Suspensions should be the last option

Suspending a student from school in most cases doesn’t seem like the proper penalty. It appears to be the easy way out, but by far the least effective way to handle misbehavior.
Jan 6, 2014

Granted, there are times when getting the student off campus is necessary, but this is rare.

Alternative methods such as in-school suspension, community service, or after-school or Saturday-school classes can better address the root of the problem. Or how about having the student do some work around school, such as cleaning inside and picking up trash, or other work outside on the school grounds?

What happens when a student is sent home for suspension? One could almost call it a reward. He or she sleeps in, gets up and watches television or plays technology games, has friends over, or gets in trouble while hanging out on the street.

As many educators agree that keeping suspended students in school are better than home unsupervised, schools need more than a room and a teacher for in-school suspension to change behavior. Structured programs that address multiple issues can help students get back to class faster and stay there.

"A big plus of an in-school suspension program is that students are still in school, with all the potential for engaging them," said Anne Wheelock, a research associate with the Progress through the Education Pipeline Project at Boston College's Lynch School of Education. "Suspending students out of school means schools pass up the 'teachable moment' when they can connect with students, build relationships and communicate that they belong in school.

"Having said that, in-school suspension programs can be little more than window-dressing designed to pull down out-of-school suspension numbers," Wheelock continued. "Poorly conceived and inadequately staffed programs, even though they are better than out-of-school suspensions, may be little more than holding tanks — just a pro-forma stop on the route to out-of-school suspension.”

The most effective in-school suspension programs have components to address students' academic and social needs, educators say, since frequently suspended students often have both academic and behavioral problems.

Schools should use out-of-school suspensions only on rare occasions. Working with the student and attempting to change his or her behavior should be the goal. If obtained, this is best for the student and best for all concerned.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.


Former Grandhavenite

I always found it pretty hilarious that the 'punishment' for a kid who clearly doesn't want to be in school is... not having to go to school.

That being said, the rise of all the zero tolerance policies and crackdowns on normal behavior for kids is completely over the top, and has only gotten worse over time. I just shake my head every time I see a report of kids getting suspended for aiming their finger in the shape of a gun at a friend and saying, "Bang!" or other equally ludicrous 'crimes'. Even when I was in elementary school at Mary A. White there were all kinds of over the top rules about how you couldn't go into the sections of Duncan's Woods surrounding the campus (and they increasingly declared more areas off limits over the years). You could also get expelled or suspended for a long time for just throwing a snowball at someone. I remember the principal even threatening that they would try to get you prosecuted for assault- for being a 10 year old kid doing what 10 year old kids do. Good luck making an assault charge in adult court stick against a 10 year old kid by the way.

Heaven forbid that kids actually are allowed to be kids and develop some sense of independence or even *gasp* have fun at school. It seems that we're increasingly training them to be unthinking drones suitable for jobs in corporate America, and to mindlessly follow orders from those in power at all times. Kids nowadays have it even worse with parents and other authority figures tracking them at all times via mobile devices and social media. The mass surveillance and authoritarian mindset that plagues adult society is spreading slowly but surely into the realm of kids- and we're definitely much worse off as a society for it.


I agree that suspending a student is an easy way out for school employees these days. Back in the day, you had to pretty much beat someone to a pulp in order to get suspended. Teachers and administrators knew how to take care of issues at school and didn't cower behind the "no tolerance" adage.
It is pretty sad when a student can't even disagree with another student without a threat of formergrandhavenite said..let kids be kids and they will work it out.


Schools don't have a choice about "no tolerance". A lot of parents call and complain about anything and everything involving their child.


Not true. Students were paddled and/or suspended for tardies/truancy, disrespect toward an adult, foul language- and parents mostly supported the schools. Suspensions used to work when the suspended student "caught holy hell" at home. Sadly in many areas, this is not happening at home for a variety of reasons (working parents, ineffective parenting, entitlement, etc)

"Let kids be kids?" Really? What a lazy-minded solution. An "easy way out for schools employees"- are we blaming the schools for this? Really? This is part of the problem. That's like blaming a cop for your speeding ticket or a dentist for your cavity.

While suspensions out of school are not always the best solution, many schools resort to this due to a lack of support from home, a lack of staffing due to asesnine state cutbacks (moving a $billion from schools to business; w/o accountability) which have eliminated staff and intervention programing.

Frankly, students would be better served with one on one intervention/counseling with a professional to discuss behavior, consequences, solutions, etc, but this costs money.


"Zero tolerance" was mandated by the gov't at the state level which brought us 2nd graders getting expelled for having a bread knife in his lunch to cut food. Check it out.


Whatever happened to in house suspensions? I spent a good share of time in it, never got sent home for even fighting.


Ahhhh.....that explains it!


You got me. I remember being paddled with a ruler in elementary. I may be a smart a$$ but I am very respectful now because of it.


A lesson learned! Being a smarty pants is always more acceptable when done with respect and mindful of manners. :)


I agree with all of you... but until you have dealt with these situations as a teacher, school administrator, or even being the police officer.. it all starts in the home. I remember when you could get a swat from the principle or even the gym teacher for inappropriate behavior. Teachers today are taught and told to try and reason with children and bring the problems to the principal. What do you do after calling home several times and the behavior issues continue...Most parents would not let the schools discipline their child. Really should the school need too... This is a losing battle today.... Kids don't get enough play time outside to burn off the energy.. Very little gym time... So the easy way is sit on the couch with a big soda and junk food playing video games. Maybe get them out and shovel some elderly persons driveway...

In-house suspension... cost money for over time.. what do you do with the child when he does show up for the suspension.. call home when SOME parents don't agree with the suspension or even teaching their kids to act appropriate. I can't believe how many kids have not been taught to open doors for people or say excuse me. These issues start several years ago... nothing new in today's world... How do you fix this....

Tri-cities realist

In house suspension during school hours, no overtime needed. Let them sit their rear ends in the hallway against the lockers like back in the day. Or we could just coddle them more, help them with their self esteem, and try to understand why they are acting out. I'll give ya a hint... It's usually because they are kids, who by nature, push the limits and test boundaries. All they need are some consequences, both at home and at school. It is called learning from your mistakes.

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