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Student Suspension Remains Essential

It won't be long before teachers will have to decide what student behaviors warrant suspension ("Don't Suspend Students. Empathize," The New York Times, Sep. 3).  According to the Department of Education, nearly 3.5 million students from K-12 were suspended at least once in the 2011-12 academic year.

When I was teaching in high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I saw little uniformity in the reasons for suspensions.  But I maintain that they are an invaluable strategy.  Teachers work extraordinarily hard to create an atmosphere conducive to learning.  The best lesson plans are worthless when even one student engages in disruptive conduct.

I realize that students act up for many different reasons.  That's why I support efforts at "restorative justice."  This approach is non-punitive.  It attempts to get at the root cause of disruptive behavior.  But there are some students who for one reason or another are going to persist in interfering with instruction.  These are precisely the students who are candidates for suspension.

I don't buy the claim that good students become traumatized.  If anything, they are traumatized by being in a classroom with incorrigible students.  Learning requires respect by students toward teachers and by teachers toward students.  Anything that undermines such relationships must be dealt with quickly and firmly. 

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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