Suspension — is the Punishment Good Enough?

Hayden Rose, Editor

Suspension — it’s a word most everyone in the school system knows, yet it’s not something that everyone may understand; whenever suspension is talked about, there usually isn’t much information to go on about it and what it means for everyone involved. The internet in general will only tell you that an out of school suspension is the event in which a student is removed from school grounds for disciplinary reasons and for at least one school day, but it’s a bit harder to find the deeper information on this topic.

Mrs. Ruddy, an English teacher here at BHS, believes that the punishment isn’t as effective as it’s intended to be; “Usually, I would say it’s not. For some students, it’s still important to have structure with their punishments, which is why I would prefer in-school suspension.” For the most part, I’d have to say I agree with her, she mentioned that it may seem like a “free vacation” for the suspended kid in question, but I later learned that this isn’t entirely the case.

I got the opportunity to talk to Mr. Ranweiler about suspension as well, and the punishment seems different from an admin standpoint. He said that suspension is typically related to more severe infractions, such as fighting or possession of drugs, alcohol, or weapons, and for such infractions, the punishment is immediate and mandatory. It typically lasts anywhere between one and three days, although it can go over three. The student will be given a letter that details the reason they were suspended to notify the parents. The student is then not allowed on school grounds until a re-entry meeting. This meeting is set up between the parents, the student, and a member of the admin staff. The goal of this meeting is to explain what happened, figure out why it happened, and to create a safety plan if necessary for the student to safely and properly re-enter the typical school schedule.

Ranweiler believes this method of punishment is effective for most students; “I believe it’s a useful tool, and although we have other punishments, such as community service, the ultimate goal of suspension is for the student to not only receive consequences for their actions, but also a lesson on what not to do in the future. I think it has the intended effect on a student.”

This information made me feel much more confident in the effectiveness of this punishment for students, and I hope that the majority of students given this punishment understand the lesson that’s meant to be carried with it, although I must inquire about those who view suspension as a “vacation” from school.

To answer this question, Mr. Ranweiler explained that it’s a very real possibility that some students will think that way, but that it can’t really be changed, “It is what it is, I guess. I don’t believe students are looking to commit these offences specifically to get that time off. I just hope that students don’t think that way.”

This answer gave me a new idea of suspension itself. It’s true, you can’t change someone’s mentality about something in a simple way, but I began to think that suspension may have a different purpose along with what’s already been stated as the main goal; safety concerns. The school should feel like a safe place for everyone, and if a student were to be punished for one of the more dangerous infractions previously mentioned, it would be best to remove them from the school environment in order to protect the safety of students and staff, and to protect the mental space within the school. If people felt unsafe, school would be an unhealthy place to be, and I believe another goal of suspension could be to prevent this feeling from taking over the school.

Ultimately, I think that suspension from the outside doesn’t seem like an effective punishment, but if you look at the nuances to it, it could be viewed as a pretty efficient and safe way to punish a student. If its intended goal is realized, then the student may come back to school with fresh thinking that could change the outcome of their future interactions. The only other thing I would have to say is that I believe other punishments should go with suspension, both to create a safe environment for the student, and to have a more permanent effect on the student for committing the actions that led them into their punishment in the first place.