Is suspension an effective punishment tool?

Over Thanksgiving dinner, the topic of suspending students from school came up. The conversation has me questioning how effective this punishment is. It seems counterproductive to me to allow a student to essentially skip school, and I even question the legality of it when students are entitled and required under the law to attend school. Somehow, it seems like a cop out to me. Isn’t part of a good education to teach good citizenship? Shouldn’t schools be making every effort to teach students how to be a good citizen instead of just temporarily making the “offending child” go away? While I half heartedly understand the argument that school is a privilege, I also believe that we should be making every effort to have students like school and want to be there – not be sending them away when we do not know how to teach them. I have found several articles on the inequities of who is suspended and some discussion about is it really even punishment for these students (i.e. are they home alone playing video games all day?)

Last May, Los Angeles USD became “the first district in [California] to stop suspending students for ‘willful defiance’ – a subjective category that accounts for 54% of suspensions and a quarter of all suspensions across the state.” It will be interesting to watch how this affects school climates and drop out rates. Baltimore public schools are beginning to have success with a similar policy and a shift in attitude to “We take children as they are, meaning we educate all children,” and that success relies on “people and relationships.”

As we ponder whether this is an effective policy or when it may be appropriate, Carrie Kamm’s blog post can help us think about as teachers how to interact with and support students who have been suspended.

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2 thoughts on “Is suspension an effective punishment tool?

  1. I think you hit the issue on the nose when you said “I also believe that we should be making every effort to have students like school and want to be there – not be sending them away when we do not know how to teach them.” I completely agree with what you are getting at. Obviously we want to kids to come to school but why don’t we just try and make school a place that they want to be rather than dinging them for staying away from a place they don’t want to do.. Easier said that done perhaps but I think a valid point none-the-less.

  2. This is a very interesting topic, and I would definitely agree that suspension should be eliminated for ‘willful defiance.’ If we are going toward full integration of all types of students into the general classroom, why not do full integration of students with behavior issues. Wouldn’t that help students in their journey to integrate themselves into society and communities so they don’t develop large behavior issues in the future? Furthermore, suspending students probably set them back in their learning and assignments which may cause more behavior issues because they are falling more and more behind with less support to catch up because they are not allowed on the school grounds. What should we do with these students instead of suspending them so as to keep them in the learning loop?

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