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School Suspensions Spike 40 Percent in NYC!

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momlogic's Vivian:

school desk

The New York Daily News reports that although there were just under 52,000 suspensions in 2005-06, those digits leapt to a whopping 72,000 through June 24 of this past school year -- even though there were slightly fewer students!

In the article, officials said that a revised discipline code had made offenses like "aggressive" fighting and "sexually suggestive comments" by middle and high school students automatically punishable by suspension.

Dr. Beatrice Fennimore, adjunct professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, has both a professional and personal interest in this topic, as her own two children were educated in the N.Y.C. public school system. "Parents should indeed be very concerned about school suspensions," she said. "Suspension should be a regrettable event when the school simply cannot handle a child, rather than a routine method of discipline for infractions that have not endangered anyone and can be handled by a variety of other methods of discipline that are relevant to the infraction."

Fennimore feels that the increase of suspensions at a time when No Child Left Behind has created far more pressure on schools to successfully educate all children -- including those who may have been marginalized because of prejudice and discrimination -- is highly suspect. "Are schools suspending those students who may be expected to lower school test results because they are not currently proficient in reading or math?" she wonders. "Have schools given up on students who might flourish with appropriate encouragement and support?"

Fennimore feels that students who have performed relatively minor infractions could be better managed through preventive classroom-management methods that strengthen their self-control and engage them in positive educational relationships. "A suspension from school is not a positive intervention and increases the child's sense of anger and isolation," she explains. "Periods away from school are periods when learning is not taking place, and for many children, suspension means unsupervised time alone at home or in the streets. Every child has a right to an equal educational opportunity, and the schools, however stressed they may be, have a moral and ethical responsibility to keep the children in school and help them to do as well as they possibly can."

What do you guys think? Are suspensions necessary for minor infractions such as sassing back? Are there more effective techniques (such as counseling) to discipline those students? Or do you suspect there are politics at play?

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Mari July 9, 2010, 5:26 PM

I am a teacher in NYBOE and I believe this article would have been more informative had someone from the district responded as well. I, too, have a personal and business relationship with my school because my daughter was in the class next door. I have found that there are many students with habitual behavioral issues that are not suspended enough. While it is a school’s responsibility to teach all children as they come (unlike charter or private schools) teachers and students, alike, should not be subjected to the abuse they can experience from interactions with children that cannot control their anger even after several attempts have been made to help them work through their rage at school and at home. Also, what your article failed to address is that there are many different levels to the suspension process. A principal’s suspension simply means the child is removed from the classroom while still staying in the school building. A superintendent’s suspension means that the child is removed from the school site, but still expected to attend school in a different building. Learning still continues. So the chances of a problematic child being suspended because of a fear of low test scores seems absurd then; because the student is still expected to complete their work and participate in testing whether suspended or not.

JD July 9, 2010, 9:20 PM

MomLogic asks: “Are suspensions necessary for minor infractions such as sassing back?”

I’m a parent of a NYC public school student about to enter middle school in the fall. I’ve heard the way some of the elementary school students (a diverse racial & socio-economic group) at his former school - an award winning one at that - talk to school staff & other adults. It is apparent in their attitude & language that they are not being taught respect at home.

In my opinion, “sassing back” is NOT a minor infraction. It is an indication that parents are not doing their part in raising a respectful child who will become a productive member of society.

As a previous poster said, in NYC schools there are different levels of suspensions in which the students’ behavioural issues are dealt with. My understanding of the process, as a parent, is that with a suspension comes an opportunity for the school staff to work with parents in rectifying the behaviour.

Anonymous July 10, 2010, 8:00 PM

I wish more school districts would suspend over what you call “minor” infractions. Personal and parental responsibility has been seriously lacking in the past thirty years and kids are getting worse and worse in their behavior. These types of behaviors would not have been tolerated in my youth and now schools are supposed to put up with kids garbage. These type of kids look at counseling as a joke or at best, some free time out of the classroom. It’s time to get back to hardcore and while I don’t mean you have to have corporal punishment, it’s time to get back to some home accountability!!!

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