Do School Suspensions Stop Bad Behavior?

Family/Kids, Relationships

school suspension1California students were suspended more than 700,000 times over the 2011-2012 school year. In May, the board for the Los Angeles Unified School District decided things were getting out of hand, passing a resolution to ban suspensions for “willful defiance” punishment.

“Willful defiance” offenses include: bringing a cell phone to school, public displays of affection, truancy, or repeated tardiness. These accounted for nearly half of all California suspensions issued last year.

Mounting research suggests that out-of-school suspensions put students on the fast track to falling behind, dropping out, and going to jail. Some groups are suspended more than others, putting suspensions under further scrutiny.

School Suspension: Helping or Hurting?

Studies conclude that suspending students from school seems to do more harm than good — and it doesn’t make schools any safer. The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that, “Children who are suspended are often from a population that is least likely to have supervision at home,” yet, “Children most likely to be suspended or expelled are those most in need of adult supervision and professional help.” According to “Out of School and Off Track” (a report from the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles) even being suspended once in ninth grade doubles the chance a student will drop out That raises the risk to 32 percent from 16 percent–the dropout rate for students who are never suspended. For students suspended two or more times, the dropout rate is 49 percent. The report shows that race, gender, and disability seem to have something to do with suspensions, as 36 percent of all black male middle-school students with disabilities have been suspended at least once. In the Fairfax County school district in Virginia, 40 percent of all discipline cases involved students with disabilities, despite their making up only 14 percent of the student population.

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

Obviously, giving a kid a free day off of school seems hardly like a punishment (especially when punishing for truancy). Furthermore, falling behind in one’s studies is sure to send a student on the path to further academic detachment. Understandably, there is a temptation to remove disruptive students from the classroom to help others learn, but this leaves the punished ones at home, probably unsupervised and likely to cause more problems. As an alternative punishment, many schools hold in-school suspension during lunch hours, after school, or on Saturdays, although this makes more work for already-stretched school staff members.

The Legal Ramification of School Suspensions

With far too many suspensions happening for trivial offenses, many schools are throwing out suspensions for “willful defiance”–and with fantastic results. Schools who have lowered their suspensions have seen astounding increases in their number of graduates and kids accepted to college. With a bill that would restrict the use of suspensions for willful defiance  in the California, more improvement is likely to follow.