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The Consequences of Suspension and What Schools Can Do Instead

The Consequences of Suspension and What Schools Can Do Instead

Student misbehavior can be extremely disruptive to learning. It causes teachers and administrators stress and costs classmates the valuable instructional time that the teacher has to instead spend on addressing behavior issues. One disciplinary action that is often used to punish behavior problems is out-of-school suspension.

Every year, three million students face out-of-school suspension according to the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Typically, these suspensions are for nonviolent behavior. Additionally, suspension affects minorities and students with disabilities at a higher rate than their peers. The 2016 edition of the ED’s A First Look brief on the 2013–14 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) survey showed that Black K–12 students are 3.8 times more likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions compared to white students, and that students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be suspended as students without disabilities.

One of the issues with out-of-school suspension is that it is a disciplinary action that has academic implications. Here are a few of the unintended consequences of suspension:

1. Lack of trust

Suspension can be perceived by students as a rejection, and this can lead to a lack of trust between students and their teachers. When students lose trust, they lose the benefits of forming the relationships that help them feel connected to their teachers and administrators.

2. Loss of learning and sinking grades

Students lose valuable instruction and learning time whenever they are taken out to the classroom, and many schools have a no-makeup policy for work missed because of suspension. This time adds up quickly, and it’s not uncommon for students’ grades to drop as a result.

3. Parent inconvenience

When younger students are suspended from schools, parents are left to figure out what to do with their child for the day. This may mean working from home, missing work, paying for a babysitter, or even leaving a young child home alone if there isn’t another option. For many families, this is an inconvenience they can’t afford.

4. Achievement gap increases

Because minority and special education students are disproportionately affected by suspension, they are exposed to the academic downside at a higher rate as well. Students who get suspended frequently are less likely to pass classes and state assessments, and this may also impact graduation rates.

It’s clear from the data that suspension may not be an effective way to discipline students, but what is the answer? Teachers and administrators can’t be expected to sacrifice the learning of the other students in the classroom because of a student’s misbehavior, and students need to understand that there are consequences for their actions. Many states have begun taking on the challenge of finding alternative ways to manage behavior.

The 74, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news site covering education in America (named for the 74 million children in the United States) provides insight on what some states are doing to improve the issue of misbehavior.

1. Circle discussions

Texas schools are using circle discussions as a more relational approach to addressing student behavior, and they have experienced drops in their suspension rates since implementation. These discussions are designed to help provide all parties involved with a sense of equality. It’s important that everyone has a chance to speak and everyone has a chance to listen so that there is a mutual understanding.

2. Early-warning dashboards

Connecticut is beginning to consider an Early Indication Tool (EIT) as an attempt to stop bullying and suspensions. The state is using the EIT to track student attendance, behavior, and grades to predict which students are most at risk.

3. Support programs

Other states are implementing programs like the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework funded by ED to improve school environments. PBIS supports appropriate behavior, and studies have seen positive effects on the students.

4. Access to mental health services

New Hampshire is using a project grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to increase access to mental health services. This will also help improve the school climate and reduce school violence. Similarly, the Ohio Department of Education is partnering with the state’s Mental Health and Addiction Services with the same outlook in mind.

These processes are making a positive impact on suspension rates, and it’s encouraging to see schools pursue them. To learn more about ways to minimize discipline issues in your school or classroom, check out our blog post on social and emotional learning.

Alexis.Brakebill's picture
Alexis Brakebill

Alexis graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. She started working as a Marketing Associate for Edmentum in March 2018 and aspires to provide educators and students with resources that will make a difference in their day-to-day lives.