School discipline 101

Suspension helps create safe, orderly, schools — and tells parents they share responsibility for their child’s behavior, writes Eva Moskowitz, founder of Success Academies in the New York Post.

Success Academy Harlem 5 suspends 14 percent of students at least once during the year, compared to 9 percent for  PS 123, a district school in the same building. The charter had one violent or disruptive incident (a theft) in 2010-11, the most recent year for which data is available, compared to 92 incidents at the district school.

Most “parents like high standards for student conduct,” Moskowitz writes. It’s one reason they choose a Success charter.

It’s not just about safety. Order and civility are critical ingredients in a positive learning environment. Even something like making fun of another student’s answer in class — a comparatively mild misbehavior — can shut a student down intellectually and emotionally, particularly one with a learning disability.

To be sure, discipline isn’t the whole answer. Educators must also build positive relationships with students, create a warm and nurturing school environment, set clear expectations and work closely with parents to develop individualized behavior plans for children who struggle.

But suspensions also have a place. They’re a school’s version of giving a child a “time out.” By keeping a student out of school for a day or two, they convey to the child, in the simplest and most concrete way possible, that there are minimum standards of conduct for being part of the school community.

Sending a child home for a day or two puts the burden of children’s misbehavior on the parents, Moskowitz writes. “Many politicians give lip service to supporting teachers — yet would undermine them by depriving them of the tools they need to create a safe learning environment.”

Dropout Nation disagrees: “Suspensions rarely help kids understand how their behaviors affect their schoolmates and the cultures of the schools they attend.”

About Joanne


  1. Suspension works when parents are invested in their child’s education. Several of my students were suspended this year. They all enjoy being suspended because they get to watch TV or play video games all day. Their guardians generally have to work during the day. Out of school suspension is a second-to-last resort (behind expulsion) for us because it only reinforces the behaviors we’re trying to discourage. In-school suspension is used more frequently because it’s actually more of a punishment.

    I always send home the work students will miss while they’re gone. Only one student all year ever bothered to do the work assigned while suspended. I offer email and telephone support during my prep to my suspended students. No one took me up on that this year.

    I believe this has a lot to do with the sorts of families in our area. Many of them want their kids to do well, but when their primary concern is getting their kids fed regularly, suspension is simply low on the list of things to worry about. The kids in our school who are well off get nailed by their parents when they face suspension and it never happens again. The only deterrent my unsupervised suspend-ees have (and this makes me angry for a lot of reasons) is that they won’t get breakfast or lunch if they aren’t in school.

    • Amen. For some schools, out-of-school suspension works; for others, in-school is definitely the way to go. In addition, to the extent that disruptive behavior is caused by students wanting out of the HS curriculum, work-study plans can be a good option.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Two goals: Get the disruptive kid away from the educational process he’s not getting while he’s disrupting and keeping other kids from getting.
    Not always possible with the same tactic.
    Don’t see how having to stay home will give a kid an epiphany about how important it is not to be a butthead. For the sake of his classmates.

  3. BadaBing says:

    I don’t wring my hands about kids in my classes that are suspended. When they’re gone, the majority have a chance at learning. Let them go to Disneyland on their suspension days, as long as they’re out of my class.