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?