Giving Compass' Take:
- School suspensions are proven to be ineffective for students as a sustainable discipline practice, yet schools have been bringing them back.
- How does school suspension contribute to racial bias and discrimination against students? What are the barriers to alternative discipline approaches?
- Learn more about restorative justice measures.
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Suspensions don’t work. Not only that, but this kind of exclusionary discipline practice significantly influences how students experience school and can fuel worse outcomes for some students more than others.
Many teachers have come to adopt the view that suspensions are ineffective, Perera says.
A 2014 report from the Obama Administration — later revoked under the Trump Administration — even pushed schools to examine discipline practices that it suggested were reinforcing the school-to prison-pipeline, a response to data suggesting that Black students were more often punished.
But now, under the unique stress-test of the pandemic, a handful of legislatures are re-embracing suspensions. A recent report co-authored by Perera found that eight states introduced laws that remove restrictions on suspensions. At least four of those became law.
In Nevada, one of those states where the law passed, the pro-suspension bill revoked a 2019 law that required schools to favor restorative justice plans over suspensions. The new bill also lets schools suspend students as young as six. It was backed by the Clark County Education Association, a teachers union. In a letter in support of the bill, prior to its passing, Marie Neisess, the president of that union, argued that alternative approaches to suspensions had “contributed to the crisis of violence in our schools.”
Yet to Perera, strict discipline policies disproportionately increase racial discrimination, worsen academic performance and may not even help the other students in the classroom.
Part of the problem may be that alternative discipline models have been hard to carry through.
Unfortunately, the evidence on alternatives like restorative justice or positive behavioral interventions is mixed, says Chris Curran, director of the Education Policy Research Center at the University of Florida’s College of Education.
It’s really about how it gets put into practice, he says.
Only a few years ago, the most rigorous evidence for restorative justice models of school discipline was considered disappointing. Studies — including a study in Pittsburgh from 2018 and another from Maine in 2019 — suggested that, while the model held promise, implementation was precarious, leading to mixed results.
The resources and the training for schools trying to switch to restorative justice programs just aren’t there, Curran says.
Practices like restorative justice circles, where students sit down after an incident to repair their relationship through discussion, falls outside of what teachers were usually trained to do, he adds. It also requires dedicated time and space, and without trained counselors and support staff, when the teacher is responsible for 20 other students, it’s tough to pull off, Curran says.
Read the full article about schools suspensions by Daniel Mollenkamp at EdSurge.