Should Elementary School Students Be Suspended?
School systems are reconsidering how—and why—they discipline younger students.
More than 6,100 elementary school students—including more than 50 pre-kindergarteners and 433 kindergarteners—were suspended from schools in the Washington metropolitan area last school year, according to a Washington Post analysis published Monday.
Montgomery County Public Schools reported the lowest suspension rate of the seven Maryland school districts surveyed. The school system suspended 22 kindergarteners during the 2010-2011 school year, The Post reported.
The 2010-2011 School Safety and Security at a Glance report from MCPS report, shows that students suspended from county elementary schools in 2010 and 2011 account for about 0.6 percent of all elementary school students. (Click on the PDF at right to read the School Safety and Security report.)
Nearly 400 of the 66,101 county elementary school students received out-of-school suspension related to school safety infractions in 2011. Almost 100 of those were suspended multiple times.
While the school system has given special attention to a goal to reduce the disproportionate suspension rate of African American and Hispanic students, county school officials say MCPS has made progress in reducing suspension rates among all students.
There were 569 fewer suspensions at the elementary level during the 2008-09 school year compared with the previous year, according to an article by two county school administrators on the website of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
The article, titled "Rethinking Suspensions," outlines nine recommendations made by a work group that MCPS convened in spring 2007 with the goal of reducing suspension rates. The recommendations included:
- Limiting the types of offenses that warrant suspension.
- Finding alternatives to out-of-school suspension.
- Training for teachers and administrators to about cultural differences and the disproportionality of suspension rates.
- Greater analysis of suspension rates.
Meanwhile, the state school board is set to consider proposals to do away with zero-tolerance policies while requiring schools to reduce nonviolent incidents and suspensions of special education and minority students, The Baltimore Sun reported.
The board is expected to take up the proposals Feb. 28.
James H. DeGraffenreidt Jr., president of the Maryland State Board of Education, told The Post that the board is concerned that too many students “are removed from school for offenses that do not harm others and could be handled another way.”
Norman Coleman, principal at Cannon Road Elementary in Colesville, told Patch that the county adheres to the state mandate for suspensions, which says that "a student should not be suspended from school unless the behavior is disruptive and detrimental to the functioning of the school." Both conditions must apply before a suspension is considered.
Coleman said that suspensions don't necessarily work to change a student's attitude, either.
"Our goal is to identify ways to alter or change the behavior while helping the student move towards becoming an effective manager of his/her own behavior," he said.
"Just because you remove the student from the school environment for a day or more, it still doesn’t change the behavior. The same behavior will return a day or so later unless the school and parents collaboratively work together to get to the heart of the problem," Coleman continued.
“To me a suspension is for something so unprovoked, or something so out of the norm, that I, as the adult, had no other option,” Brubaker told The Post.