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Coin Flip Discipline

As an administrator, I am faced with several student disputes in a normal day. My job at that point is to listen to both sides of the story, and try to steer the two sides to a peaceful resolution of the problem. If the dispute persists, I then try to determine who the aggressor is, and discipline that person to discourage him/her from starting trouble again. In most cases, it is easy to determine who the aggressor is… But what happens if both parties are the aggressor?

I was faced with this very situation recently. Two students (whom I’ll call “Lucy” and “Ricky”) became involved in a nasty give-and-take that lasted for weeks. The two students were involved in a boyfriend/girlfriend scenario that ended badly… Now they live for nothing else except to bother, irritate, and upset the other. To make matters worse, they had several classes together… And drove their teachers crazy with their antics.

After the same episode played itself out several times, I decided to take a fresh approach to the problem. Instead of spending an hour or so listening to each student give his/her side of the story, then trying to figure out who was at fault this time… I invented a new way of dealing with the ongoing dispute. I called both Lucy’s and Ricky’s parents, and asked if I could implement “Coin Flip Discipline”.

I explained to each set of parents my reasoning, and that this solution is my “last resort”. Both sets of parents were also sick and tired of dealing with the problem, so they happily agreed to my solution.

Remember, do not try this at home unless you have the blessing of BOTH sets of parents! You will get yourself into big trouble if you don’t have the parents’ approval.


When the two students are sent to the office, I pull a coin out of my pocket, and flip it. If it lands on “heads”, Lucy goes to our In-School Suspension room for the remainder of the day. If the coin lands on “tails”, Ricky spends the rest of the day in the In-School Suspension room. I explain this to the students, along with the warning that the coin has no memory… It is possible that the coin could land on tails four times in a row, meaning that Ricky would be in ISS four consecutive times, for example.

Coin flip discipline has been a great success! Instead of having to deal with Lucy and Ricky every day (sometimes several times in a day), I have not seen either of them in the office for three weeks! Lucy and Ricky have been overheard by their teachers working together to make sure that they are not sent to the office, where they face a 50/50 chance of spending the rest of the day in ISS. Now, they are not best friends forever by any stretch of the imagination, but they have found the motivation to work out their differences themselves instead of bringing me into the mix. Lucy and Ricky’s parents have thanked me for my innovative solution to their problem, and they will be more likely to support me if I have to discipline their child in the future…and that’s our goal, right?

Remember, this solution should not be used for ALL disputes, just ones that are ongoing and show no signs of letting up. Also remember that the parents need to be on board before the coin is flipped. But, when the time is right… The coin can be your friend!!

– Shannon Holden