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Schools Should Consider These Questions When Deciding Between in School and out of School Suspensions
June 27, 2019

The goal of a school should be that students are in a safe, supportive, and focused classroom that allows them the opportunity to learn and grow. This should be the top concern for all stakeholders. There are several different strategies for classroom management and discipline. Typically, the most severe problems lead to a suspension.

There are two different types of suspensions. The first is in school suspension (ISS) where the student is removed from the classroom but remains in school in an isolated area. The second is out of school suspension (OSS) where students are removed from the school’s campus.

Often, suspensions are used for a variety of reasons to support the overall culture in a school building. Suspensions in schools, whether in school or out of school, are often due to students being severely disruptive to the learning environment. The only way for instruction to continue is with the removal of the student. Removing the student is sometimes the best way for learning to continue for all students. Another reason for the use of suspension is due to threats to the physical safety of other students and staff.

The use of suspension is an generally an accepted practice, but schools question which type of suspension is the most effective.

There are those that believe if you are going to punish a student, the best course of action would be for them to be placed in ISS. ISS does not require the student to leave the school but does remove him or her from the classroom. Typically, ISS rooms in the school are run by non-teachers. In these rooms, students typically sit at a desk and complete classwork.

From my experience, ISS room monitors are nothing more than glorified babysitters. Those rooms are full of children school administrators do not want to suspend and teachers do not want in their classrooms. Now, there are some ways to ensure ISS is a productive space for those students that need to be removed. The first action is staffing the room with an individual who is either a licensed teacher or someone who specializes in a variety of behavioral strategies. This could range from punitive to rehabilitative actions geared towards stopping or changing the misbehavior of students without them being removed from the school.

On the other hand, many in the education field view OSS as one of the most severe punishments. They believe OSS should be reserved for the most destructive and/or dangerous behaviors. I work in a school now that has historically had high OSS numbers. The reason is our discipline is strict, but also, we do not have the option of students being able to go to an ISS room when they misbehave and cannot return to the classroom.

If a student is removed from the classroom and cannot return, that student will go home or be suspended from school the next day. I do understand those that say removing students from school for a full day because they were always talking, or continually getting out of their seat, or talking back to the teacher is a bit extreme. I also say if you are “extreme” with those minor offenses, you also deter those minor offenses from happening again and prevent minor offenses becoming major offenses. Many believe OSS is harmful to students’ learning because they are removed from school. I only push back to say what is the difference between being removed from the classroom to go home, and there is no instruction and being removed from the classroom and sent to a room with no instruction? The same lack of instruction is happening. But when you move a student to another room that behavior remains in the building, you must monitor it.

When deciding between ISS or OSS, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Will the punishment stop the student from future behaviors?
  2. Will the punishment protect the integrity of the learning environment?

ISS and OSS could be the answer to both.

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