Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pet Peeve!

Some very interesting research came out of UNH’s Carsey Institute last week, based on something that is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I have a very hard time with school districts’ use of out of school suspension as a disciplinary tactic for kids. For some instances, out of school suspension is a very appropriate strategy, especially when other things have been tried, or when the offense is very serious—such as assaultive behavior, etc, BUT…..many many schools in NH (and I would assume in other states as well) use out of school suspension for other grievances that are not very serious, and for things such as truancy. How does this make any sense? So a child has, for whatever reason, a difficult time getting to school or attending regularly, we finally get him to school, and the punishment for missing school is out of school suspension…….so……wait a minute… we want the kid in school or not? How is out of school suspension going to help a student who has difficulty staying in school? It makes absolutely NO SENSE!

What are some other strategies we could employ to assist these kids who have trouble staying in or getting to school? Well, if you must suspend, let’s first look to an in school suspension, where a child could be supported to get work done in an educational environment. Cut off his social ties for the day, keep him away from friends, etc, as the deterrent piece, but let him be in school getting some work done in a supportive environment. Besides suspension, let’s look at appropriate programming. Many kids who struggle with this issue are those involved with the special education system, or the courts, or have other environmental issues or school based struggles. Let’s try to adjust and individualize the child’s program so that he or she is GETTING WHAT THEY NEED. Most kids act out or skip school for a reason….let’s look a little deeper and see how we can improve their overall educational experience. Maybe they need more vocational training and options, maybe they need more help in learning to read, maybe they need to be placed in an alternative environment. There are MANY options to exhaust before we suspend kids out of school.

Some things found in the Carsey research:
•Out-of-school suspensions were 59 percent of the
total suspension incidents reported.
• The out-of-school suspension rate of 8.3 percent was
higher than the national rate of 6.9 percent reported
by the Office of Civil Rights for 2006.
• Sixty-eight (19 percent) of the schools reporting outof-
school suspensions reported rates higher than the
state rate of 8.3 percent.
• Ninety-two (29 percent) of the schools reporting
in-school suspensions reported rates higher than the
state rate of 5.7 percent.
•Verbal behavior and violence against persons accounted
for 31 percent of the suspensions reported
• Tobacco, alcohol, and other drug-related offenses
were 7 percent of the suspensions in the state.
• Fifty-nine percent of suspensions were categorized by
schools as “other.”
•Schools with the highest rates of FRL-eligible (free and reduced lunch) students
averaged more than four times as many discipline incidents
(20.6 percent) as schools with the lowest rates (4.9 percent).
•Out-of-school suspension was used more than
in-school suspension for all categories of incidents
except “other drugs,” where they were applied equally.
•Over one-third (36 percent) of the total 84 expulsions
in the state were due to offenses related to drugs
other than tobacco and alcohol and weapons-related
•The second most frequent (18 percent) reason reported
for expulsion was “other.”
• The least reported reason for expulsion was firearms,
the only offense for which expulsion is mandatory.
•The large percentage of both suspensions and expulsions
reported by the schools as “other” raises the question as to
what type of incidents are included in this category.

The last point is VERY INTERESTING. What exactly is "other"....we have no way of knowing...and "other" can mean different things in different school districts. And, some school districts might not be as objective when using the "other" category when suspending a student as other districts might be. Seems unfair, and a little too ambiguous for me.

Read the Carsey research and let me know what you think.

1 comment:

hjs000 said...

Great post Angela. Even as a child, it always surprised me that people thought suspension was a proper punishment for bad behavior. Of course most kids don't want to go to school so keeping them out of school wasn't really punishment. Second, kids acting up that much in school may be having issues at home and allowing their parents to deal with the situation wouldn't solve anything. If they weren't having issues at home, then it likely was something that discipline, no matter how extreme, was never going to solve.

I think, in most cases, schools use this form of punishment because they don't have the bandwidth or the expertise to deal with the issues a child is having that causes bad behavior.