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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Suspension and Student Work

Suspension and Student Work

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I would like to start a discussion regarding the philosophy of student discipline. Maybe I should share how I view this discussion format. I see it as an opportunity for school administrators to banter about issues relevant to school administrators. Therefore, this is a forum for micro-development and an opportunity to address issues that are on our minds. I say this because I want to be expressively clear that what I am looking for is to discuss the ideas we have regarding student discipline and punishment. I feel safe in the presumption that we all have independent views and policies regarding how we “administer” punitive actions. What I want to discuss for the sake of professional growth are issues related to RTI and how we intervene in students’ lives that are resistant to the social and moral expectations we have of them; however, I equally accept that we will all have independent systems for handling the situations that arise. So, what I am really after is a discussion on what it means for students to be suspended and still have the opportunity to submit work, contribute to their lessons, and progress in the system. Consider that it is common practice to separate “behavior” from “academics” for the purpose of instructional assessments. It is also common to integrate behavior interventions into the school day as we generally accept that student performance (behavior or academic) is interconnected. For example, failure to contribute to a lesson may be an indicator of a student’s inability to understand the material. The student may act up to escape the situation and create a cycle of failure (or continue to perpetuate the cycle started in earlier grades). The student may be suspended and escape the lesson all together. Should the thought be to make them accountable for work and how should this be done? Is work being done simply because it was assigned (i.e. a tribute based instructional system)? How do we know the student needs the lesson? How do we ensure that once they are suspended they have the opportunity to catch back up; should they be allowed to catch up? If not, why not? What are we using to address the intentional non-learner in our school who escape by means of punishment? For example consider that a discipline problem emerges because the student struggles with reading or writing yet they have a large report due on Friday; they get into a fight on Tuesday so they won’t have to deal with their need. What are we considering in these types of situations? I know the answer is in PBS and RTI, and is discussed in building level PLCs but I want to go into the ideology we have as leaders and consider our own turning points in dealing with these issues.

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