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Is Suspension Ever a Good Punishment?

Sep 16, 2011

When students misbehave or break the rules, some schools resort to suspending them to show that such behavior will not be tolerated. Does suspending students actually teach them a lesson or is it only hurting them in the long run?

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By Jessica Lyons

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Suspension a Popular Punishment

It seems that schools aren't shying away from using suspensions as a form of punishment. A recently released reported examined the use of suspensions in Texas public schools for students in seventh to 12th grade and found that, of close to one million students, about six of every ten had been suspended or expelled once if not multiple times while in those grades.

As another example, research has shown that the use of suspension in New York City public schools has been on the rise in recent years. While there were 31,493 students suspended during the 2003-2004 school year, that number has been increasing each year and by the 2008-2009 school year 73,943 students were suspended. The length of suspensions has also increased. Of the 2008-2009 suspensions, 20% were for at least a week, whereas only 14% of 1999-2000 suspensions were for that length.

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Causing More Problems Than it Corrects

While suspending students might be meant as a deterrent, some research has shown that this form of discipline might instead lead to even more problems. The Texas-focused report 'Breaking School Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Related to Student Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement' found that of all the students suspended, 31% ended up repeating at least one grade while ten percent dropped out of school.

Suspensions can also force students to miss their classes and result in them falling behind in their work. Not being present for classes could mean they don't understand all of the material being taught and that their grades will end up suffering. This just punishes students even further as they possibly face long-term problems from having been suspended.

Alternatives to Suspension

According to The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment's TeachSafeSchools.org, there are several alternatives schools can consider before resorting to suspending students. First of all, schools can call the student's parents or request a meeting with the parents to get them involved in correcting the problem.

Schools could also have the students attend detention either after school or during their lunch break, which means they won't have to miss their classes to serve out their punishment. Students could also be required to attend school on a Saturday. Other recommendations include not allowing students to participate in school-related activities or having them perform community service.

Alternatives such as these can serve as forms of discipline for unruly students without making them miss out on their education. By trying out these options first, schools might be able to correct the problems and save suspension as a last resort form of punishment.

Some schools in Kansas are using online courses to target potential drop-out students.

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