School Suspensions, Can we See the Forest For the Trees?


The Des Moines Register writes that “We Need to Rethink Banishing Students” in an editorial decrying the increase in suspensions in our schools. I don’t deny that we need to rethink suspensions however the Register got it wrong in several areas. The editorial stated that suspension may be the first formal consequence a student ever suffers. Almost all students who are given suspensions or banishment, to use the Register’s significantly loaded word, are generally given other formal consequences before suspension is administered. Not only are those consequences given to the student they are written down, recorded by the schools and communicated with parents. Suspensions do not happen in isolation with the exception of immediate danger to the student, other students or the school. I agree that it is possible that school consequences are the first meaningful consequences some of these students have ever received but that is not the school’s fault it is the fault of their parents and perhaps the cause of the suspensions as well.
More importantly the Register fails to see the “forest for the trees” when dealing with suspension. I would ask the Register why are citizens put in jail? Reform is an issue that should be addressed but in reality citizens are placed in jail because they are a danger to or disruption to an orderly and fair society. Students are generally suspended because after remediation has been tried they still present a threat or an ongoing disruption of necessary school routines. School routines that are in place to guarantee the educational success of those students who generally do follow the rules, want to learn, and try to learn. Our student’s education time is often being robbed from them by disruptive students who for whatever reason are un-socialized, uncontrollable, and at times even dangerous. By constantly concentrating on the students who are suspended (the trees) you have failed to see the effect that one problem student can have on a whole classroom (the forest)
What would the editorial writer do if a teenager came into their home every day, spit on their furniture, wrote on their walls, hit and harassed their children, refused to follow any instructions, and then attempted to sell them drugs? Would the Register writer make up the spare bed room, ask what their favorite meal was and pray that these behaviors would not rub off on the writers own children or would they attempt to remove this influence from their home?
Suspensions can be reduced but at what cost? Right now one or two students in almost every classroom take a disproportionate time away from the educational process every day, teacher time that belongs to your child but is being taken from them by the actions of a few. If you doubt that this is true, ask your child about it, they will know who is stealing time from them in their classroom and they will tell you!
Perhaps almost paradoxically it is true that suspensions may be of little or no value to the students suspended but it is also true that that those same suspensions may be of immeasurable value to the health of our educational system, classrooms, and un-suspended students. Perhaps we need more suspensions rather than fewer if our public schools are to survive and flourish.

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About safrisri

I have been a teacher since 1971 and have taught at all educational levels from pre-school to college. My college degree is general science which I arrived at after 5 years and 5 different majors. A degree as it turns out, almost as valuable and in demand as one in Neo-Bulgarian Mythology. I have been around education for around 40 years and can remember when teaching was a pleasant, happy and creative job and our schools were the same. My writings will reflect on my past mistakes and successes and what my students have taught me about education.
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One Response to School Suspensions, Can we See the Forest For the Trees?

  1. thelastgasp1 says:

    Welcome back…look forward to future thoughts!

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