Suspension has been a commonly used disciplinary method in schools for decades. Unfortunately, it also has no positive impact on students. What’s worse, these same children often develop a dislike for law enforcement that lasts into adulthood. This is a dangerous cycle that we have to stop to help students stay in school, develop positive relationships with adults in positions of authority, and achieve greater success. At my school, we found a solution. Read on and you will discover where the idea came from and how to replicate it in your school.

DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) programs involving law enforcement presence in schools were common two decades ago. At almost the same time these programs slowly faded out of schools, we encountered some of the most prevalent rise in violence in schools. Confronted with this reality, smaller communities and suburban schools took a page from the large, urban school playbook and began hiring school resource officers (SSOs). Their primary purpose is security, but they can do so much more.

Typically, SROs (we call them SSOs, for school security officers) are retired law enforcement. With 25 years of law-enforcement experience behind them, they bring a breadth of knowledge and skill not previously accessible to school communities. I decided to make the best of these resources and the results are impressive. Here is how we did this, in simple strategic steps that can be replicated anywhere SSOs are employed.

Looking for a way to lower suspensions and reduce bullying?

The Stationhouse Adjustment method
I once heard of an intervention practice employed in New Jersey that immediately caught my attention: the Stationhouse Adjustment. A Stationhouse Adjustment is an alternative method that law-enforcement agencies may use to handle first-time juvenile offenders who’ve committed minor offenses within their jurisdiction that do not result in a criminal record.

About the Author:

Dr. Michael Gaskell has been principal of Hammarskjold Middle School in East Brunswick, N.J. since 2006, following experience as a special educator and assistant principal in Paramus, NJ. Gaskell achieved his doctorate in educational leadership in 2014 and continues to model the pursuit of lifelong learning as he serves as a mentor to new principals in other schools through the NJEA Leaders to Leaders program. In his work as a principal, he works tirelessly to support instructional excellence, his faculty, the district, and, most important, the children as benefactors of idea sharing.


Add your opinion to the discussion.