Fights, bullying, and ensuring equitable discipline are huge issues today. We need to empower students to do the right things. Students reflect their current environment. If they feel less connected to school, they probably will engage in negative behaviors.

Of course, students need to know that fighting and bullying are not tolerated. However, we need to be mindful that students have been in and out of the classroom for months. Some have not done well on returning to school. Social media makes bullying and student interpersonal issues ever-easier to spread.

So how to address these issues? Fighting, bullying and equitable discipline are connected. Students need to be empowered to do the right things. Empowerment is real, but students need to believe it's real. They need to have a connection to school and know that it will help them toward their goals and dreams.

We know that punishment does not work from educational and psychological research. Isn't it better to teach the right behaviors in school, at home, and in the community? I have seen Gwinnett judges recently speaking about their different approach for young people in their courts. Gwinnett's judges are making an effort to keep young people on track and out of jail.

When a former student gets involved in a court case, they cannot get a job, apply for a student loan, or further their education. They are stuck until the case is resolved.

If the courts are trying not to over-punish, why can't schools? Equitable discipline for all students should be a cornerstone of our community-mindedness as an organization. The school to prison pipeline is real, and we shouldn't want any student's potential to be wasted.

Let's look toward the future, do the right things as a school system, and help students do the right things.