To understand why respect for teachers in this country remains so low, it’s necessary to rewind the tape to the mid-Seventies (“Teachers Deserve More Respect,” The New York Times, Mar. 20). Prior to 1975, teachers were allowed to act in loco parentis. That meant they had the authority to discipline students who were disruptive for one reason or another.
But in 1975 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Goss v. Lopez that students had the right to due-process protection for even the most minor aspects of day-to-day discipline. One year later, the high court held in Wood v. Strickland that if teachers knowingly violated a student’s due-process rights they could be held personally responsible for financial damages.
It’s not surprising that once their authority was undermined, morale plummeted. I saw that when I was teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District at the high school where I taught for 28 years before retiring. Teachers at my school felt intimidated. As a result, they were reluctant to do anything that might lead to a confrontation with parents.
It was a short walk from that to near total chaos in classrooms. Students knew their new-found rights and intended to use them. We’re seeing the effects today and will continue to see them until teachers are once again allowed to exercise their authority.
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