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In-School Suspension: Benefits & Effectiveness

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.

In-school suspension programs are an alternative to the traditional out-of-school suspension approaches of the past. This lesson will review both the benefits and effectiveness of these programs and discuss best practices for implementation.

Ben's Behavior Issues

Ben is a 16-year-old high school Sophomore who has proven to be quite a handful for his single mother. He hangs out with a rough crowd and tends to follow rather than lead. When Ben's mom receives a call from the assistant principal at Ben's school to inform her Ben is being suspended for fighting, she is beside herself. Ben's mom also wonders how effective this out-of-school suspension will be since Ben seems happy with the time off from school, and will now be left at home unsupervised where he can get into even more trouble.

Traditional Out-of-School Suspension

It has long been argued that out-of-school suspension does not have the effects it is intended to have. Students who receive out-of-school suspension as a disciplinary action, are basically told to refrain from coming onto school property for a certain amount of time. Out-of-school suspension is often used to address things such as:

  • repeated student defiance
  • repeated tardiness
  • leaving school grounds without permission
  • physical altercations
  • theft on school grounds
  • making profane remarks

The primary argument for out-of-school suspension is that it removes disruptive students from the classroom, thereby allowing teachers to teach, and other non-disruptive students to learn. In principle, this sounds like it should work, but the literature is not in agreement. It has been argued that out-of-school suspension does nothing to spark a positive interest in education. On the contrary, it often causes suspended students to:

  • be labeled as difficult kids
  • remove them from the educational setting they don't want to be in to begin with, such as in Ben's case
  • be provided with the opportunity for unsupervised idle time, which can further increase the likelihood of getting into even more trouble

The Alternative: In-School Suspension

As an alternative to out-of-school traditional suspension programs, the majority of schools today have implemented in-school suspension alternatives. In-school suspension programs require students who violate school rules and policies to report to a designated area within the school where they are expected to complete academic work. In general, school administrators, teachers, and parents alike agree that in-school suspension seems to be a better alternative.

Benefits of In-School Suspension

When implemented correctly, there are several benefits that can be gained from in-school suspension programs. These benefits include:

  • students remain in school and exposed to education
  • students are in a structured and supervised setting with limited opportunity for disruption
  • the focus is on extinguishing problem behaviors
  • students can keep their academic progress on track
  • students are not rewarded by having time off from school

Effectiveness of In-School Suspension Programs

Despite the potential benefits offered by in-school suspension programs, experts warn that the effectiveness of these programs is dependent upon a number of factors. Successful in-school suspension programs all have a number of things in common:

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