Evidence from many studies suggests that out-of-school suspension is not effective in deterring behavior problems and is linked to harmful effects on schools and youth. Data shows that students who are suspended are more likely to engage in misbehavior in the future (Tobin, Sugai, & Colvin, 1996). Suspending students who engage in problem behaviors does not identify or address the students’ underlying problems; instead, it prevents the student from obtaining school support services (Townsend, 2000). Suspension decreases access to instruction and increases academic difficulties.
• Higher rates of misbehavior (Tobin, et.al., 1996).
• Lower academic achievement (APA, 2006).
• Drop-out and school failure (Bowditch, 1993).
• Restricted access to school services such as counseling and social skills instruction (Townsend, 2000).
• Feelings of alienation, anxiety, rejection, diminished self-esteem, withdrawal (DeRidder, 1991).
• Feeling unwelcome at school (Civil Rights Project, 2000).
• Harm to healthy adult relationships (APA, 2006).
• Unsupervised time and increased opportunity for delinquency (Advancement Project, 2005).
• Lower academic achievement (APA, 2006).
• Diminished relationships with families and communities. (DeRidder, 1991).
• Loss of average daily attendance (ADA) funding (Skiba & Knesting, 2001).
• Lower ratings of school governance (Skiba & Rausch, 2006).
In 2011-12, over 85 percent of all disciplinary actions taken by school administrators in Minnesota public schools were out-of-school suspensions, resulting in 53,539 suspensions and 123,997 missed instructional days. The majority of suspensions are for behaviors that do not endanger others. In Minnesota, most incidents do NOT involve a weapon. The top suspension incident type for the 2011-2012 school year was disruptive/disorderly conduct/insubordination. Over 2,291 suspensions were for absences, which may exacerbate the problem of poor attendance. Proponents of out-of-school suspensions believe that suspending a student from school will deter future behavior problems. Research evidence contradicts these beliefs.
Suspension is often used with students who least can afford to miss school. Suspension is applied disproportionately among student groups. Students who are more likely to be suspended are:
• Black, Non-Hispanic; American Indian; and Hispanic.
• Low-achieving (Arcia, 2006).
• Identified as having a disability.
• From low socioeconomic status (SES) families.
Disparities by race are not entirely due to economic status (Skiba, 2002). There is no evidence that African American students engage in higher rates of misbehavior (Skiba, 2002). Rather, African American students may be disciplined more severely for less serious or more subjective reasons (Skiba, 2002). Inadequate teacher training in classroom management and in culturally competent practices may be a factor in the disproportionality of discipline for students of color (APA, 2008).
Decreasing suspensions requires a proactive, preventative, multi-tiered approach to supporting student behavior. One framework with evidence of effectiveness is Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). See the Alternatives-to-Suspension Fact Sheets on the Minnesota Department of Education website for more information.
• Advancement Project. (2005). Education on Lockdown: The schoolhouse to jailhouse track. http://www.advancementproject.org/sites/default/files/publications/FINALEOLrep.pdf
• American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force (2006). Are zero tolerance policies effective in the schools? Washington, DC: American Affective Association. http://www.apa.org/pubs/info/reports/zero-tolerance.pdf.
• Arcia, E. (2006). Achievement and enrollment status of suspended students. Education and Urban Society, 38, 359-369.
• Bowditch, C. (1993). Getting rid of troublemakers: High school disciplinary procedures and the production of dropouts. Social problems, 40, 493-509.
• Civil Rights Project. (2000). Opportunities suspended – The devastating consequences of zero tolerance and school discipline policies. The Civil Rights Project, Harvard University.
• DeRidder, L. M. (1991). How suspension and expulsion contribute to dropping out. Education Digest, 56(6), 44-50.
• Skiba, R. J. (2002). Special education and school discipline: A precarious balance. Behavioral Disorders, 27(2), 81-97.
• Skiba, R. J., & Knesting, K. (2001). Zero tolerance, zero evidence: An analysis of school disciplinary practice. In R. J. Skiba & G. G. Noam (Eds.) New directions for youth development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
• Skiba, R.J., & Rausch, M.K. (2006). Zero tolerance, suspension, and expulsion: Questions of equity and effectiveness. In C.M. Evertson & C.S. Weinstein (Eds.), Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues (pp. 1063-1089). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
• Tobin, T., Sugai, G., & Colvin, G. (1996). Patterns in middle school discipline records. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 4(2), 82-94.
• Townsend, B. (2000). The disproportionate discipline of African American learners: Reducing school suspensions and expulsions. Exceptional Children, 66(3), 383-391.
For more information please contact Cindy Shevlin-Woodcock at (651) 582-8656 or email@example.com.