Kids Will Be Kids

“What if my teachers had seen me as a geologist rather than destructive? What if they had seen me as a scientist rather than being a demon? A future doctor interested in anatomy rather than seeing me as sexually perverted?”

-Rosemarie Allen

Rosemarie Allen had been suspended at least 7 times per year. For what you might ask? Did she light a building on fire, scream and cuss at her teacher, or maybe she was terrorizing other children? Not exactly. After one geography lesson, she had attempted to dig a whole in the ground to see if China was really on the other side. On another, she took apart a Barbie doll to see how the body parts fit together. The other instances were of similar circumstances, yet she was suspended for each and every one of these.

It makes me wonder, how effective are suspensions really? And are they being given out too free handedly? Our society likes to punish people for their crimes, but what if the suspension is actually a reward? After an action, you can either be rewarded or punished. Well according to the Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior, there are two different types of rewards: gaining something like a prize or escaping something like getting a break. If a child was being highly inappropriate in class and they get suspended, now they have more time to watch TV or play video games. On the flip side, if a child hates going to school and ends up being disruptive with other kids by starting a fight, their suspension serves as their “escape” from school. Now is there a more effective way to discipline kids rather than a school suspension?

I remember my school had a more layered system of discipline than just cuttings straight to detention. The first step was in school suspension. If it was less severe, a student got in school suspension during their lunch break. If it was a little more serious, they would serve it during a free block of some sort, or during a class that was seen as less serious or more enjoyable like art or gym. Another form of punishment was called “training camp”. This typically occurred right after school. All the students that had to serve training camp were sent to a classroom and given an assignment. I heard some teachers be as relaxed as just “making” them do their homework or as much as copying the entire Declaration of Independence for the entire duration of training camp. The most severe form of punishment was out of school suspension. This is the typical suspension that you normally hear of. If it was a very serious offense, a student could be given this punishment right away. However, more often than not a teacher would assign several of the aforementioned punishments. Once those accumulated to a certain extent, then an out of school suspension was awarded.

I am not sure if this same procedure applies to other schools but this was definitely one way my school was trying to combat the large number of out of school suspensions. It is definitely still a problem though if Kindergarteners are making up a majority of school suspensions. It makes me wonder to what ever happened to the old fashioned time-out?

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One Response to Kids Will Be Kids

  1. kbuffett says:

    This was a great post, Meera. I really enjoyed reading how your school handled student discipline — it’s good to see that some districts/schools are dedicated towards finding ways to prevent unnecessary out-of-school suspensions.

    My school’s disciplinary system was also layered to some extent (but I am not sure how effective it was). In middle school, the first line of “punishment” was silent lunch. It pretty much is exactly what it sounds like — if you were disobedient or disruptive, you would have to eat lunch silently at a designed table in the cafeteria. I am not sure how effective this ended up being. As you can imagine, it was a huge source of embarrassment for some students (and almost a badge of honor for others).

    Silent lunch was not really a thing in high school, but ISS (in-school suspension) was incredibly common. The kneejerk reaction to “bad behavior” was ISS. We did not have a free block, so a student serving ISS would be there for the entire school day. I think it’s incredibly interesting that your school had different forms of ISS according to the severity of the behavior. I think that should definitely be more widely implemented.


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