In-School Suspension: 6 Key Elements You Need To Consider
What is in-school suspension?In-school suspension, also known as ISS, is a form of punishment that keeps students in school and doing work, but isolates them from the rest of the student body. In some schools, in-school suspension is an essential part of a behavior management program, while for other schools it’s a way to reduce out-of-school suspension numbers. In-school suspension can be an effective tool when it comes to student behavior and achievement, but only if it’s used properly.
Benefits of in-school suspension programsThere are three ultimate goals of any in-school suspension program:
- Solve root problems
- Encourage positive behavior
- Discourage repeat offenders
- Academic support
- Time to work on assignments
- Behavioral resources to keep students engaged.
- Building a positive school culture -- When students have clear rules and expectations and know how rules will be enforced, they’re more likely to behave and succeed.
- Access to more student data -- School leaders can use data-driven instruction techniques to monitor students, provide support and make decisions that support student success.
6 Essential parts of an effective in-school suspension programRemember the three goals of an in-school suspension program:
- Discourage repeat offences
- Solve academic and behavioral issues
- Encourage positive behavior from the whole school
1. Consistent criteria and rulesStudents respond well to structure and consistency, not decisions made on a case-by-case basis. When the criteria for receiving an in-school suspension isn’t explained, students are more likely to:
- Not know what they’re doing is wrong
- Receive multiple in-school suspensions
- Disagree with discipline and act out
- No food
- No talking
- No sleeping
- Arrive on time
- Don’t be disruptive
- Complete your assigned work
- Follow all regular classroom rules
2. Effective professional development for teachersIn order for an in-school suspension program to be effective at reducing suspensions, teachers have to use effective classroom management techniques. Students should only be referred to in-school suspension when necessary. According to a study by educational researchers Susan Polirstok and Jay Gottlieb, what teachers say and do in the classroom can have a large impact on student behavior and learning. Polirstok and Gottlieb aimed to design a training program for teachers:
“Focused on behavior management procedures employing positive behavioral interventions to increase the level of teacher praise and reinforcement to students, thereby decreasing punishment and negative teacher comments.”They offered teachers seven half days of training over the course of four months, and a 45-minute follow-up session eight weeks after the program ended. Each half day began with a Q&A where teachers could as questions and discuss problems in their classes as a group. Specific sessions covered topics like:
- Developing classroom rules
- Fostering ownership
- Paying attention to teacher language
- Using positive statements from teachers to students
- Implementing user-friendly reinforcement systems
- Using selective ignoring
- Working to reduce regular disruptive behavior over time
“The findings of this professional development program confirmed what researchers and teachers typically say about classrooms — that successful behavior management is a critical prerequisite for successful academic instruction.”Many teachers lack the skills they need to effectively manage their classrooms, either through lack of training or experience. In the same study, Polirstok and Gottleib note:
“All too often, novice teachers arrive at busy, urban schools lacking the techniques they need to create positive learning environments that can best meet the diverse needs of elementary level learners. Both pre-service teachers and novice in-service teachers lack the years of experience which over time informs classroom management generally and behavior intervention more specifically.”After implementing the professional development program, school leaders reported a change in school climate, as well as a 61% decline in disciplinary referrals over the prior year and a 32% decline over the year before. When teachers have the skills to effectively manage their classrooms, they’ll only refer more serious cases to in-school suspension, which reduces the overall number of suspensions and makes sure students who need extra behavioral or academic support have it.
3. Academic and behavioral supportStudents can act out for a lot of reasons, including unmet behavioral needs, past trauma, or undiagnosed learning difficulties. In-school suspension offers a unique opportunity for qualified staff to sit down with students one-on-one, uncover the root of the issue and prevent it from happening again. It’s not correct to assume students always know what they did was wrong and discipline will correct the behavior. Students might need a little extra coaching to determine why their behavior was wrong and how they can correct it in the future. Some popular techniques include:
- Assigning students a project-based discipline assignment
- Requiring students to complete a social-emotional skills course
- Holding a problem solving session between the student and the referring teacher
- Requiring students to speak with a student counselor at least once during their suspension
4. Dedicated space and supervisionAn effective in-school suspension program should have a dedicated space and teacher to supervise students. In order to effectively work with students referred to in-school suspension, an educator needs to have a few key qualities:
- Experience working with special education students
- A genuine passion for students and a desire to see them succeed
- Training and experience in developing and running an in-school suspension program
5. Parent involvementTalking to parents about how you’re disciplining their child can be difficult, but involving parents in the discussion improves the chances students will get the support they need at school and at home. There are a number of ways to involve parents when dealing with an in-school suspension:
- Offer them the opportunity to shadow their child for the day — Letting parents see how their child behaves in the classroom is a valuable way for them to see what support their child needs, and can reinforce good behavior.
- Ask parents to volunteer in your school — Invite parents to actively participate as classroom volunteers or chaperones for field trips. This helps teachers build relationships with parents in a more informal setting.
- Organize a team meeting — While it’s standard procedure to call the parents when a student is referred to in-school suspension, scheduling a meeting between parents, the student, and a counselor can help the whole group find to the root of the issue.
6. School leader supportBudgets, staff, students and a calendar full of meetings — it takes a lot of work to keep a school running smoothly. But did you know, as a school leader, you can have a meaningful impact on the success of your school’s in-school suspension program?As a school leader, you set the standards for acceptable behavior, organize professional development opportunities and decide what and how students learn at your school. You know your school best, and have a responsibility to develop programs to meet the needs of all students. As a leader you can:
- Provide leadership and mentoring to teachers
- Develop a comprehensive in-school suspension program
- Increase the number of vocationally-based programs available
- Allocate more resources for students with behavioral or learning needs
“The role and reputation of the principal as a leader and respected colleague could have also had an impact on the performance of each of these schools. It would seem that the active participation of the principal in this type of school-wide intervention may be a critical variable.”Your job is to get involved and be a positive example of the culture you want to see in your school!
In-school suspension downloadable pdfIt might seem like a lot, but each of these elements can actively work to reduce student misbehavior and the overall number of suspensions in your school. We’ve put together a PDF for you to print off and keep at your desk as a reference as you work to build your own program. Fill out the form below to download!
Alternatives to in-school suspensionIn-school suspension works in certain cases, but it’s not always the best method for every student. For students at a higher risk of dropping out of school or students with an individual education program (IEP), in-school suspension could actually make underlying issues worse. Sometimes it makes sense to explore alternate methods, with the same three goals in mind:
- Find the root cause of the issue
- Build a positive student culture.
- Keep students from repeating their behavior
Social-emotional learningSocial-emotional learning is a program for the entire school that encourages the development of healthy relationships and emotional skills. At Valor Collegiate Academies, a charter school in Nashville, social-emotional learning is a priority. Their program requires students to participate in morning meetings and a mentor program. Students move through different levels of the program to earn various privileges. During the meetings and mentorship program, students work through behavior challenges. The program is also used to discipline students using a restorative justice model.As a whole, the school places an emphasis on supporting the diversity of their students — a key component in a school with a racially and economically diverse student body, originally created to combat highly segregated school districts. And it’s working! During Valor’s first year there were no suspensions, and there were only 17 suspensions when the school expanded from 100 to 500 students the year after. [table id=2 /]
Community serviceInstead of serving a regular detention or suspension, students can participate in community service activities outside of school hours to give back to the community. Ideas for community service opportunities include:
- Planting trees or working outdoors
- Volunteering at a local retirement home
- Cleaning up a local park or playground
- Working with a local charity or organization
- Volunteering in individual classroom to prepare for lessons, organize supplies or clean up after class
Restorative justiceRestorative justice moves beyond discipline and into repairing relationships between students, teachers, staff and the community. It brings together students to talk about the issues in a calm and ordered manner, where they can air out their grievances, apologize for harm done and make restitution. When restorative justice is used, the person who has been wronged or harmed has the opportunity to share their feelings and the impact with the person responsible for the harm, who can then work to repair the relationship. There are many different ways to explore restorative justice in the classroom:
- Encourage teachers to talk with their entire class to discuss and solve problems at a classroom level
- Ask the two parties involved in a conflict to sit down with mediators (either other students or staff) to discuss an incident
- Encourage students who have broken the rules to find a way to make restitution, either through fixing what was broken or doing community service
- Provide support and hold students accountable when they return from an in-school suspension.
Final thoughts on in-school suspensionThere are a lot of different factors that influence student misbehavior, including learning needs and behavioral issues.In-school suspension communicates to students that their behavior was unacceptable, and looks at the whole picture to determine if the student needs extra support. Providing students with the resources they need should be the ultimate goal of any school, and in-school suspension is just one part of that support. When students have these resources, they’re less likely to repeat in-school suspension and more likely to succeed in the classroom. What could a successful program look like in your school?
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