JULY 18, 2018 / by CHELSEY ERWIN
A Detention/Suspension Revolution
Some people say there’s no such thing as a bad student—only bad teachers. As a special education teacher, my own experience reflects this common wisdom. The right approach is everything, especially for those students who need the most support. You can find many examples of the wrong educational approach in the discipline policies of many schools. Detentions and suspensions reward the very conduct they are designed to curb. Good job, you’ve vandalized school property, here’s a day off from school. Finally, many states and districts are moving away from such ineffectual discipline. But which approaches actually work? In this post, I’m going to suggest a specific program from one company that is very promising!
Suspensions: an outdated method
Not only have detentions and suspensions been used to punish instead of teach, but we’re still not seeing a change in student behavior. This is because, after committing an infraction, students are either removed from campus (free time at home) or removed from the classroom (free time at school). The concept behind these “punitive” measures is that they deter future offenses. However, 32% of students who receive a detention or suspension become repeat offenders. Clearly something is not working here.
The joke is certainly not lost on students. Research shows that middle and high school students admit that suspensions are not helpful and increase their likelihood to be suspended in the future. Suspended and non-suspended students also state that they feel that suspension is just a sanctioned school holiday. Students are in desperate need of change.
Restorative: a method that works!
We’re now faced with a double-edged sword. Detentions and suspensions cause students to be absent from valuable learning time, and such discipline is a missed opportunity for valuable learning time. A modern approach to discipline includes restorative justice practices. This means the damages should be repaired instead of just removing the problem (the student).
The idea behind this method is to rebuild, strengthen, and repair the relationships that were broken. While this approach is gaining tractions and becoming law in several states, restorative justice practices create a new challenge for teachers. How do teachers execute on restorative justice practices? Like many other educational initiatives, restorative justice can add yet another requirement to a teacher’s job before anyone provides them with the resources to succeed. Some skeptics even believe that restorative justice is just a way to decrease the number of suspensions on paper, but not truly address the behaviors.
From Fantasy to Fruition
Every day I work with students who struggle with social emotional behavior disorders. I have witnessed first-hand students who seek to get a detention or suspension because it’s easier than time spent in the classroom. However, my colleagues and I have felt that a shift toward a more meaningful solution like restorative justice is a fantasy. The reason is simple—good ideas without the right execution often create more problems than they solve. That being said, I’d like to share with you one program that seems to be getting the execution right.
Suite360 is a digital, web and app-based program developed by a company out of New Jersey called Evolution Labs. Suite360 has a companion program for conduct and discipline called Suite360 Intervention, which is the first restorative justice program of its kind that I’ve found. For the first time ever, when I need to address a student’s conduct, I’m able to offer education instead of free time. This education is meaningful, challenging, and—the best part—specific to the behavior each student is struggling with. Suite360 Intervention allows the teacher to select a student’s infraction and deliver a ready-made, student-directed lesson based on that infraction. These lessons provide students with the opportunity to reflect on their actions and truly fix the damage they’ve caused. Meanwhile, the program tracks the student’s use of the program so teachers can see what they are learning and how they are progressing through the program. Ny using the program, I feel that I am fulfilling my role as a teacher, not by punishing poor behavior, but guiding my students to learn from their mistakes.
Restorative justice is the manifesto for a discipline revolution. Suite360 Intervention is arming those of us on the ground to carry out this revolution. I love that it’s a smart program that puts the student first. Okay, here comes my plug!
To join the revolution and the hundreds of schools that have tried Suite360 Intervention, visit: http://www.evpco.com/suite360welcome/ or contact Peter Kraft, President of Evolution Labs at (917) 648-3622 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s extremely passionate about the issues we’re all dealing with in schools today, and will get you pumped up about how we can all make a difference!