An E-newsletter on EXCELLENCE in Leadership

Administering discipline is the responsibility of the administration and the faculty. A good discipline policy begins with simple, fair, consistent, and reasonable expectations. Rules should be few and written in clear language. Discipline policies should also include the steps of due process to be followed. Administration should follow the approved policies of the school, Union, and state/province.

Discipline should be redemptive and progressive. In order for progressive discipline to be most effective, communication must take place between the school and the parents of the student involved. Remember that corporal punishment is never an option. The school board involvement is limited to expulsion hearings.

March 2018 | Volume 6, No. 7

Balancing Mercy
and Justice

Steve Baughman | Principal, Indiana Academy




 They are the two seemingly opposite ends of the scales of discipline, but as every principal has encountered, two components that must be carefully considered when sitting on a student discipline committee. While there are as many approaches to student discipline as there are principals, I believe that any discipline philosophy, if it is to be “successful,” involves developing a team of individuals committed to laboring together. Not unlike Abraham Lincoln’s famed ‘team of rivals’, I have found benefit from having a discipline committee of individuals with diverse perspectives and experiences, thus balancing voices of staff while being sure to include those who will tirelessly advocate on a student’s behalf.

Thankfully, no principal has to develop their own discipline philosophies independently; there are troves of resources available to help shape and craft what may continually be a fluid concept. I would strongly recommend that all administrators take time to reread Ellen White’s exceptional “Discipline” chapter from Education. How many times have we as principals encountered students who attempt to conceal their “discouragement and hopelessness…under an appearance of indifference and bravado”? (Education, p. 291) Or how often have parents (or even teachers and superintendents) challenged a decision to expel a student (Education, p. 293)? These issues and situations always demand careful, and prayerful, consideration that thankfully have been addressed through the “pen of inspiration.”

Balancing ‘justice’ and ‘mercy’ can be a delicate line to walk, and while I am certain that I have not always gotten it right, there are unique memories I have of a student at graduation tearfully telling me “thank you for the time you prayed with me after I came back from my suspension” and of parents telling me “I feel like we have our kid back” after asking a student to not return but also lobbying on their behalf to attend a sister school. Those are the moments when I better appreciate that God is willing to lead us through the tightrope of balancing justice and mercy as we minister to His kids.




Jim Roy | Single Subject and Graduate Coordinator,
Pacific Union College



Sometimes I wonder if I make too big a deal out of the Choice Theory thing, or if it is even a thing at all.

Doubts and stinkin’ thinkin’ seem to lurk. Yet while distracted by these temptations to doubt, I soon come back to what, for me, are unchangeable realities. These realities include:

  • God places an exceptionally high value on love and freedom.
  • He designed and created humans for free will and internally driven choices.
  • He died to redeem us, to restore us, and to preserve our freedom to choose.
  • The sanctified life is about our becoming, through Jesus, loving, powerful, and joyful self-managers.

Regardless of where my thoughts and feelings may want to take me, these truths are not going away. These are the truths that jolt me out of my occasional sulking and doubting.

Adventist schools have a tremendous opportunity and, indeed, responsibility to teach students what it means and what it looks like to be sanctified self-managers. Whether we are talking about how learning is organized, or about how classroom procedures are implemented, or about how discipline is applied when serious infractions occur, students need to be shown how to evaluate their own behavior and make choices for improvement.

For students to gain this important (eternal) life skill, Adventist schools must let go of management strategies based on rewards and retribution and instead pursue strategies based on redemption and restoration. Reward and retribution (punishment) strategies are tools for controlling students from the outside, even though humans were designed for internal control. Attempting to externally control students is like putting regular gasoline into a diesel engine. The sputtering results are predictable.

We tend to like students who comply, even if it places their ability to self-manage at risk. The prodigal son’s brother was compliant and we can see what that led to. Therefore, our challenge is to outline behavioral standards that are realistic and relevant for kids and then to artfully support them toward achieving their learning and living goals. Redemption and restoration don’t have to be words and concepts only associated with the mysteries of Bible class. Instead, they can be concepts that become very real to students as teachers and principals model the spirit of redemption and provide students with a means to on-going restoration. For instance, when we problem-solve with students do we tell them how it is going to be or do we help them effectively self-evaluate; when students get in trouble do we simply apply a punishment or do we ask them how they are going to resolve the problem?

In the book Education, Ellen White made a very powerful point when she described that “In the highest sense the work of education and the work of redemption are one…” (p.30) To this end may we each become fully-equipped self-managers and as we do, may we help our students become the same.

Jim Roy teaches at PUC and also writes a Choice Theory blog at thebetterplan.org. You can contact him at thebetterplan@gmail.com.

Five Perspectives on Discipline

 Reprinted with permission of The Journal of Adventist Education | February/March 2011

  Authoritarian Permissive Bombastic Democratic Redemptive
The Context Severity Indulgence Anger Reason Compassion
The Law Attempts to break the child's will Permits the child's will to rule Threatens the child's will Focuses on internal controls and decisions Prepares the child for moral self-government
The Will Imposes law without explanation There is no law or moral standard "The law" is inconsistently applied The law is simply a statement of cause-effect realities The law reflects the character of God
The Student Treats the student as an ornery beast Allows the student to do whatever makes him/her happy Treats the student as a little devil Treats the student as an intelligent being Treats the student as a candidate for heaven
The Message "You do it because I said so!" "Do it, if you like." "If you don't do it, I'll, I'll... you'll see!" "We do it because it makes sense." "I love you too much to let you unknowingly destroy yourself and others."
The Punishment Abundant punishment remedies all evil Abundant "love" makes punishment superfluous Punishment is the gauge that "I've had enough!" Punshiment is jointly determined with those involved Punishment is the positive message: "that you may grow."
The Metaphor The iron rod A lollipop Heat lightning that sometimes strikes A well-coached team A garden, carefully tended

I would strongly recommend that all administrators take time to reread Ellen White’s exceptional “Discipline” chapter from Education.

Newsletter Coordinator

Steve Baughman

Principal, Indiana Academy

Newsletter Editors

Berit von Pohle, Editor

Pacific Union Conference, Director of Education

Ed Boyatt, Editorial Advisor