Lincoln High School principal on compassion and punishment: a bigger bat may hurt a student, but hurts a community more

Lincoln High School graduated 57 students this year. Four years ago, 12 students graduated.


Jim Sporleder, principal of Lincoln High School, has led his staff to take a compassionate approach to student discipline. Even though the results — an 85% drop in suspensions — have proven themselves, some people still think a bigger bat is the solution to behavior problems. In the following essay, Sporleder compares the punitive approach, which he used for years, with the compassionate approach to student discipline.

Max Carrera, a school board member, made this comment after Lincoln High School’s graduation ceremonies: “Historically our school system, like many others, do very good work in educating the traditional student (two parent, middle to upper income, white). Where we can do much better is in serving the kids who don’t have a family support system or financial means to succeed in such a system. Serving on the school board allows me to advocate for the kids who don’t have that support. I was raised by a single parent, lower income and was in a fair amount of trouble in school growing up. In fact, I barely graduated. Yet, this year as president of the board, I handed out hundreds of diplomas at our high school graduation. So there is hope that sometimes we (the school system) lose site of. The staff and Jim at Lincoln provide hope to kids of all colors and socio-economic backgrounds, including many who have been told by their own family, schools and society that they are ‘hopeless’ and ‘worthless’. So when I say we are blessed to have Jim and his staff, I really do mean it.”

 A Compassionate Approach to Discipline

By Jim Sporleder

Before I learned about how toxic stress impaired a student to problem-solve or to take in new knowledge, I disciplined students in what I thought was a respectful approach. I took time to listen, I shared with the student why his or her behavior was

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