Suspending School Suspensions

By Mark D. Benigni and Bruce A. Miller

After a decade of dispensing out-of-school suspensions to the same angry, disenfranchised, or ambivalent students and their disappointed, tired, or bewildered parents, we realized that there had to be a better way to handle discipline problems. Obviously, schools can’t teach students if they’re not in school.

Recent studies document that students who feel connected to school are likely to improve on critical accountability measures. So, to achieve, students need to have a sense of belonging and attachment. Unfortunately, suspensions disconnect students who already are experiencing difficulties by further alienating them.

Yet administrators have used out-of-school suspensions for students with chronic tardiness, truancy, and minor behavior infractions for years. Recent legislation passed by the Connecticut General Assembly and signed into law requires in-school suspensions except when students pose a danger to persons or property or when they are a serious disruption to the educational process.

The new law has districts searching for creative alternatives to unproductive out-of-school suspensions. Cromwell High’s “In-School Suspension Program” is one alternative that is meeting the academic and behavioral needs of its students, staff, and families. The purpose of our program is to provide a safe, supervised suspension program that is separate from the regular school environment but still focused on academics. 

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