One of the important roles that I have as an assistant principal is handling discipline for our school. Within the list of the consequences that students are given, according to our discipline policy, in-school (ISS) and out-of-school suspension (OSS) can be assigned depending on the severity of the original offense. While consequences for inappropriate behavior is definitely needed, one thing I’ve noticed this year is that the format of suspension is not always the most conducive to trying to handle the behavior. For the majority of your population at a school, suspension can be an effective disciplinary tool. However, this group of students are not the ones that spend the most time in ISS or OSS. Often you have a small group of your population that frequents ISS because of chronic discipline issues. So the question becomes, how is the current suspension model helping resolve any of the chronic behaviors? Especially ISS, since it is used more frequently than OSS.
So the current model that is used in many schools for ISS goes like this, student receives ISS as a consequence, they sit in a small room with one teacher for the duration of their time in ISS, they get caught up on assignments while missing classroom instruction, then when they are done they return to the classroom and are expected to resume the class as normal. The dilemma is that you are removing a student from direct instruction of the teacher and they are behind when they return to class; but, a consequence is needed. Furthermore, when the student returns to the classroom they are behind in the instruction and can become disengaged in the content. When students are disengaged, they are more likely to be a behavior issue in class.
So how do we fix this? The model of suspension is something that I have struggle with for sometime now because I know it’s not the most effective, but we still continue to use it because it’s one of the tools we have to handle behaviors. Essentially what could make the most difference in trying to correct this problem is having strong classroom instruction continue while suspended and character education to boot. This is much easier said than implemented though. The curriculum and staff development that would have to be done is a large task to accomplish.
The real emphasis to this system should be discipline as a corrective measure and not punishment because it is the tool that we have. Over the summer and moving into the next school year this is one of my major professional development goals for myself. I want to be able to provide appropriate instruction and access to the curriculum for these kids in both the academic and character education realms. One tool that I will work with to try and improve this is Google Classroom. My goal/vision is to be able to create a “Class” for students that may be in ISS so that myself and their teachers can push assignments out to students. The real beauty in using Classroom in this regard is the ease, instant feedback, and the quality of instruction can be must better than the old fashioned way of sending down a reading assignment and worksheets to complete. The same can be said for character education. My goal is to begin pulling as many resources as I can go begin to develop our own curriculum resources for in-school suspension. I know this is a lofty goal but it is something that I feel like can be accomplished through some hard work.