3 Reasons Traditional In School Suspension Doesn’t Work

In School Suspension model is broken and yet most schools still use it. Schools across Texas and throughout the country practice the traditional, punitive, method of ISS. In this model, students get in trouble and are sent to a room on campus  as punishment. They might complete homework or do assignments, but the main point is they’re separated from their peers. The idea is that, by forcing students to think about what they’ve done, they won’t do it again. Of course, that logic doesn’t always follow through. Here are three reasons why the traditional in school suspension method doesn’t work.

  • Punitive ISS doesn’t work for students with serious behavioral issues
  • ISS doesn’t teach students how to manage their behavior
  • ISS works for students who rarely get in trouble. 

Reason One: Punitive In School Suspension doesn’t work for students with serious behavioral issues.

We tend to think of ISS as an additive punishment. If two days of ISS doesn’t teach the student something, let’s try three days. But this ideology is flawed when it comes to students with serious behavioral issues.

Students with serious behavioral issues don’t respond to strict punishment. Often times they won’t even know why what they did was wrong. Punitive ISS follows the simple logic that students always know what they do is wrong and that by punishing them we correct their behavior. With enough days of punishment, students will magically be rehabilitated and never have problems again, right? We know from research that this just isn’t true.

Reason Two: In School Suspension doesn’t teach students how to manage their behavior.

Like mentioned above, students with serious behavioral issues need to learn why what they’re doing is wrong. They also need to learn how to manage their behavior so they don’t repeat the same actions over again.

This applies equally to all students. In traditional in school suspension students are often given worksheets to work on or tasked with completing homework and not talking for the entirety of the day. What’s often missing are components of smart in school suspension in which students talk about what got them in trouble and work on social skills and strategies for appropriate behavior.

Reason Three: Traditional ISS works for students who rarely get in trouble.

Students who rarely get in trouble are usually mortified about going to ISS.  After all that means they got in trouble, and getting in trouble is bad! Students like this quickly realize the consequences of their actions. They’re mortified by being labeled a “trouble maker,” and likely won’t repeat the action again. So, traditional ISS usually works for them. However, these type of students are very rarely the students causing the most concerns on your campus.

The students that are causing the most concerns on your campus are students that are repeat troublemakers, those with serious behavior issues, or those that are simply oppositional to authority. These type of students don’t respond to the traditional ISS models because, in cases of repeat and oppositional students, they’ve become desensitized to it, or in the case of those with behavior issues, they don’t know what they did is wrong!

For these students, school suspension becomes a routine part of their life. They don’t learn any new skills that might help them manage their behavior and nobody bothers asking why they did what they did. The end result is a population of students perpetually cycling in and out but never improving.

Schools practice traditional ISS with the best intentions. However it rarely resolves the behavioral issues of your students. Through alternative ISS methods students learn valuable life skills and to manage their behavior. Additionally, your campus decreases its behavioral referrals and does away with ineffective ISS programs.

Linda Kutach is a behavior specialists working on the Behavior Team at Region 13. She specializes in School Safety and handling tough kid behavior.

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  • Thank you! I am looking at moving from inclusion to ISS monitor. I spent 20 years as a cop, so I know locking people up does little to change behavior. As a mom, I role played with my kids, so they would be prepared to handle the “I don’t like you” or “I don’t want to play with you” or being excluded from a group. I would love to be able to include a little restorative justice in an ISS setting. Back in the late 90s, I was teaching constitutional law at a community college. One of my students was on the Spectrum, and other students tittered and laughed when she was inappropriate. One day I asked her if she would like to stand up and tell the class about herself. She was amazing! The smirks stopped. She joined the criminal justice Club and the students all looked out for her. At our first conference, she cleaned house in the written knowledge competitions. That was quite an eye-opener for the rest of my students.