Justice can look many different ways. In this post, we will look at three different forms of justice procedural, substantive, and negotiated. In particular, we will look at how these different forms of justice work within the classroom.
Procedural justice means that the disciplinary power of the teacher is only used within the constraints of the policies and rules of the school. For example, most schools do not allow corporal punishment. What this means is that a teacher who makes the decision to spank a student has violated what is considered to be an acceptable process for discipline within that school.
Procedural justice also has to do with maintaining fairness. In other words, rules cannot be randomly enforced based on a teacher’s mood. When teachers are not consistent in the application and enforcement of rules it gives the appearance of unfairness and injustice to the students. When this happens it can trigger even more undesirable behavior from students.
However, everyone has their moments of inconsistencies, including teachers. Therefore, when a teacher makes a mistake in procedural justice it is wise to acknowledge the mistake and make efforts to correct the misstep. Doing this will help students to maintain faith in a system that when it makes mistakes it tries to correct them.
Substantive justice is the unequal impact enforcing rules has on different groups. A common example of substantive justice in the classroom is the disproportional amount of trouble males and minorities get into within the classroom.
Dealing with race and gender are both highly controversial topics. Therefore, teachers must be careful to be aware of these two demographic traits of their students. The perception of differences in justice due to substantive differences in demographic traits could lead to serious accusations and headaches.
Negotiated justice is the process of how justice is discovered and carried out. A practical example would be a court trial. During the trial, the truth is sought so that justice can be delivered. In the classroom, there are many different ways in which teachers uncover what to do when it is time to administer justice.
For example, in some classes, a teacher will have both parties sit down and discuss what happened. In other classes, the students may be sent to the office to work out their disagreement. If the teacher witnessed what happened, there may be no questioning at all.
The ultimate point here is that a teacher needs to be aware of how they go about determining guilt and innocence in their classroom. At times, the emotions of teachers will overwhelm them and they may make just or unjust decisions without knowing how they made their decision. Naturally, we want to avoid unjust decisions but no matter what decision was made it is important to be aware of how the decision was developed.
Teachers must be careful with how they deal with justice in their classrooms. There is always a danger of being accused of oppression when you have power and authority over others. Awareness is at least one way that this problem can be avoided.