Alternatives to Suspension
When students are out of school, they are not participating in the learning process. When a student is suspended, even for one day, it can disrupt the learning process. The definition of “disengage” is to separate from someone or something; to stop being involved with a person or group; to stop taking part in something; to move (a mechanism or part of a machine) so that it no longer fits into another part. When we apply this to education, suspending students from school only further disengages our youth from our community.
At the core, people want connection, to feel like they are part of something. It is important to help our youth have a positive educational experience and be part of the community. There are ways to discipline and keep students in schools using alternatives other than suspension. It is recommended that behaviors and situational contexts are explored before imposing suspension on a youth.
Restorative Justice is a program that was initially used among juveniles, but can also be applied to schools. Resolutions Northwest has been implementing restorative justice programs in Portland schools recently, and the results are great! The practice involves a dialogue between student and administrator and provides the student with an opportunity to understand the implications of their actions and take some responsibility in coming up with a solution.
Creative solutions work with the student and the family. A family may be willing to do community service or volunteer to help a teacher after school. Working together on a solution assures the best outcome for both the student and the school. A student will be more likely to cooperate and complete a task if they helped come up with the solution. The idea is to include the student in the process and help the youth be accountable for his or her actions.
For more information or ideas in regards to alternatives to suspension, please contact one of the ESD 105 education advocates listed at the Education Advocates homepage.
Information for Students
If you find yourself in a situation where you get suspended, think about your next step before you act. You don’t want to make the situation worse, get in more trouble or involve more people. Think about your actions and what led to the suspension. If you think you were treated unfairly, then find out your rights.
If you could rewind the situation, would you have handled it differently?
Remember that administrators have to think about the safety of the school and consider all the students. Sometimes, they have to take action right away, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to them about what happened.
When you speak with the administrator, be respectful. you don't want to yell and escalate the situation. Remember that you have something to say and you want the administrator to hear you.
Ask why you were suspended.
Ask if there is anything else you can do to make it better.
Offer to write a letter of apology if appropriate.
Ask if you can do community service on campus.
Ask if you could have a mediation or meeting with the other student to address any issues.
If you get suspended:
Parents can ask for additional services from the schools.
Here are some ideas:
- The school will have to let you know why you were suspended.
- Someone has to let your parent(s) know that you were suspended.
- You and your parent have a right to ask for a meeting with the administrator within three days If you were emergency expelled, the school has 10 days to investigate the incident and make a decision to have you back in school or roll it over into a long term suspension up to 30 days.
- Find and review your school policies. This information should be in your student handbook or on the internet.
- Expulsions cannot last more than one year.
- Ask if the school counselor can meet with your child on a regular basis. This can be for ongoing counseling to address a specific behavior or issue, or it can be a casual check in to discuss progress.
- Ask for testing or an assessment for learning disabilities.
- Ask for mentoring opportunities for your student. Some schools have programs in place, or you can look into community agencies that match youth with a mentor.
- Ask about peer mediation programs. This is where the involved students can meet and discuss the issues or conflicts with an adult in the room to help control the conversation.
- Ask for tutoring help from a teacher.
- Get information about drug counseling if you have any concerns.
- Get information for mental health services to address issues such as anger management, social skills, conflict resolution, etc.
- Ask about any activities that your child can get involved in, such as sports, leadership activities, after school programs or community service activities. If there aren't enough options at the school - consider creating something through your local programs or church.