Friday, April 07, 2006

Suspensions...who do they punish?

After hearing my deskmate talk about another student who will be absent due to suspension, I began thinking about the concept of suspension as a punishment in high school.
In my experience, the vast majority of students who have been suspended in my classes have been "D" or "F" students who miss class quite often as it is. I find myself wondering why we (and by we I mean ALL schools) choose to further remove these students from school as a form of punishment. I emphasize the fact that I am not sure what the answer to this question is, but for most of these students it seems that a more appropriate punishment in their eyes would be to make them spend more time in school! After my rambling, I suppose my question is threefold: 1. What are the origins of this punishment? Why has it proved succesful in the past? 2. Have you had the same experience in terms of the demongraphic of students who are typically suspended? and 3. What alternative punishments could we provide these students where we could still "punish" them without further hindering their academic experiences?

11 Comments:

Blogger Karl Fisch said...

Hmmm, I'm wondering whether "demongraphic" is a Freudian slip? :-)

I don't have answers, just more questions.

Instead of "Why has it proved successful in the past?", my question would be: Is it currently - and has it ever - been successful? Also, how do you define "successful" in this context?

And, to push our thinking a little bit more, why should we "punish" them at all? What exactly do we think this accomplishes? Do we think students truly "learn" from punishments? If so, what do they learn? Might they be learning something different than whomever is suspending them is intending?

8:52 PM  
Blogger James H said...

I think that this is a great point. It seems that most of the work that gets done from suspensions are by teachers that are trying to get a student caught up on the material. I think that your third question is the most important. It seems that an administrator should be able to clarify the why to some of this.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Sally G said...

In previous teaching incarnations, I have seen suspension used not so much as a punishment for students with bad grades, or behavior, but as a way to remove a negative influence from the classroom. How many of us have breathed a sigh of relief when a troublesome student was not sitting in their accustomed place? Arapahoe does not suffer the malaise of apathy that clogs the arteries of many inner-city schools. Teachers here don't wake up dreading their day of baby-sitting and police action. We are here to teach and we love what we do. With that thought in mind, perhaps we should ask ourselves how often our office referrals are reflections of our own frustration at being unable to reach particularly difficult child. I believe suspension has its purpose. But there are alternatives, fortunately.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Sally G said...

In previous teaching incarnations, I have seen suspension used not so much as a punishment for students with bad grades, or behavior, but as a way to remove a negative influence from the classroom. How many of us have breathed a sigh of relief when a troublesome student was not sitting in their accustomed place? Arapahoe does not suffer the malaise of apathy that clogs the arteries of many inner-city schools. Teachers here don't wake up dreading their day of baby-sitting and police action. We are here to teach and we love what we do. With that thought in mind, perhaps we should ask ourselves how often our office referrals are reflections of our own frustration at being unable to reach particularly difficult child. I believe suspension has its purpose. But there are alternatives, fortunately.

9:52 AM  
Blogger MickiL said...

This is an interesting topic.... I relate to what Sally said, that in certain schools suspension may be needed to ensure safety at a school. However, I have never understood the value of suspending a student as a punishment. I have discussed this with students and often they will tell you that they don't "learn" from the punishment. I have been involved with student led conferences in the past. This is when students meet with their parents and the teachers to discuss progress in class. I would like to try a modified conference for students who need discipline action. When students are placed in a room with their teachers, parents and no peers I feel they are held accountable and very honest about whatever issues they may have. It would be like a student review but for discipline.

8:27 AM  
Blogger melissa m.o. said...

As a special education teacher, many times a student would be suspended for skipping school. Now, as the teacher, it was a "whew" for me. Ususally this student was one that when he/she was in my class they were disruptive. But really, think about it. Suspending a student for not coming to school. This was heaven for the kid! There has to be a better way. I came from a high school that had an "In School Suspension" program. It was called "the Cubes" and that is exactly what it was. Students would go into a portable and literally sit in cubicles all day. They had work from the teachers and could not talk. It was effective for 2 reasons. Students hated it BUT they also got work done. I believe it was a deterrent for most kids and we knew they weren't at home watching TV. They were actually getting work done. Now, suspensions were used but only for very serious offenses. Was it a perfect system, no. However, I do think it was better than suspending for every single offense.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Cheryl S. said...

I've always wondered what parent involvement looks like during the days of the suspension. I know at my house, life as I knew it would have been negatively impacted until the behavior(s) associated with the suspension changed/improved. Anymore, it sounds like many of the students just have unsupervised days off at home w/ no lasting impact.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Krueger said...

I agree with Cheryl. I think that (and this is completely my opinion) one of the origin reasons behind suspensions was the idea that parents had to step in and address the behavior at home. However, I don't see that as being very effective these days, especially when both parents are working outside of the home. I don't really agree with suspension as a form of punishment, particularly in cases when the student is already way behind in my class. In this situation, the suspension just worsens the problem.

11:59 AM  
Blogger ChingyenG said...

In order to be effective, the punishment has to fit the crime and also, it has to hurt. So the removal of a cell phone won't be as punitive for Johnny who spends merely 5 minutes on the phone a day versus, say, Susie, the Queen of text messaging.

For the most part, the suspension is delivered in a timely manner, which helps to address the problem. But I question the utility of suspension across the board. Especially when it is supposed to "punish" a student for ditching classes? That just makes no sense to me at all.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Michael S. said...

Some great points made by some incredibly intelligent professionals. Suspensions are like the intern program for medical professionals. It is not a good system - they hurt those that they intend to help. But it's the way it has been, and that is they way it will be until someone has the courage and desire to change it.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Caroline S said...

I have the same students that are missing class that you have. If it an attendance issue I have heard of a school having mentors (teachers, administration, counselors have class check in with the student even walking them to class. I wish there was a magic wand to help with this problem.

12:46 PM  

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