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January 25, 2012

State board wants major reduction in suspensions

The state board took the first steps yesterday to propose a significant change in the way school districts discipline students. They want schools to stop suspending students for non-violent offenses. So the student who comes to school with alcohol or talks back or cheats would not be suspended. One administrator suggested that if a student painted a swastika on the classroom window of a Jewish teacher, that teacher might see it as violence. But Jane Sundius of the Open Socity Institute noted that perhaps that was a great example of why out of school suspensions don't work. If the student is sent home for a day, he learns nothing about the Holocaust, and nothing about why that teacher might be angry or hurt. But if the student has to spend a Saturday at the Holocaust museum, perhaps he learns just how offensive his behavior really is. Many school teachers and administrators will disagree with the new suspension proposals. Some of them have already been expressing their views at the bottom of the story on the website. I would like to hear a debate on the blog about the pros and cons of this proposal. In particular, I would like to hear from teachers who were in the classroom before Columbine and before zero tolerance policies. How often were students sent home for more than a day and what were the most serious non-violent infractions? Did assistant principals and principals find other ways to discipline students? Did students write letters to their teacher when they were disrespectful? Did they stay after school? I would also like to hear from private school teachers. Are 8 percent of students in private schools suspended every year?

 

Posted by Liz Bowie at 2:52 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Around the Region
        

Comments

I think finding alternatives to suspension is a great idea and it works IF you have the manpower and the resources to pull it off. Right now it seems the policy is, "We can't suspend him/her so oh well go back to class."

I teach in Balt County & I believe suspension should be a last resort except for acts of violence. We use an "in-school suspension" as a step before suspending. Students come to school, but they don't travel from class to class with their peers, not even to the cafeteria for lunch. Instead, they stay in a room all day (covered by a teacher) and do work all day. For most students, it is quite a deterent.

There are some offenses that merit suspension. However, alternative measure that can address and remediate the behavior in school would be better for most situations. Unfortunately, as Steph pointed out, there is nothing in place. Disruptive students are sent back to class to continue, and often escalate, the offending behavior. Other students get the message that there are no consequences for poor behavior and, therefore, will misbehave themselves. This has made teaching far more challenging because children get the message that they can do as they please, so why should they listen to teachers?!

There are other strategies in some schools such as the Baltimore Curriculum Project schools: City Springs, Collington Square, Hampstead Hill and Wolfe Street. Behavioral expectations are clearly taught. When anyone makes a mistake (student or adult) the involved parties come together and together devise solutions. This is callled restorative pracitices.

@Muriel
Are you really going to compare charter schools with waiting lists, extra staffing and per-pupil spending that is close to $10k to public middle and high schools with enrollments that can exceed 2000 kids?? It would be great if all schools had extra staffing to sit down and have lengthy conversations with kids about the proper ways to act in school. ALL schools teach behavioral expectations, but when you have to educate the masses you don't have the option to kick the bad kids out. What we need is "Restorative Parenting" - by the way I love the "feel-good" lingo.

As previously stated, in-school suspension is a fine temporary fix, but the sooner that we all embrace the fact that some kids need permanent alternative options the quicker we can get to real solutions and meet the needs of students.

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