Call me a heretic. Call me old and crazy. I don’t care, but as a 47-year veteran of public education, I believe: NO child should be suspended from school…unless he/she poses a threat to the safety and well-being of others.
Years ago, the preferred methods of discipline were standing in the corner, being paddled, writing a hundred times I will not…,or calling the parents. In many schools today, the answer is being kicked out of school for a day, several days, or a week or two. In this scenario, what does the student learn about his/her behavior? “Cool. I get to lie in bed till ten, eat out of the refrigerator, play video games, and watch television.” What does that accomplish? NOTHING.
Forty-four years ago, as a high school principal, I had individual carrels installed in my office area. Kids who committed an infraction were sentenced to my supervision for several days. They were given their class assignments, their cafeteria lunch was delivered, and they were escorted to and from the restroom. They were not kicked out to the comfort of their homes.
Among the current offenses for suspension are such things as swearing, smoking in the bathroom, using a cell phone, violating the dress code, cheating on a test, writing graffiti on a wall, and the most ludicrous…truancy and/or tardiness. Really? Why kick a kid out of school for his/her failure to be late or not come to school? Absolutely, senseless.
So what is the answer to these offenses? The trendy new phrase is restorative discipline. While there are a myriad of fancy definitions floating in cyber space, it is simply the proverbial the punishment should fit the “crime” and serve as a teaching tool. Albeit, the perpetrator learns something. For example, kids who spray paint offensive racial slurs and swastikas should not only be financially responsible for cleaning up their mess, but have to spend “x” number of hours viewing actual footage of the Holocaust and write a research paper on it. Dress code violations are simple–put on your gym clothes or turn your shirt inside out. Smoking in the bathroom; research and write a paper on cancer or causes of house fires.
Certainly, there should be consequences for aberrant behavior, but in most cases out-of-school suspension is not the answer.