By Rosa Conrad
Zero tolerance school policies inform parents on the actions taken when children break school rules. In this blog, I discuss these disciplinary actions taken based on the policies that schools implement. My focus, however, is to define suspension, expulsion, and in-school suspension, identify who is being affected by these policies. My discussion is based on a North County, San Diego school district, but I encourage you to look at your own school district’s website and parent handbook for how it is defined in you area.
Suspension is the removal of a student from the classroom for disciplinary reasons for a defined period of time by a teacher or school administrator. A principal or designee may suspend a student for up to five days. A teacher may suspend a student for the remainder of the class in which the misbehavior occurred and for the next day’s class. A suspension may be extended under certain conditions. There are two kinds of suspensions: on-campus suspension and home suspension.
Students placed on a home suspension are not permitted on or near the school campus, nor are they allowed to participate in any school activities during their suspension. They may, however, be required to complete assignments and tests, which will be made available to them through an intermediary.
On-campus suspension is a suspension program that involves the student serving the period of suspension on campus in a separate, supervised setting. It also involves progressive discipline during the school day on campus such as using conferences among staff, parents/guardians, and students; detention; student-study teams or other assessment-related teams; and/or referral to school support-service staff.
Expulsion is the removal of a student from all schools in the…Unified School District for violating the California Education Code, as ordered by the Board of Education. The expulsion is for a defined period of time. An application for re-admission must be considered with a specified time period. State law provides for full due process and rights to appeal any order of expulsion.
Welch and Payne researched how often suspension, expulsion, and in-school suspension are used when disciplining students, and if the reason falls under the school’s zero tolerance policy (e.g., possession of a weapon, drugs, explosives/see zero tolerance policy). The article looked at who was being punished, showing that Blacks and Latinos were given harsher punishments than white students.
Another point the authors stressed was that disciplinary actions like suspension, expulsion, and in-school suspension have negative effects for students and their futures. These negative effects can include “school failure, grade retention and a greater likelihood of dropping out.” Students lose time in the classroom and they may fall behind in their studies. Schools have longed stressed the importance of not missing a day of school because of the effect it has on a student’s learning yet these policies do not consider such effects for those students who are suspended or expelled. In addition, students may feel excluded, alienated, and deterred from actually resolving what the issue was to begin with. Students are being punished for breaking school policy, but what is being done for students to help them understand the choices they are making?
It is important for parents to understand what happens to their children when actions like these are imposed on students and the effects they have. We need to ask ourselves if the child’s actions truly warrant the action being taken under these policies. Parents may feel disappointed in their children for making wrong choices and violating school policy, but they should remember to be informed on what the policy means. They can also ask for alternatives to these actions and request assistance or resources for their children.