Hello Allies of Power U Center for Social Change!
I wanted to share this recent article from NPR with Power U Youth. It discusses what happens when students are in in-school suspension. We at Power U believe that out-of-school suspensions are extremely detrimental to a student's education and also increase the likelihood that that student will drop out of school and/or be arrested. Because of this, we don't believe schools should use out-of-school suspensions, but that while a student is on in school suspension, that their time should used to deal with the root causes of whatever issues are getting in the way of their learning, and provide an way for them to continue learning. This is why we campaign for restorative justice in schools- to provide both accountability and support for the young people when they need it.
Power U Youth conducted a survey last year of over 600 students in various Miami-Dade schools to examine suspensions and arrests. We learned a lot through this survey including that many students, while they are in SCSI (in-school suspension,) they are not learning, but doing things such as copying the dictionary. 11% of students surveyed had also been locked out of school or sent home for the day but not officially suspended, so we know that the reported statistics are not always correct. We need programs that don't encourage administrators to misreport what they are doing, and that provide teachers the tools they need to create positive learning environments.
Additionally we know that suspending students out-of-school doesn't provide either accountability for what they did, or support they need to stop the misbehavior. Rather it oftentimes becomes like a vacation. 80% of students in our survey reported that they felt the situation was either worse of the same when students return from suspension. Teachers and administrators need tools to help address these issues with the students so that they are learning from their mistakes, and that communication within the schools can improve, creating supporting relationships and improved learning environments. Restorative justice provides these tools and has shown dramatic results in other districts such as Baltimore, Denver and Oakland Public schools. Within a few years of implementation of these practices, schools saw dramatic reductions in suspensions and arrests, often by as much as 60%. Read more about it in our report!
The report also highlights the racial disparity in who is being punished by harsh Zero Tolerance discipline policies, which have not proven to make schools safer, but which do create unhealthy school climates. There is no study showing that Black youth misbehave or commit crimes more than white youth. In Miami schools, however in the 2008-2009 school year, Black youth were suspended out-of-school at much higher rates (13.1 per 100 students) than White students (3.2 per 100 students.) This demonstrates an institutionalized racism that disrespects what Americans have struggled for for centuries- the right for children of any age to an equal education and their human rights.
We commend the efforts of the Education Transformation Office in beginning to bring restorative justice to their schools, as well as the work of Valtena Brown and others, who are examining the Student Code of Conduct to search for ways to reduce out-of-school suspensions. We look forward to continuing to work on this with them, because we know that suspending students out-of-school is extremely detrimental to the student as well as the school, but that if they are going to be in school, they need to be doing something useful with their time. Restorative justice provides a way for schools to work with students to develop meaningful solutions, that respect their human rights. This is the kind of change we need, and we appreciate your ongoing support in this work!
In-School Suspension: a Better Alternative or Waste of Time?
By Sarah Gonzalez, from NPR
Pryor got an in-school suspension for consistent tardiness when he was in middle school. He said the other kids in the classroom were a group of friends who had all cut class.
“They all have their friends in there with them and that’s the time they really want to make fun and criticize,” Pryor said.
Pryor says he does not feel comfortable being in a room with all the “bad kids.”
“Most kids that go to SCSI are the main bad ones,” he said. “The ones that like to pick on and bully and it makes you feel like you need to be more on your toes.”
“We Just Read and Watched Teachers Eat…”
More than 455,000 Florida students were suspended last school year.
“Some of the student actually don’t mind going there because they can sit there and do nothing.”
- JENNIFER SMITH, HIALEAH HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER
The majority – more than 243,000 – were in-school-suspensions.
Students are held in a classroom away from other students. It could be for on class period, an entire school day, or multiple school days.
Each school handles in-school suspensions differently.
In Miami-Dade County, certified teachers supervise suspended students and act as tutors if students have questions.
In Orange County, schools hire separate staff at a lower salary than beginning teachers.
In Duval County, schools sometimes re-purpose staff to watch over in-school-suspension students.
And students are supposed to be doing work during in-school-suspension.
“We didn’t really do anything,” Campbell said. “We just read a book and just watched the other teachers talk and eat and things.”
She got 10 days of in-school-suspension for pushing a student she says pushed her first.
“It’s like jail,” she said. “We have to have last lunch and last lunch means after all the kids eat you get all the scraps left.”
Campbell said she was lucky to get in-school-suspension over out-of-school-suspension. But she didn’t realize she would miss so much class.
“They mark you absent for 10 days,” she said. “And me, I go to school everyday, so those 10 days messed up everything.”
School officials say being on campus gives students access to teachers if they have questions about classwork. And sometimes students are allowed to go back to class to pick up classwork or take a test.
Earl Green handles discipline and student services at Orange County public schools. He says it’s better to keep suspended students on campus.
“When a child is suspended out of school, many times they are on their own during the day because mom and dad have to go to work,” Green said. “And lots of times they end up roaming the streets and getting into more trouble.”
But Jennifer Smith, a teacher at Hialeah High in Miami, says in-school suspension is not effective at deterring students from breaking school rules.
“Some of the student actually don’t mind going there because they can sit there and do nothing,” she said. “A lot of times those are students who are sitting there doing nothing to begin with.”
Are In-School-Suspensions Applied Evenly?
Statewide black male students are the only subgroup more likely to get out-of-school suspension than in-school-suspension over White, Hispanic and Asian males combined.
School officials say it mirrors national trends.
And Valtena Brown, a regional superintendent in Miami-Dade County, says they are trying to figure out why.
“Our superintendent has commissioned a task force to actually look at the phenomenon in Dade County.”
But she said out-of-school-suspensions across all groups are down over the past few years — being replaced by in-school-suspensions.