Thursday, September 24, 2015

Seattle Places One-Year Moratorium on Elementary School Suspensions

On Wednesday, Seattle's school board unanimously voted to place a one-year moratorium on elementary school suspensions due to the statistics that show a harsher discipline on students of color.  Research shows that teachers tend to (consciously or unconsciously) target students of color and students who second language is English more.

Seattle school board member, Harium Martin-Morris, says "Part of [the statistic that "students who are suspended at a young age are more likely to be suspended as they get older" and are more likely to go to prison] is the criminalization of behavior that starts very, very early on."

The suspension of students of color only adds to their cycles of low-income, poverty, and less opportunities. This move by the school board of Seattle will prevent that and make discipline more consistent and equal for students.

Students go to school and learn, and shouldn't be taken out of class for disruption and breaking the rules. Students are at school to learn from their mistakes, and punishing them by taking away their education is adding fire to the flames.

Earlier in 2014, California was the first state to limit suspensions in schools. Should other states be pressed to do this as well? What are your thoughts?

Seattle Times


Shu Yang said...

I definitely agree that other states should follow suit in limiting the suspension public schools may give. Punishment should not be utilized to hinder students. Instead its purpose should be to teach students right from wrong. It is extremely disappointing that elementary schools which serve children as young as 5-12 years old, strip their constituents from learning opportunities, perhaps setting a negligent tone towards education for their future.

In addition, the fact that suspension/expulsion data by ethnicity ( , , is more readily available than suspension/expulsion data by socioeconomic status or suspension/expulsion data by age proves the large factor racial discrimination which consciously or subconsciously plays in punishing students. The same trend may be seen outside of public schools in cases of police discrimination against citizens of color.

So to answer Monica's question, yes, I believe more states should place a moratorium on elementary school suspensions. Yet, should this action be based solely on protecting students of color or based on teaching students the correct role of punishment?

Meghan Hilbert said...

I agree with Shu that elementary school children shouldn't be stripped away from learning opportunities and punished at such a young age. I think also think it goes far beyond the racial injustice that is served with the data, but also the mentality of young children. My experience with young children, being a coach and regular babysitter, I have observed that some children get a sort of rush from punishment. That is because children notice the attention, whether it is good or bad, from it, and enjoy it. Children naturally like to be a center of attention, and a suspension is a correct way of giving it to them. Also, any families cannot afford to leave a parent home to watch a punished child due to jobs and other commitments. Instead, the children should be "punished" by having to sit in a classroom and learn social lessons and other important things. After reading this article that discusses a different point of view of the halt on suspension in Seattle, I disagree with the fact that colored children tend to be suspended more because of culture. Going to a melting pot sort of school, I have witnessed white, Mexican, Asian children, etc. act out and behave disrespectfully. The article states that African American children have it in their culture to act out when notified for their wrong doings, and I believe that is a very narrow minded way to look at this. Yes, i definitely think colored children are more prone to suspension, but not from a cultural aspect, but possibly economically or other personal issues.
However, I don't think other states should be "pressed" to do such a thing. It is ethical and intelligent to try and collect data about the stoppage of suspensions, but I do have some idea that some schools need suspension. It can be a possibility that some schools are located in crime ridden areas and simply need to establish some form of punishment.

Langston Swiecki said...

Suspension is supposed to be a last resort for teachers, but its use has certainly changed over time in different locations, as increase in use might start a process that trivializes the punishment and increases its presence in society, particularly in high tension areas (take Richmond for example). This deviation from the ideal intent of the regulation should be addressed on the principle, not specifically as an action taken in response to this concern over the differential suspension of students of minority race. Suspensions become the norm when situations repeatedly encourage their use, and in the case of minority students, simple racial bias or a lack of common understanding, be it of language or culture, can initiate that tilt. Especially if the teacher cannot relate to the parents of the students, the teachers might just dehumanize them and unnecessarily seek punishment instead of compromise. Thus, limiting potential for extreme punishment should help reform the relationship between the educator and the student and create a more supportive community.
Punishment should instead target the individual grades of the students and should seek to engage them in learning as opposed to shunning them, which instead reinforces the negative association with education that forms within the mind of the misbehaving student. Give them extra reading or some other engaging activity that can help them find something familiar in the schooloing, ideally building up self motivation.

Cami Nemschoff said...

I agree with Langston, rather than punishing students who misbehave, schools should focus on fixing such a behavior problem. According to this study ( students who are suspended are often suspended again, and students who entered high school with numerous suspensions often dropped out. The message is clear here: suspensions are not effective in fixing the problem. Therefore, in order to reverse poor behavior problems, it would be more effective for schools to engage the students in learning and work to solve the problem, rather than just simply punishing them. Especially at an Elementary School age, these students are possibly not even aware about the consequences of their actions. To a 7 year old, a day off of school may not be the worse thing ever, and therefore this suspension does not clearly punish this bad behavior. Overall, it would be more effective for schools to positively reinforce good behavior in order to reverse bad behavior problems. Therefore, to answer Monica's question, all schools should follow suit in limiting suspensions not only because of racial issues but also because suspensions are ineffective.