We don’t suspend students too often in my school because it’s something I’m convinced doesn’t work. Years of research shows that. In fact, it not only affects the child suspended, suspension affects the climate around him or her, and subsequently, even the students who were not suspended.

The problem: I saw a national study, seared into my memory like a raw, fresh burn. Black children were suspended at a rate of four times that of their white peers. At our opening day faculty meeting a couple of years ago, I presented this statistic to my faculty and proceeded to share our school wide statistics over the prior three years: we suspended black children at a rate of two times that of their white peers.

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I could see some hearing this in the auditorium breathe a sigh of relief. We were better. But, I challenged them. That’s not good enough. Why were we still suspending black students at a rate twice that of white children? We had to employ alternative interventions that did not disproportionately take these children out of the classroom for punishment.

Like any effective school intervention, we should apply these for all students, but dare I say, more so for those in higher suspension rate categories. There–I said it. So we did. These interventions were unconventional, and I suspect that is why they worked. There is nothing wrong with sending a child to a guidance counselor or issuing lighter discipline where possible. Yet conventional methods weren’t working and a path of persistent resistance painfully and stubbornly remained.

About the Author:

Mike Gaskell, Ed.D., is a veteran middle school principal, mentor to new principals and author of 16 articles since 2018. With a book coming out in September on effective educator practices, he aspires to bring practical solutions to educators and families everywhere, in the best interest of students, especially the disadvantaged.


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