In recent years, schools across the country have been scrutinized for administrative
and disciplinary practices that increase the amount of out-of-school suspensions.
According to many education advocates and experts, suspensions are a severe
and ineffective punishment for student misbehavior – and one that
is counterproductive to keeping students in school. Even more concerning
is that schools have relied on this method as punishment for a range of
nonviolent student offenses, including even the most minor misbehaviors.
One UCLA study found that suspensions or expulsions of secondary school
students increased by roughly 40% from 1973 to 2010.
The largest concern being voiced is that
aggressive disciplinary actions such as suspensions increase dropout and
arrest rates. These serious social repercussions have also been noted to disproportionately
affect minorities and students with learning disabilities. A study of
one million Texas students found that those who were suspended or expelled
were nearly three times as likely to enter the juvenile justice system.
In response to these alarming statistics, many jurisdictions and schools
across the country have adopted different approaches to disciplining students.
In California and Maryland, for example, new regulations have been adopted
specifically to reduce suspension rates, according to a recent
New York Times opinion piece. Many schools have focused on providing students with drug
counseling and conflict-resolution training, and use in-school or after-school
detention rather than out-of-school suspensions. In the past year, California
has seen a 14% drop in suspensions.
Disciplinary reforms in California and Maryland schools demonstrate that
positive changes can be made when old, ineffective policies are evaluated
and improved upon. Such positive change has also been seen within the
criminal justice system. For now, however, the goal remains to have more
states reduce school suspensions, thereby increasing graduation rates
and reducing arrests.