The Suspension Conundrum: Do Suspensions Improve Behavior and Academic Outcomes for All Students or, a Pipeline to Dropping Out and Prison?
A few weeks after the election of de Blasio in 2013 I dropped by the transition tent to listen to a panel of community activists talk education. The panel trashed the Department of Education over excessive numbers of student suspensions, for the panelists, evidence that the “school to prison pipeline” was alive and well.
The data is clear, students who are suspended in the 4th grade are likely not to graduate high school and the more frequent the suspensions the more likely the student will enter the criminal justice system.
As a reaction school districts have sharply curtailed the numbers of suspensions, especially in urban school systems.
Twenty-seven states have revised their laws to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline, and more than 50 of America’s largest school districts, serving more than 6.35 million students, have implemented discipline reforms. From 2011–12 to 2013–14, the number of suspensions nationwide fell by nearly 20%.
Is there a downside to reducing suspensions?
Advocates of discipline reform claim that a suspension may have negative effects on the student being disciplined. Critics are concerned that lax discipline may lead to more disruptive behavior, disrupting classrooms and harming students who want to learn.