Written by Dr. Marie-Eve Dubois
We’re now a few weeks into the school year, and while we’d hope things would be settling by now, this is not always the case. Children who had been doing well for a few weeks are now testing their teacher’s limits, while parents of other children have already started receiving calls saying their child might get suspended. One way or the other, these phone calls are distressing to many parents. Aren’t suspensions bad? Or is there any positive to them?
School suspensions are one of the consequences used in hopes of helping students regulate their poor behaviours. However, as a psychologist, this strategy has always boggled my mind. Essentially, the strategy involves having a student stay home for a given amount of time (a day or more) for displaying poor behaviours in school. For most children, this will feel more like a reward than a punishment, which was the initial intention. As a general rule, in-school suspensions or other more appropriate consequences should be chosen. For example, if the child misbehaved in a class on multiple occasions and has led the teacher to miss out on teaching time, the child should have to ‘give time’ to the teacher to ‘repair’ their misbehaviour (for example, helping the teacher prepare other activities outside of class time).
However, as with any good rule, there are always exceptions. School suspensions could be argued as a ‘good’ thing for children with special needs. Parents of children with special needs tend to get more calls than other parents to come and pick their child up from school for poor behaviours. However, parents should refuse to simply pick up a child. Ideally, what would be needed is a plan for the school to handle such behaviours. Otherwise, parents should ask whether their child is being suspended, in which case they’ll come to pick them up. Seems unusual, right? It turns out that whenever a child is suspended, a note in their record is made. Many school suspensions in a child record could then be used to argue that the school is not meeting the child’s need, and that the child needs additional services.
What have your experiences been with suspensions? Good or bad?