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Impact of School Suspension on Students


Institution Affiliation


Impact of School Suspension on Students.

Each year, schools develop and empower the educators to invent ways of providing

quality education. Education agencies assess teachers’ performance through tests (Carroll, 2008).

However, the performance of test does not reflect what is going on within the classroom walls in

the context of learning, teaching and disciplining. For instance, John is disruptive in class that he

interferes with the teacher’s lesson and thus the learning of other students. Consequently,

administrators remove John from the classroom and assign him some form of exclusionary

discipline like in-school-suspension (ISS). His behavior becomes a daily routine. Therefore,

supervisors continue to use graduated exclusionary discipline practices like out-of-school

suspension (OSS) and removal to a disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP). John is

still responsible for knowing the material tested, regardless if he is in class or not. Therein lays

the problem that is the focus of this study: What are the impacts of suspension on student

achievements. The significance of this study is to examine the impact of school suspension (both

Out of School Suspension and In School Suspension) on Students’ Achievement.

The Current School Discipline Methods

Zero Tolerance Policies

There is no universal definition of zero tolerance policies. However, zero tolerance

typically involves, “more severe penalties, primarily suspension and expulsion, for both major

and minor violations of the school disciplinary code, to send a message that certain behaviours

will not be tolerated” (Skiba, 2010, p. S4H35-1). Disciplinary guidelines have been

predominately geared toward zero tolerance policies since the 1990s (Gregory & Cornell, 2009).

As communities became more concerned about school safety, zero tolerance policies were

implemented in response to the violence that was taking place in schools (Skiba & Sprague,

2008). Now, approximately 94% of the nation’s public schools utilize zero tolerance policies.

Over time, zero tolerance policies have transitioned to include severely punishing

students for lesser infractions. These minor offenses include use or possession of tobacco, school

disruption, and other less violent behaviors (Skiba & Peterson, 1999). An example of how this

policy has evolved is evident in a study by Skiba, Peterson, and Williams (1997). The

researchers analyzed approximately 17,000 middle school students’ referral and suspension rates

in 20 urban and suburban schools. Results revealed students from urban schools most often were

suspended for non-compliance/insubordination issues. However, students from suburban schools

were only suspended for more severe offenses. Mendez and Knoff (2003) also reported that 74%

of suspensions in middle school were based on disobedience as opposed to the one percent that

was due to serious disciplinary infractions.

Out-of-school suspension (OSS)

Out-of-school suspension is a practice that removes students from the school, due to

misbehavior, for a period usually less than ten days (Meek, 2009). The American Academy of

Pediatrics (2013) provides information suggesting there are risks and disadvantages related to

out-of-school suspension programs such as allowing time for suspended students to get into

(legal) trouble while away from school. Also, students were given out-of-school suspension fall

further behind in their schoolwork. Atkins, McKay, Frazier, Jacobsons, Arvanitis, Cunningham,

Brown, and Lambrecht (2002) suggested utilizing suspension as discipline often creates a

situation with more students being out of school, suspended, opposed to being in school.

In-School Suspension (ISS)


ISS refers to an educational environment put in place to accommodate students who

exhibit behaviors contrary to school standards. Students are assigned to ISS due to various

disciplinary infractions. As a result, they are removed from the classroom. However, since this

program is usually housed in schools, students can maintain a discipline record that does not

reflect any out-of-school suspensions (Troyan, 2003). Theoretically, students can stay current,

academically (Brown, 2007). Also, ISS provides a place for students to be accounted for while

being disciplined, as opposed to being away from school and potentially getting into further

trouble (Morris & Howard, 2003). Simonsen, Jeffrey-Persall, Sugai, and McCurdy (2011) found

that the purpose for ISS was to not only assist in maintaining students’ educational requirements

but also to improve their behavior such that returning to the classroom is beneficial.

Impacts of the Current School Discipline

Academic Achievement

The rate of school dropout is related to student frustration and disengagement due to the

approach which the schools deal with discipline. Hawkins, Guo, and Hill (2001) have

demonstrated that students become discouraged through their middle school and high school and

are more likely to break the principles of the school. Hawkins, Guo, and Hill (2001) suggest that

Schools should be places where children can learn academic content and learn how to be caring

and responsible citizens. Based on adolescent development at middle schools years, students’

social, psychological and emotional skills are developing, and school may be the only place they

experience positive interactions from which to base their future behaviors. The American

Academy of Paediatrics (2003) found a high chance of students susceptible to suspension from

school and the harm because of much time spent away from school.

Notable the principles of zero tolerance have a significant impact on academic

achievement. Smith (2010) believes that students experiencing suspension programs lose much

of the school time which adversely affect their class achievements. In fact, this is in line with

Arcia’s (2006) agreement that low achieving student who serves time in suspension program had

a gap in the classroom than the high achieving students. Most of the suspension program entail

teachers supervising students in rooms separate from the classroom. The educators provide the

suspended students with tasks to finish which are recommended by the referring teacher with

limited instruction or explanation. Consequently, the suspended students miss interaction time

with their classmates and class teachers. Troyan (2003) believes that in suspension students lose

much of the instruction time than those students who are expelled. Metze (2012) found that of

the almost 60% of Texas public school students suspended in middle or high school, 31% are

retained and 10% drop-out. In other words, any Texas middle or high school student that

experienced any suspension was more than six times more likely to have to repeat at least one

grade and five times more possible to drop-out than half of the students with no disciplinary

action. Balfanz, Bridgeland, Bruce, and Fox (2013) agree that student suspension, even once in

nine grade, resulted in an increase of the likeliness of drop-out of 16 for the non-suspend and

335 for the suspended. Suspension, as well as other forms of exclusionary discipline practices,

eliminated the experience of engaging with positive role models as the child never learned the

look and feel of appropriate behaviors. For that reason, exclusionary discipline practices were

associated with adverse long-term outcomes including decreased engagement with school, higher

rates of drop out and academic failure.

School-to-Prison Pipeline

From 1993 to 2013, academic institutions in the United States have reduced their student

suspension criteria and relied on the justice system to solve minor misbehaviors of students

(Rodriguez, 2013). However, Fuentes (2003) demonstrated that states with the highest rate of

suspensions are prone to have increased numbers of juvenile imprisonment. School exclusion

and failure were powerful predictors of subsequent antisocial behavior, setting the stage for

increased juvenile incarcerations, a phenomenon created and called the “school-to-prison

pipeline” (Justice Center, 2011). For instance, Carmichael, Fabelo, Thompson, Plotkin,

Marchbanks, and Booth’s (2011) study among Texas middle school students revealed 26% of the

suspended students were prone to have experienced the juvenile system, and about 12% of the

students had contact with the legal system (p. 14). According to the study, students suspended

multiple times were more likely to enter the juvenile system during their high school years. Such

research findings were typically not generalized beyond the scope of the study; however, the

Texas study was more apt to apply to other districts because one in ten public school children

were educated in Texas schools, size, and student population in Texas was diverse and

appropriately represented similar population make-up of schools all over the United States

(Carmichael et al., 2011).

Other studies have demonstrated crisis in suspension due to zero-tolerance principles. For

instance, Losen and Martinez (2013) documented the deferment of over two million students

between 2009 and 2010 and a ratio of 1:9 students suspended at least once during this academic

period. Assuming suspensions were a last resort consequence, the stats indicated there were

severe and pervasive behaviors, like assaults, rapes, and attempted murders going on in schools.

That was not the case. LaMarche (2011) found, in 2006, nationwide, most suspensions entailed

noncriminal activities, such as violating the dress code and disrupting the teacher. Compelling

research suggested zero-tolerance policies did not improve students’ behavior, nor did they make

schools safer (American Psychological Association, 2008). Even more disconcerting was that

suspension failed to develop students’ behaviors and increased their likeliness of engaging in

antisocial and violent behavior within the next twelve months (Hemphill et al., 2014). The

solution of policies of zero-tolerance utilized to make schools safe and conducive to continued

learning for students increases the chances to be involved with the legal system. Studies show

frequent and lengthy suspensions led to various results, including delinquency, drug use, and

crime, which were precursors to interaction with the administration of juvenile justice.

Longer-term implications include states funding prisons more than public schools. The

U.S. expenditures on prisons rose from $15.7 million in the year 1986 to a staggering $38.2

billion, twice the spending of what was spent in university learning in 2001 (Muncie 2008).

Muncie also highlights the population of incarcerated youth rose by 43% since the 1990s and

surpassed 100,000 by 2006. Garrett (2013) adds students expelled in 6th grade were more

inclined to be suspended a second time before they entered the 8th grade, evidence that

suspension merely reinforces the inappropriate behavior. This increased incarceration rate of

youth, according to Kim (2010), is a direct outcome of “policies and practices that systemically

push at-risk youth out of mainstream public schools and into the juvenile or criminal justice

systems” (p. 956). Using exclusionary discipline measures by schools had much more

complicated and far-reaching implications beyond it are serving as a precursor to incarceration.

Higher incarceration rates led to less funding for education, as states had to maintain prisons.

Higher dropout rates forced states to redirect funds away from school to keep welfare benefits

that dropouts were certain to need because they lacked the education to support themselves.


No Child Left Behind (NCLB), through high stakes testing and stringent accountability

standards, systematically changed schools across America. NCLB mandated high-quality teacher

performance gauged by student performance on state standardized tests. Zero tolerance policies

and exclusionary discipline practices ushered in the main controversies evident in the literature.

First, zero tolerance policies did ensure safer schools. Second, Out of School Suspension and in-

school suspension policies promotes lower school engagement. Finally, exclusionary discipline

policies are precursors to a student’s involvement with the juvenile justice system. NCLB

guaranteed teachers would teach effectively to ensure student achievement based on a series of

rewards and punishments. Many schools are trying to actualize and grasp alternatives to

suspension. They are focusing on options that would react suitably and successfully when

students do not behave well, while keeping them in school and helping them push ahead,

behaviorally and educationally (Burke, 2015). Abuse of suspension is an issue school

management can address by supplanting suspension with other options. If alternatives, such as

restorative practice, are implemented with devotion to the educational program, perhaps, it could

reduce the negative results caused by suspension, enhance discipline within schools, and help

boost the achievements of students. If schools consider alternatives to suspension with

thoroughness, the outcomes can be positive, both for all stakeholders and, most importantly, the

individual school children.



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expulsion. Pediatrics, 112(5), 1206-1209

Arcia, E. (2006). Achievement and enrollment status of suspended students: Outcomes in a large,

multicultural school district. Education and Urban Society, 38, 359–69.

Atkins, M. S., Mckay, M. M., Frazier, S. L., Jakobsons, L. J., Arvanitis, P., Cunningham, T., &

Lambrecht, L. (2002). Suspensions and detentions in an urban, low-income school:

Punishment or reward? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 30(4), 361- 71

Balfanz, R., Bridgeland, J., Bruce, M., & Fox, J. H. (2013). Building a grad nation: Progress and

challenge in ending the high school dropout epidemic–2013 annual update. Washington,

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