Life always comes down to choices. Students often don't grasp that concept. They don't always see the choices they have. And even if they see those choices, they don't always have a firm grasp of the consequences that result from the choices they make.
I think that is why teachers and adminstrators MUST be consistent with discipline. The consequences we hand out establish a pattern of responsibility on our part to help them as they learn to see their choices with more clarity.
While circumstances sometimes dictate we deal with different students differently, we have to exercise extreme caution to come across as fair and consistent. Otherwise, we create a situation where students perceive inequities, and those perceptions can lead to much more complicated issues down the road.
Just as our students have choices, so do we as the adults in the situation. If we focus on efforts on helping our students learn to make appropriate choices, focus more on remediation of skills instead of punishment, we can guide them along their path of improvement.
Negative consequences have their place. Without negative consequences, we all would tend to slide along pushing the envelope as far as possible. Even with negative consequences, don't we tend to do that? Do you ever drive over the speed limit hedging your bets as to how far you can push it without getting stopped? Do you coast past the stop sign thinking because no one is coming, it doesn't matter? What chaos would there be if there were no rule or consequences for us as adults? Would society cease to exist or would we all maintain a balance, unspoken, but conducive to peacefulness?
ALL students need consequences, clear cut, consistent consequences. Even negative ones. Without any negative consequences, the behaviors continue or escalate. Students need that deterrent, just as we as adults need a check to keep up honest.
When we neglect to set and enforce consequences, we are setting students up for a huge reality check as adults. In the real world, students will discover consequences DO exist. Realistically, shouldn't we be preparing them for that inevitability now?