By Cassidy Liu
School punishments have always been enforced as a way to ensure that students behave accordingly, and since America has progressed away from the original corporal punishment, many high schools are now relying on new discipline techniques to maintain order over their students. While schools should have some sort of punishment for severe acts of misconduct, they should stop suspensions for students who break more insignificant rules.
Gabrielino High School outlines in its 2018-2019 Student Handbook certain offenses that would lead to school suspensions, ranging from more serious issues such as sexual harassment and assault to less serious offenses such as violating dress code or repeatedly bringing a skateboard to school. Moreover, the handbook aims to create a safe environment for students to be able to thrive and interact within a diverse community.
Carly Berwick, an education and culture journalist, told The Week, “suspensions [do not] prevent bad choices, and worse, it leads to lost learning for those who may need it most” and she is right.
When students are suspended, they are unable to attend school, which could be detrimental to their education in the long run. In a study conducted by a Boston University doctoral candidate on multiple schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, studies found that schools that had one to ten suspensions witnessed a drop of 18 percent in terms of academic growth. In addition, the study shows that schools which had more than 10 suspensions saw academic growth plummet by 30 percent.
“Students would act out, get sent home, be suspended, then return to school some number of days later,” said Stephanie Malia Krauss, former president and chief executive officer of Shearwater Education Foundation. “Now behind in their work, and embarrassed (or proud) of their absence, they would be more easily agitated and more likely to act out again.”
When students are severely punished for breaking the rules like dress code or being tardy to their classes, suspensions force the them to stay home, where they are unable to learn new material. According to the Student Handbook, at Gabrielino, punishments for violating the school dress code “may include, but are not limited to […] suspension.” Additionally, when kids are not in school, they have a higher chance of committing crimes since they do not have any adults to supervise their actions.
In order to ensure that suspensions are effective, there should be a nationwide standard for all schools in America over what should be punishable by school suspension. For instance, there could be a national school standard which establishes that bringing weapons on to campus would lead to suspension, and that students should not be suspended for violating dress code or repeatedly using their phones in class. All schools should be aware of which offenses are considered more serious and which are mere transgressions that can be corrected.
While punishments are needed to allow teachers and administrators to monitor the students, suspensions in general are not beneficial for the majority of the students that merely break small rules. Schools should be more aware of alternative discipline tactics to deal with different behavioral issues that are not necessarily as harmful, increasing training and awareness among the staff on how to deal with troublesome students without resorting to suspension would be beneficial in doing this.
Punishing a student with suspensions for actions that are not severe and threatening in nature cause further setbacks for the individual and school, Gabrielino can take a bold first step by stopping unnecessary suspensions and enacting alternative discipline tactics and become a role model for the rest of the country.