Without suspension, what’s the solution?

The Dignity in Schools Campaign is calling for Solutions Not Suspensions, a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions. The coalition charges black, Latino and disabled students are being pushed out of school and denied an education. Instead of suspension and expulsion, the coalition proposes a Model Code on Education and Dignity which calls for “positive discipline,” “restorative justice” and lots of counseling and support services.

Our punitive mindset blinds us to effective discipline, argues Julia Steiny.

“Children cannot learn if they are not in the classroom,” said  AFT President Randi Weingarten in a statement supporting the need for discussion. She added, “Nor can they or their peers learn, or teachers teach, in a school environment that is not safe, stable and engaging.”

The facts are disturbing. According to a Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles report, 17 percent of African-American students and 13 percent of students with disabilities have been suspended. And school districts continue to eliminate school counselors, mentors and other services that are crucial to helping students succeed inside and outside the classroom.

The AFT wants “viable alternatives” before supporting a ban on suspensions, Weingarten writes.

In New York City public schools, students will not be suspended for talking back to teachers, cursing or other “low-level”  misbehavior. unless they’re habitual offenders, reports the New York Times. K-3 students can be suspended for five days, but not 10, for offenses such as shoving or tagging school property. The revised discipline code tells teachers to “intervene quickly with misbehaving students and to try counseling before moving to punishment.”

Misbehaving students can be sent to the principal’s office or denied  extracurricular activities. Severely disruptive students may be moved to a school that specializes in students with disciplinary problems. Expulsion is almost never used.

Teachers, is out-of-school suspension a necessary tool to deal with disruptive but non-violent students? What are the alternatives?

About Joanne


  1. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    Detention. Lots of it.

    Take away recess.

    Saturday school.

    Kids love freedom. If you want to punish someone, you must destroy what they love.

    • No, no TVA! You CAN’T take away their activities – then they’ll be even LESS engaged and motivated and they’ll really act out!

      Obviously if Timmy is really excited by snack time, you should reduce the other subjects and increase snack time activities; once Timmy gets sated with that and feels safe and competent, gradually remove the support while encouraging him to try other things.

  2. Just because a student attends public schools does not mean he loses his right to freedom from violence, or to acquire a quality education.

    I realize that the chronically disruptive students don’t believe that they are. They think:
    – Everybody does it (not true)
    – I’m not that loud (yes, you are)
    – You don’t have to keep telling me (you won’t be reminded if you just sit down and be quiet)
    – You’re just hatin’ me (no, I just believe that other students deserve my attention without interruption)

    One effective tool I’ve seen used is to just turn a video camera on. Students are generally shocked to see how often they draw unwanted attention to themselves. After viewing a video of their behavior, it’s possible to break through their defenses to enable them, and others, to have a peaceful classroom.

    The point of the in-school suspension is to separate students from the class, so that class can get back on track. It’s also hoped that the student will learn something from his/her “time-out”. As a teacher, you sometimes heave a sigh of relief when you realize that a chronic disrupter is not present.

    I’d prefer to see in-school not used more than once or twice. After that, it’s time to survey all that student’s teachers to determine whether the problem extends beyond that teacher. If teachers are in general agreement, it’s time for that team to meet. Sometimes, they can figure out how to tone down that student’s behavior, with the assistance of any teacher who has found some techniques that work.

    Often, though, the problem is a symptom of larger problems. Ideally, a team will meet – teachers, psychologist, special ed dept (who can be helpful in observing classes and looking for specific behaviors, even before the psych evaluator comes in), parents, disciplinary administrators and ISS room coordinator. Together, they can determine the extent of problems, whether academic, lack of basic skills, home problems, etc.

    At that meeting, it would be helpful to have several videos for confirmation of behaviors (parents are notorious for objecting to observations – “he says he didn’t do it; he says all the other kids do, too; the teachers are out to ‘get him’, etc.”). When presented with video evidence, they generally accept it, and are willing to listen to what the team says.

    Where in-school is NOT appropriate is for students who are chronically tardy, forgot their ID, or engaged in non-class, non-violent behavior that caused problems. Administrators need to find some other way to discipline than ISS.

    • Parents who refuse to accept actual video evidence are insane, and it’s no wonder their kid(s) are insane as well. K-12 teachers should get hazard pay for having to deal with such crazies…

      • Parents who refuse to accept actual video evidence are insane

        Criminal charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor might cut through their denial.

  3. If you teach K-12 in any school district that adopts these policies, get out, NOW. The inmates are about to take over the asylum, and it’s going to be open game on teachers. And I’m not just talking about toilet papering someone’s car or desk… I’m talking assaults and battery, etc.

  4. Is the issue suspensions, or just being out of the classroom? Because there are plenty of ways to boot a kid out of a classroom without suspending them.

    The strategies for working with disruptive kids forget one key issue: the teacher’s primary objective is the class, not a student. Which means a disruptive student is hurting much more than his own education, and should be required to leave.

    Teachers are under tremendous pressure to keep disruptive kids in their classrooms–never mind suspending them–and it’s the single biggest problem in schools with a high number of kids with low ability.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      I bet kids would be less disruptive whatever their abilities if the alternative was picking up garbage on the side of the road in an orange jumpsuit. Just an idea.

      • You really don’t seem to comprehend the words “disparate impact”.

        • Maybe a “disparate impact” is exactly what some of these kids need… All the politically correct ‘punishments’ are seen as either nothing, or a reward, to the truly disruptive students…

          • Yeah, wow, disparate impact is bad. Alert the media.

            It’s hardwired into our laws. Any organization gets sued after being slapped with a fine by the government. Do you understand what this means?

            It’s a systemic problem baked into everything. It’s horrible. Anyone saying “Gosh, maybe a dose of tough love is what is needed” is ignorant. But go ahead if that’s your goal.

          • I understand that you think you’re smarter than everyone else, and talk down to everyone because we’re not worthy to sit in your presence. Go ahead, keep asking everyone “Do you know what this means?” over and over and over…

  5. Ruler. Knuckles.

    • Or they could be forced to join the Navy, like used to be common before the 1960’s…

      • Deirdre Mundy says:

        Armed forces are at capacity, won’t take ‘problem children’ at this point. To get in at all you have to be smart, fit, and able to behave. It’s the problem with an ‘all volunteer military’–no room for the losers.

        • Stacy in NJ says:

          And, a high school graduate. A diploma is a requirement and has been for some time. I think (could be wrong) only the Marines accept a GED.

          • Mark Roulo says:

            All the branches accept a GED, but they all have a maximum number of GEDs that they will take. The numbers are low.


          • Deirdre Mundy says:

            And it has to be ‘GED but smart and otherwise without stain’ not “I got kicked out of school and have been in trouble with the law and got my GED.” Also, with budget-armageddon coming up, expect it to get harder, not easier, to join the military.

            Plus, I know a lot of middle class parents encouraging their kids to join the military to avoid the high costs of college….

  6. Jedi Warrior says:

    There is a school district in a nearby county, which has an excellent plan for students who are suspended from school. The students have to show up with their parents at the local courthouse at 7 a.m. for detention. The students stay the entire day until 4 p.m. or later, and must be picked up by the parents. The parents have to sign the child in. If they don’t, they can be jailed. Parents hate because they have to wake up early, and the kids hate because it’s not fun. It only takes once to get the kids back on track, generally. I believe this would work for most students, if they curse, skip school, etc.

    I subbed for a couple of years in a rural middle school. If students missed behaved they automatically received Friday school. If they missed behaved for the sub, it was two Friday schools. The school day ended at 2:30 p.m., Friday school lasted until 5 p.m. To keep the kids in line, I just reminded them about Friday school, and it worked like a charm. Then, again, this was a school with a decent student body.

  7. superdestroyer says:

    It is cost ineffective to try to help the worst students. Pouring a tremendous amount of resources into dealing with with bad students means that average students are neglected and their academic education suffers.

    Maybe the problem is the belief that the worst students should be allowed to attend schools when those students are intent on ruining the education of other students. There should be no entitlement to harming others.

  8. Also,

    If you are a GED holder, you need a MINIMUM ASVAB score of 65 to enlist, HS Diploma Holders need anywhere from 28 to 43.

    If the GED holder earns 15 college credits with a grade of “C” or better, they are treated like a HS Diploma holder for the purposes of minimum ASVAB scores.

    Also, the military does have a quota on Tier III/IV recruits (which include GED holders, and some high school dropouts, but very few dropouts can manage a 65 ASVAB score).

  9. Ponderosa says:

    A teacher can survive in a lax discipline environment if he devotes most of his mental energy to psychological finesse, schmoozing with kids, and cajoling. This can be somewhat beneficial and rewarding for all involved. After eight months or so of ingenious mental juijitsu, you can get bonkers kids to be docile enough to study for a few easy quizzes, etc. But let’s be honest: all serious learning of academic content goes out the door. This debilitated education is what Steiny is endorsing by restricting suspensions.

    We need more suspensions, not fewer!

    • Exactly! And suspensions aren’t for the benefit of the student being suspended (even if they view it as a ‘reward’ since they didn’t want to be in school anyway), it’s for the benefit of all the OTHER students in the classroom – you know, the ones who want to be there, care, or at least care enough to do the right thing to please their parents…

  10. Well, some students think it’s cool to get in house suspensions, be the class clown/fool, or in general wanting to get into trouble all the time.

    A tour of a local jail or state prison MIGHT just change their minds, since many persons who are incarcerated have less than a high school education (i.e. – dropouts).


    • “Well, some students think it’s cool to get in house suspensions, be the class clown/fool, or in general wanting to get into trouble all the time.”

      The good students are stuck with these clowns from K-8, but starting in 9th grade, the clowns should be separated permanantly from the rest of the student population – you know, the part of the student population that actually cares and wants to do well (either for themselves, for their parents, or both).

  11. Unfortunately, thanks to Plyler vs TX (DOE) (1982) the USSC has stated that every person under the age of 18 is ENTITLED to a public education, regardless of immigration status (or any other status you might want to think of).

    Pretty pathetic that students who are chronic troublemakers aren’t removed from regular classrooms and sent to what was known in my day, opportunity school. This environment is where all the screwups in middle and high school were sent, and it wasn’t great compared to regular school. One guy I used to know in middle school must have set the school record for being sent there, and I know the dean couldn’t wait until this kid went to high school and wasn’t his problem any longer (I’m amazed he ever made it out of middle school, let alone high school).