In-School Suspension: A Learning ToolWhile educators agree that keeping suspended students in school is better than having them home unsupervised, schools need more than a room and a teacher for in-school suspension to change behavior. Structured programs that address multiple issues can help students get back to class faster and stay there. Included: Tips for creating successful in-school suspension programs.
As schools strive to keep more students in school, even disruptive ones, in-school suspension programs are seeing more students. But there is a big difference between having an in-school suspension program and having an effective one, educators and researchers said.
"Having said that, in-school suspension programs can be little more than window-dressing designed to pull down out-of-school suspension numbers," Wheelock continued. "Poorly conceived and inadequately staffed programs, even though they are better than out-of-school suspensions, may be little more than holding tanks -- just a pro-forma stop on the route to out-of-school suspension or exclusion."
DISCIPLINE, NOT PUNISHMENTThe unappealing idea of students serving out-of-school suspensions roaming their communities during the day, possibly getting into more trouble, prompted some schools to create or expand their in-school suspension programs. In Louisiana, state officials became so concerned about suspended students missing instructional time that the legislature began funding in-school suspension programs.
The Kentucky Department of Education encourages school districts to develop policies that include well-rounded academic offerings for those students who stay in school during suspension.
The most effective in-school suspension programs have components to address students' academic and social needs, educators said, since frequently, suspended students have both academic and behavioral problems.
At the same time, in-school suspension often remains the final step before out of school suspension.
To be an effective learning tool, in-school suspension programs "should be one part of a school-wide strategy for creating and sustaining a positive, nurturing school climate, based on respectful relationships between teachers and students, teachers and teachers, students and students," Wheelock said. "Such a strategy would acknowledge that conflicts of all kinds occur in schools and should be based on a thoughtful set of approaches to resolving conflict and solving problems."
According to Wheelock, characteristics of good ISS programs include:
- Ways to ensure in-school suspension is appropriate; in-school suspension is unlikely to resolve a truancy or homework completion problem that should be resolved through other means.
- A term limit; students should not be suspended indefinitely.
- Problem-solving and/or mediation (including peer mediation) sessions among teachers and students or students and students, which result in written contracts that spell out future expectations.
- Ensuring students come to the program with academic assignments to complete.
- Professionals to staff the program, such as a teacher who can assess students for unidentified learning difficulties, assist in assignment completion, and by a counselor who can explore root causes of problems, refer students to community services, and engage with parents.