Suspension : quick fix or lasting harm?
Evidence is building that the damaging effects of suspension may be more far-reaching than anticipated, for both the individual and the school community. It is already common for troublesome individuals to be removed from the student body. When managing violent, antisocial or chronically disruptive student behaviour, schools face competing demands. Of primary concern is the maintenance of a safe teaching and learning environment for the entire school community. At the same time the needs and potential consequences for the individual student also warrant consideration. For the individual, suspension increase the risk of worsening academic problems, school disengagement and drop-out, participation in crime and delinquency, alcohol and drug abuse, and diminished employment opportunities. Schools are seeking solutions to the issue and finding ways of administering suspension that minimise the risks of negative consequences, such as the assignment of schoolwork to be completed during suspension, or linking the student to external programs offered by youth-oriented agencies. There are also a number of evidence-based approaches that seek to prevent the occurrence of challenging student behaviours, and teach students social, interpersonal and anger management skills, as well as ways to resolve conflict. Other established approaches are the use of restorative justice practices, and pairing the student with challenging behaviour with another without that behaviour. If schools are to continue to develop and apply alternative approaches, appropriately trained staff and resources are needed. Teachers with specific training in behaviour management are better able to deal confidently with a range of situations in their classrooms. Unfortunately, current undergraduate teacher education programs are rarely adequate in this area. [Author abstract, ed]