Many school districts are looking at better discipline measures and reconsidering suspension as punishment for some less-severe offenses.
Some educators say alternative discipline methods, including positive behavioral interventions and supports, are more effective.
As reported in the Deseret News, Flor Guerrero is a high school graduate, a fact likely to surprise anyone who knew her at age 14.
Guerrero was the kind of ninth-grader most likely to drop out of high school, and least likely to be missed. She did poorly in class, when she wasn’t skipping school. She talked back to her teachers when corrected. She got in fights on school grounds — all of this by her own admission.
There were reasons behind Guerrero’s bad behavior, but it seemed to her that no one wanted to hear about them at the large east-side high school she attended in Salt Lake City five years ago. As she tells it, most of the attention Guerrero got at her big, impersonal school was negative. Arguments with teachers led to meetings in the principal’s office. Stints in detention escalated to several suspensions, then expulsion. When Guerrero left school, she was a sophomore — pregnant, and with almost no credits on her transcript.
Statistically speaking, Guerrero’s suspensions placed her on the path toward a life of poverty or worse. Some call suspension a “schoolhouse-to-jailhouse pipeline” because suspensions correlate with strong likelihood for dropping out, needing public assistance, and involvement in the criminal justice system.
That’s a factor in recent attempts to curb school suspensions in some states. Last June, the Chicago School board revised its student code of conduct, eliminating automatic 10-day suspensions for serious offenses. New York City public schools made a similar move last fall, eliminating suspensions for low-level offenses like tardiness and talking back to teachers, and reducing the length of suspensions from 10 days to five for such offenses as vandalism and minor fights.
Though such policies may reduce the undesirable effects of school suspension for individual students, and society, they raise questions about whether the rights of all students to learn in safe, calm environments are eroding.
More than 3 million schoolchildren lost instruction time at school in 2009-10 because they were suspended from school, according to a report by the Civil Rights Project at University of California/Los Angeles.
Those students missed the learning that went on…
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