OPINION: Collective punishment is unfair for disciplined students

At school, students are racing to improve, or even simply maintain, their best grades. But in some classes, academic levels and interests to excel vary between students. Nonetheless, some teachers employ the collective punishment system on students, which proves to be unfair in many scenarios.

According to the Law Dictionary, an online dictionary used for legal needs, collective punishment is “penalty applied to each member of a group regardless of a member’s involvement in the group’s actions and conduct.” But collective punishment for an entire class is definitely unnecessary for a few students talking and being disturbative.

Every student is set out to reach their own academic goal. Some may want to achieve the perfect 5.0 while others may settle for 3.0 GPA. However, that is not where the real problem lies: The distraction of students during classes — talking, laughing, or even looking at their phones — may distract those who are focusing. Therefore, it is not fair for the distracting students to affect the environment for those trying to learn. And it is definitely not fair for both groups to receive punishments collectively.

Many laws had been put in place to punish groups of people for their actions. However, the Geneva Conventions is a set of treaties that forbids collective punishment during wartime. The treaties were ratified in 1957 in the United Kingdom.

Last year, Ava Bell, an 11-year-old girl in Scotland, claimed that her school was committing a crime based on the Geneva Conventions for using collective punishment.  While answering a question from a feedback form on what her teacher could do better, Bell wrote teachers “should not use collective punishment as it is not fair on the many people who did nothing, and under the 1949 [Geneva] Convention, it is a war crime.” Her father later posted a picture of this form on Twitter on May 25 of last year. This tweet has been shared more than 150,000 times.

Although the treaties only apply during wartime, this tweet clearly displays how even students as young as 11 understand the unfairness of collective punishment. Many other students can easily relate to this as well.

Many sports coaches and advisers often punish an entire team for a single person’s mistake. Yes, it may be a “team sport.” Yes, it may teach all players to work together to fix mistakes, but players are suffering together. Since his or her team goes through the pain together, individuals may never learn from their mistakes.

Collective punishment may seem like a great way to bring students or teammates together, but it may not only hinder an individual’s personal progression and improvement, but also that of his or her classmates or teammates.