not abide by the rules and thus disrupts lessons for a longer period of time and despite warnings, has to be picked up by the parents.

What teachers are not allowed to do

Two types of punishment are in principle forbidden to teachers, no matter how badly a student misbehaves. One, of course, is any use of physical force. Corporal punishment in schools was abolished in the GDR in 1949 and in the Federal Republic of 1973. The latter was theoretically also true in Bavaria, but in this country a teacher was still allowed to strike heartily at the end of the 1970s. The Bavarian Supreme Court ruled in 1979 that there was a "customary right to chastise" in the Free State. A year later, Bavarian educators were finally banned from hitting as an alleged educational tool in class.

In addition, under no circumstances may teachers use grades as penalties. A grade is a performance evaluation and is only intended to show whether the student has mastered the binomial formulas or can understand a chemical reaction. If he shoots balls of paper through the classroom five minutes later, that shouldn't play a role in the grading. Especially in the case of performance surveys with less tangible criteria, such as an oral grade, it is of course difficult to check whether the teacher is not also allowing personal animosities to flow into the censorship. It is still forbidden!

What teachers are allowed to do

To "secure the education and training mandate" (BayEUG) teachers have various measures available if students do not want to adhere to the set rules; these do not differ in elementary and secondary schools. If a child misbehaves, it is first admonished, that doesn't help, the teacher repeats the admonition. Many elementary schools then use individually developed measures to give the student some time to think about it. This can be a "reflection table" or a "quiet corner". (By the way, putting a rebellious student in front of the door is forbidden. Then the teacher would violate his duty of supervision.) If that doesn't work either, teachers can take the next step: the administrative measures.

According to BayEUG, these range from a written reprimand to the final exclusion from school - and also include a phone call to the parents. "If a child is insecure, I find it perfectly appropriate to tell them, 'If you keep stopping all the other students from studying, then we have to call you at home and have your parents pick you up.' And of course to put that into practice if the threat alone does nothing, "says the long-time director of a Bavarian elementary school.