A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Tuesday Musing 9: the cost of suspensions

For your consideration: are out of school suspensions necessary? Are they overused?

I have heard of several school districts that have responded to the fact that the district loses money from the state for each student who is not physically present by drastically reducing the number and type of offenses that can merit out of school suspensions. Let me also note that all of the districts I have heard of that did this were distressed districts with high numbers of at-risk students and also a high rate of discipline problems.

What do you think?

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At 11/2/10, 7:15 AM, Blogger Ricochet said...

I don't like in school or out of school suspension. But I have a class that is large and 40% are willing to throw everything under the bus rather than learn anything.

I am writing them up and getting them out of class so I can teach the ones who want it. I have been unsuccessful in reasoning with the 40% or their parents or finding any other way to make it work.

I feel completely irrelevant.

At 11/2/10, 12:58 PM, Blogger Jim Connolly said...

Every time I've suspended a student, I've felt conflicted about it. On the one hand, there are occasions where a student simply must be removed from school (possession/use of drugs or alcohol, weapons, other dangerous behavior). If the student remains, it places other students at risk.
On the other hand, there have been many occasions where the student behaved in a perfectly understandable way given the circumstances in which they found themselves but still needed to be suspended because it was either a) the consequence called for under the school's discipline policy or b) the only thing that would make the teacher happy.
Sometimes kids view suspension as a positive- they get out of attending school, there's little or no consequence at home- and it has no impact on their future behavior, other than letting them know that next time they don't want to go to class they can just duplicate the behavior that got them suspended.
In much the same way as mandatory prison sentences for minor drug offenses really ignores the underlying problem, suspending a kid from school (or even in-school to maintain funding) ignores the reasons for the behavior in the first place and utterly fails to effect any change in it.

At 11/2/10, 8:58 PM, Anonymous Mrs. H said...

I worked at the type of school district you just described. In a way, it's all about numbers, and that can be hard for those of us who entered teaching to TEACH and not to babysit/parent.

I can sympathize with Ricochet. At that school district, I felt irrelevant. When it came down to it, sometimes it felt that getting the kids out of the classroom was the only way to teach the kids who were being overlooked while the disruptive forces were present. Of course, this was often a huge dilemma for me, because I didn't want to kids to miss my class. My class was important. When they missed days they missed valuable information and it was hard to catch them up.

My vote is that they bring back after school detention/Saturday detention. There will be an uprising of parents who find this unfair and say they can't provide transportation. Perhaps, after the first time, the parents will suddenly be easier to reason with because they won't want to have to figure out transportation again. I know this isn't any type of NEW suggestion, but the fact is, I've thought long and hard about this problem, and I'm at a loss.

All I really know is, things need to change. That's cliche. I know. It's simply not working the way it is right now. Teachers are the ones being punished as they try desperately to teach in less than optimal settings. Furthermore, they are being discouraged from writing students up, while being encouraged to simply "handle it." All of these things take time and take away from the ultimate goal of school, education.


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