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How many times were you suspended?

Anyone interested in changing attitudes toward the good old school suspension should read Anthony E. Harris's startling piece Monday on page 2B of the Metro section. Then comment here on what you know of the popularity of this device in the old days, and whether what seems to me our current distaste for it is good or bad.

I was never suspended in high school, of course. I was one of those hall monitor types who always obeyed the rules. I got myself elected chief justice of the student court so I could quash evildoers who dropped candy wrappers near my locker or stole my potato chips.

My best friend Dan Cumings, however, did get the heave-ho. Two weeks suspension. For what? Writing a bitter but wonderfully amusing (and officially unauthorized) newsletter that trashed the student paper, the principal and all the other annoyances of high school that are readily apparent to bright kids like Dan and Anthony E. Harris, writing of his four suspensions.

The thinking in schools these days is that suspending kids and sending them home just means less time for learning. In-school suspensions have become more popular. Is that the right way to go? I really like the pieces submitted by readers that have been turning up inside Metro. Harrris' contribution is a particularly fine and provocative example.

By Jay Mathews  | October 26, 2009; 10:47 AM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  
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I was never suspended but one of my brothers was served with an in-school suspension for refusing to participate in his 6th grade class' week of nothing but test prep for the upcoming state standardized exam. Good thing he didn't go through in the post-NCLB era, as the elementary school in my neighborhood now devotes an entire *MONTH* towards test prep. After a conference with my parents and the principal, the suspension was removed from his official record and he spent the week watching documentaries in the school office.

The kicker to the story is that my brother received the highest score on the state test of any student in any grade in the entire regional district that year.

Posted by: CrimsonWife | October 26, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

"The thinking in schools these days is that suspending kids and sending them home just means less time for learning. In-school suspensions have become more popular."

Cite? I sincerely doubt that's true. Suspensions are routine. Last year, a kid in one of my classes was suspended for five days for making a stupid joke that could, if you squinted at it, be taken as racial (but not racist). Suspensions for fighting and other disruptive behavior are the norm.

As for the article, the writer apparently had no parents. I would have made the principal's life miserable indeed if my kid were suspended for not doing his college admissions application. Moronic nonsense.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | October 26, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Hey Cal. I have no data, just lots of conversations with principals about this over the years. Let me go find some.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 26, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

in a book called "School Discipline Policies" by Oliver Moles, there were lots of small studies showing in-school suspensions to be the new thing, so they are certainly more popular than they used to be. But I didn't find any data showing they are used more now than traditional suspensions, and there appeared to be very little good data on whether they were more effective.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 26, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

In school suspensions are definitely newer. But I haven't seen any sign that suspensions are out of fashion. Schools have pretty much full control over suspensions (unlike expulsions, which are a legal matter).

I think suspensions are overused. They are a useful tool for engaged kids--or at least kids with engaged parents--but for disengaged kids, you've just given them the holiday they wanted. At the same time, they are helpful for moving out of control kids out of the classroom.

I should say that I'm only talking about the Bay Area--maybe other areas are reducing their use.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | October 26, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Never suspended, however my oldest son had numerous detentions. I was quite surprised one day when the principal called and asked what Saturday was convenient for me to bring my son in for a Saturday, all day detention. I had never heard of a Saturday detention. She asked me if I had ever seen the movie back in the 80s called "The Breakfast Club." I guess I missed it.

Without a doubt my son was "Trouble" with a capital "T." Still is. Throughout college and even today at work, he's always questioning policies and getting himself into Trouble. I guess it's "good" trouble because everywhere he ventures he is adored by others and is extremely productive.

I could see why teachers want troublemakers out of the classroom. However, in my humble opinion, there should be a very good reason why the student is asked to leave.

One final note, my son was once asked to leave a classroom BEFORE the class even started. There was going to be a guest speaker, and the teacher didn't want my son interrupting. I didn't find out until afterwards and was I pissed. I made a huge stink afterwards. Throwing a student out of class BEFORE they even were disruptive? Didn't bother to call me BEFOREHAND to discuss the situation? BAD, BAD, BAD!

Posted by: 1voraciousreader | October 27, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

As a teacher, here is my take on suspensions: keeping disruptive children in class hurts kids who truly want to learn. I don't know any teachers who suspend kids casually or vindictively. They do it so they can teach.

Posted by: sfteacher | October 27, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I was never suspended but I realize there were a couple of things I did that if they happened now I would have been. I think a lot of kids are suspended now over the most trivial things. Case in point 6 yos with Boy Scout tools. And if you are a minority you have more of a chance getting a suspension than learning how to read on grade level.

Posted by: lucl74 | October 27, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Decreasing suspensions and definitely the fashionable thing to do these days. It is a goal of MCPS to decrease suspensions. I strongly disagree with this policy, as the kids who get suspended are extremely disruptive. Now we keep them in school so they can disrupt the education of others. MCPS says some nonsense along the lines of "Keep your suspensions below 6%" As a result, the principals hands are tied.

Some other type of consequence is needed. I think in school suspensions are a great idea. My school does not have an ISS and the kids run wild and do whatever, leaving kids uneducated and teachers frustrated.

Posted by: PoorTeacher | October 27, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

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