The findings of a new study that was conducted in Kentucky fly in the face of how some administrators, educators, and parents view the suspension of students. It is commonly thought that a disruptive student’s suspension will result in better learning for the “well behaved” students because it removes the student who is the source of distracting behaviors. Two researchers looked at the academic performance of these “well behaved” students who had never been suspended and found that when they attend schools that suspend students at high rates, the non-suspended students are harmed academically. Dr. Brea L. Perry and Dr. Edward W. Morris, sociologists with Indiana University and University of Kentucky respectively, conducted the research and then published it in a recent issue of the American Sociological Review.
This extensive study has generated a significant amount of national and even international attention in publications such as EdSource, National Education Policy Center and the London School of Economics’ blog because of its surprising conclusions. Previous studies on the effects of suspension have only focused on the suspended child’s outcomes and proven that when disruptive students are removed from the classroom, they suffer adverse academic effects such as a low GPA; poor cognitive test results in science, math, and history; a higher likelihood to drop out; an increased prevalence of arrest in school; and ending up five or more grade levels behind. This study is the first of its kind to study the consequences that suspensions have on the non-suspended students, and we now know that schools who wield exclusionary, punitive discipline practices such as out-of-school suspensions threaten the learning of ALL students.
Dr. Perry recently blogged, “Safe, effective learning environments must ultimately come from supportive school relationships, not ‘tough on crime’ policies that alienate students from one of the most important socializing institutions of their lives.” Maintaining a positive behavioral culture yields better results for ALL kids. As a parent and former teacher, I encourage both parents and educators to evaluate the disciplinary practices within their own schools and advocate for practices that support, rather than exclude, students.