POLL: Should Elementary School Students Be Suspended?

School systems are reconsidering how—and why—they discipline students.

More than 6,100 elementary school students—including more than 50 pre-kindergarteners and 433 kindergarteners—were suspended from schools in the Washington metropolitan area last school year, according to a Washington Post analysis published Monday.

Montgomery County Public Schools reported the lowest suspension rate of the seven Maryland school districts surveyed. The school system suspended 22 kindergarteners during the 2010-2011 school year, The Post reported.

The 2010-2011 School Safety and Security at a Glance report from MCPS report, shows that students suspended from county elementary schools in 2010 and 2011 account for about 0.6 percent of all elementary school students. (Click on the PDF at right to read the School Safety and Security report.)

Three-hundred seventy-two of 66,101 county elementary school students received out-so-school suspension related to school safety infractions in 2011. Ninety-five of those were suspended multiple times.

While the school system has given special attention to a goal to reduce the disproportionate suspension rate of African American and Hispanic students, county school officials say MCPS has made progress in reducing suspension rates among all students.

There were 569 fewer suspensions at the elementary level during the 2008-09 school year compared with the previous year, according to an article by two county school administrators on the website of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

The article, titled "Rethinking Suspensions," outlines nine recommendations made by a work group that MCPS convened in spring 2007 with the goal of reducing suspension rates. The recommendations included:

  • Limiting the types of offenses that warrant suspension.
  • Finding alternatives to out-of-school suspension.
  • Training for teachers and administrators to about cultural differences and the disproportionality of suspension rates.
  • Greater analysis of suspension rates.

Meanwhile, the state school board is set to consider proposals to do away with zero-tolerance policies while requiring schools to reduce nonviolent incidents and suspensions of special education and minority students, The Baltimore Sun reported.

The board is expected to take up the proposals Feb. 28.

James H. DeGraffenreidt Jr., president of the Maryland State Board of Education, told The Post that the board is concerned that too many students “are removed from school for offenses that do not harm others and could be handled another way.”

Monday’s report in The Post quotes Judy Brubaker, a principal at in Germantown, as saying that she tries to use suspension as a tool of last resort.

“To me a suspension is for something so unprovoked, or something so out of the norm, that I, as the adult, had no other option,” Brubaker told The Post.

Janis February 15, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Elementary school is the time for sorting out learning disabilities. It's not a time for kicking kids out of school, it's a time for finding out what is going to make each child successful and putting those supports into place.
Jeff Hawkins February 15, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Janis: I don't think anyone disagrees with sorting out the learning disabilites issue. These events that require suspension or "kicking out" as you say should be handled in a case by case fashion.....which I think they probably are. Do you have a suggestion on how to handle an especially "difficult" child, maybe one that continually harms or attempts to harm fellow students?
Theresa Defino February 15, 2012 at 06:56 PM
This is a more complicated issue than you realize, Jeff. The MCPS policy provides NO recourse for the parents of a child with a disability who is facing suspension.
Jeff Hawkins February 15, 2012 at 07:19 PM
You are right Theresa, it is complicated.....very complicated and each occurance has to be handled carefully. Let me adjust my comment.....suspension is NOT ALWAYS the best solution in every case. My daughter-in-law is a Special-Ed teacher with MCPS, so I do get to hear some of the "scuttlebutt". Invariably it comes down the Principal of each school on how to handle this issue.
Janis February 18, 2012 at 03:27 PM
MCPS has all the resources that are needed to evaluate children for learning and/or behavioral issues. But there has to be a will on the part of the administrators to use the resources. Suspension is an easy out.


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