Alternatives to Out-of-School Suspension

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

This lesson will review alternatives to out-of-school suspension that reinforce positive behavior modification. Best practices in generating alternatives to out-of-school suspension will be discussed and summarized.

It Happened to Me!

I remember it like it was yesterday. The holiday break was just a few short weeks away when I received a call from school. My 14-year-old son who had started the ninth grade that summer, was being suspended for fighting. I couldn't believe it! I was an educator, how could such a thing happen? The assistant principal informed me that he could return to school three days later after serving his suspension.

It wasn't until after I arrived home that the true impact of an out-of-school suspension dawned on me. After telling me about a typical teen scuffle which was rather minor and already over and done with, my son expressed that it was nice to have a three day break from school! Surely, this was not the outcome the school had in mind when delegating this consequence?

Effectiveness of Out-of-School Suspension

The effectiveness of out-of-school suspension as a student disciplinary measure has been a long debated topic. Research suggests that out-of-school suspension leaves a lot to be desired in having positive, long term effects on students. As a matter of fact, there is a downward trend for using out-of-school suspension and expulsion as a regular disciplinary measure, and a tendency towards viewing them as a punishment of last resort, or an action mandated by law.

It has been estimated that almost four million students serve out-of-school suspension on an annual basis. Although it remains a frequently used disciplinary approach, alternatives are being implemented because the effects of suspension on student behavior and the school environment are primarily negative. Research has shown that schools which rely on out-of-school suspension as a primary disciplinary method have more hostile school environments, decreased student investment in academic success, and higher levels of student disruption.

Going back to the example with my own son, it's difficult to find the positive outcome in his suspension because he was pleased with getting a break from school.

Alternative Discipline Approaches

Now that we realize that out-of-school suspension is not necessarily the most effective way to approach behavior issues and often has unintended negative consequences, let's take a look at some alternative discipline approaches that school districts across the country have experimented with. Below is a list of 11 ideas outlined by the Duke University Center for Child and Family Policy and a summary of each alternative program to out-of-school suspension.

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