School suspensions: Vacation or punishment?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 8, 2005

Even though Crystal Hamilton has been suspended once for five days this school year, she doesn't want to be suspended again.

&#8220I don't like staying at home because it's boring,” the eighth grader from Greenville Middle School said. &#8220There's nothing to do.”

Whether or not students see suspension as a punishment or a vacation is part of an increasingly intense debate concerning the effectiveness of it.

The Butler County Board of Education has its Student Code of Conduct and Student Handbook, which outline its rules, procedures and consequences for students.

According to Jai Hill, Greenville Middle School principal, suspensions are implemented by the school system, even though some students may see it as free time out of school.

&#8220The students who usually see a suspension as a vacation are those whose parents aren't involved in their school success,” Hill said. &#8220Unfortunately, we have some parents who just don't care whether their child gets sent home from school or not.”

One thing that many educators disagree on is whether or not students should be allowed to make up work and/or tests that they missed while being absent due to a suspension.

&#8220Many education experts say that it's not fair to ‘double punish' the student by giving him zeros on all his missed work, &#8220 Hill said. &#8220The policy for Butler County is that the student has five days to make up any work that was missed while he was suspended.”

One thing is clear, however; many educators feel that students should not be allowed to make up missed assignments and tests while out on suspension. They see it as being part of the punishment.

In an effort to curb the number of suspensions, Hill and the faculty at GMS created some alternative measures. One example is &#8220Saturday School” which takes place once a month, and both the child and the parents attend. Hill said that from 9 a.m. until noon, there is a discussion, a video session, a clean-up session, and a work time. The students have the option to participate in the &#8220Saturday School” in place of suspension. Even with this option, Hill said that some students take the suspension anyway.

The parents who are present are shown a video, &#8220What is good parenting?” but Hill said that he still has parents who simply say they can't control their child.

Another program the middle school implements is an after-school safety net program that is overseen by Kent McNaughton, assistant principal. Students who refuse to do their work during the school day are offered extra help with the assignments after school.

&#8220Believe it or not, we still have some parents to fight us on that,” Hill said. However, with the extra tutoring, which requires additional time and attention from teachers, Hill said that grades have gone up overall.

Fifth-grader Julius Lymon said that to him, suspension is not a vacation, even though to many of his friends, it is.

&#8220If their parents don't care, then they don't care,” Lymon said. However, to him, being suspended from school is better than being at alternative school because there, students have to do work.

Thirteen-year-old Hamilton was not allowed to talk on the phone or play video games while she was suspended earlier this year. She sees things a little differently from Lymon, who is 11.

&#8220Being suspended is worse than alternative school,” Hamilton said. &#8220At least there, I can see my friends.”