By Annie Ma and Ben Finley, The Associated Press
As kids’ behavior reaches crisis points after the stress and isolation of pandemic shutdowns, many schools are facing pressure from critics to rethink their approaches to discipline — including policies intended to reduce suspensions and expulsions.
Approaches such as “restorative justice” were adopted widely in recent decades as educators updated exclusionary policies that cut off students’ access to learning and disproportionately affected students of color.
But more students have been acting out, and some school systems have faced questions from teachers, parents and lawmakers about whether a gentle approach can effectively address problems that disrupt classrooms.
The latest example came this week in Newport News, Va., where teachers complained at a school board meeting that the school system where a 6-year-old shot his teacher had become too lenient with students. Students who assaulted staff were routinely allowed to stay in the classroom, they said, because of a misguided focus on keeping them in school.
The local school board said it would take “the necessary steps to restore public confidence” in the school system.
Both anecdotally and according to federal data, instances of misbehavior have been on the rise since students returned...