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Students Go Back to School, Student Suspensions Begin

Sep 07, 2007

The new school year has only just begun, but a number of students across the country have already received suspensions. Although some of the punishments seem justified, others do not seem to fit the crime.

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Suspended Students in the News

  • Anderson, Indiana -- A kindergarten student was suspended for 2 weeks from public transportation after failing to get off the bus.
  • Nashville, Tennessee -- 4 high school students were suspended 10 days for chanting the letter 'E'. School officials say the letter 'E' is symbol of disrespect among gang members.
  • Phoenix, Arizona -- 7 high school students were suspended for mixing household chemicals in a soda bottle. The after school activity did not occur on school grounds.
  • Florence, Arizona -- An eighth grader was suspended for three days for drawing a cartoon that featured a stick figure holding a gun.
  • Grand Junction, Colorado -- A 9 year old student was suspended for an undetermined amount of time for bringing a toy gun to school in his backpack. The boy said he forgot the gun was there.
  • Orlando, FL -- A fifth grader was suspended for 10 days for bringing a 4-and-a-half inch knife to school. The knife was hidden inside a stuffed monkey.
  • St Augustine, FL -- A freshmen girl was suspended for 10 days for pricking 15 fellow students with the same needle at a high school football game.

After being in school for only a few days, a number of students have already received suspensions. Some of the incidents seem downright silly, and the punishments a bit severe, but others are enough to make you not want to send your kid to school.

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Are Suspensions the Answer?

Suspending students from school is nothing new. On average, 2 million students are suspended from public schools every year.

It seems that suspensions, which were once reserved for the most severe school crimes, have turned into the go to disciplinary measure for most school administrators.

The big question is do suspensions really accomplish anything?

According to most scientific research, the answer is no. In fact, a recent study by the University of Pennsylvania shows a direct correlation between disciplinary exclusion and dropout rates.

The study also found that most suspensions are not used to punish behaviors that threaten safety, but rather to punish students who were in some way non-compliant or 'disrespectful'.

Law Enforcement and School Systems Team Up

The Phoenix, Arizona case--where seven high school students were suspended for mixing household chemicals in a soda bottle--has garnered national attention for one main reason. The students were suspended for an incident that did not occur on school grounds during school hours.

The school's spokesperson, Linda Littell, explained to the local newspaper that under the school's current policy, administrators can suspend students for up to 10 days for criminal acts regardless of whether or not the act occurred on school property.

It may seem strange that a school would step in and punish students who already have to answer to their parents and the police, but the blurring of such lines are becoming more commonplace.

For example, in Montgomery, Alabama, where 13,000 students were suspended last year, the local prosecutor has decided to join forces with the county's public school system. Every time a student is suspended from school, the prosecutor will be notified. Charges will not be filed against the student, but the prosecutor does plan to evaluate each 'discipline problem'.

Is it a good idea for members of law enforcement to team up with school administrators to punish students? Some would undoubtedly say no, but given the fact that there are several similar plans in motion, it is obvious that there are people who still believe in the power of punishment.

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