Exclusionary discipline such as suspensions and expulsions are used in most of today’s school districts and independent schools. The issue, however, is that suspensions and expulsions as a form of discipline have not been proven to deter or decrease unwanted behavior in a K-12 setting. Suspensions and expulsions have unforeseen outcomes for the affected children, including a higher likelihood of becoming a high school dropout. Further reasons for concern are that exclusionary discipline such as suspensions and expulsions are applied at a disproportionate rate by age, gender, and race.
What can we do to decrease the number of suspensions and expulsions in our schools? How do we create an environment where all students thrive and succeed?
Research tells us that adopting preventive, proactive practices increases educational outcomes for children, reduces the number of discipline referrals, and creates a safer learning environment for children and adults. Implementing a preventive, proactive framework that provides a safe, supportive, positive environment “promotes teaching, modeling, and acknowledging positive behavior and developing a comprehensive school-wide system for addressing problem behaviors, thereby increasing the consistency, safety, positivity, and predictability of the school environment” (Massar, McIntosh and Eliason).
The use of preventative practices are an imperative first step toward reducing the number of exclusionary disciplinary acts that take place in schools. An example of a positive preventive, proactive, practice are schools and school districts who approach their families and students in a holistic way. By partnering with agencies that can provide additional support to the school community, they can effectively support students instead of punishing them for unwanted behaviors.
What options to do we have if children are not following the schoolwide expectations? How do we ensure our schools are places where children learn from their mistakes instead of excluding and punishing them? Reese L. Peterson, an esteemed professor of special education from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, proposed ten alternatives to suspension/expulsion that should be considered. Instead of punishing, these strategies focus on teaching appropriate behaviors through social skills. These alternatives to suspension and expulsion, when implemented properly, can dramatically increase positive outcomes for children and provide viable options for school teams as they consider ways to support students in new ways.
Another alternative that has been increasingly prevalent is restorative practices.
These strategies can be combined or used individually, depending on the severity of the behavior infraction, the student’s background and history, and several other factors, at the discretion of the educator/administrator determining the consequences for children.
Here at Kickboard we have seen powerful examples of schools that have dramatically reduced suspensions and expulsions. We have experience helping develop alternatives to exclusionary discipline practices, as well as tools and resources that can support your school’s creation and implementation of school wide expectations and consequences. For more information about the resources that can help you reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions at your school click here.