By Ben Brown
If you’re a student who’s only attended Jenks, then you probably only have one idea of what in-house suspension looks like: no talking, no sleeping, and no contact with students outside of in-house. You probably think in-house is a place for bad kids to get punished, but what if I told you in-house can be a place for growth and success?
Last November, I set out to figure out where in-house suspension belongs in the modern education system. While searching for information on the topic, I talked to english teacher, Mrs. Workun, who is actively searching for ways to make the in-house system better for students. She spoke about giving students in in-house hope to become better people and giving them a chance to express themselves, as opposed to punishing them.
Based on my interview with Preston Webber (12), a student who has spent extensive time in suspension, his parents were “barely contacted”, and he typically had to tell them himself. He told me about how his grades suffered because he wasn’t able to be in the classroom to learn the material he was being given to work on while in in-house suspension.
When asked about his time in in-house Webber says, “They kind of just put me in a room. I didn’t really learn anything. It was just kind of like putting me in time out. It was more so like ‘I can’t deal with you right now so you’re going into this room.’”
Listening to Mrs. Workun talk so hopefully about what the in-house system could be, inspired me to do some research about what our suspension program could look like.
A site that proposes a successful in-house program, Prodigygame.com, is a site that focuses on making learning more engaging for students. This includes lots of games for students, but also articles on teaching strategies to help every student’s needs.
Maria Kampen’s article, In-School Suspension: 6 Key Elements You Need To Consider, says, “An effective in-school suspension program can detect learning disabilities and provide support for behavioral issues before they become serious issues. When students receive the support they need, they’re less likely to be referred to the in-school suspension program again.”
Kampen’s proactive, student-friendly approach to in-house has three main goals for a successful program: solve root problems, encourage positive behavior, and discourage repeat offenders.
Positive behavior and repeat offences are largely solved by consistent criteria and rules. Kampen says that when students have a clear understanding of the rules and expectations set upon them and what will happen if they break those rules, they’re more likely to behave and succeed.
Whenever criteria isn’t explained students are more likely to not know what they’re doing wrong, become a repeat offender, or disagree with discipline and act out. Thorough communication between students and teachers is key to positive student behavior and, in turn, keeping students out of in-house.
The next three strategies accomplish all three goals of a successful in-school suspension program: effective professional development for teachers, parent involvement, and academic and behavioral support.
Kampen says, “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.”
The key to academic and behavioral support for students is having the proper staff overseeing an in-house program.
Kampen says, “Ideally, a program should have a teacher who can assess learning difficulties, a school counselor and a low teacher-to-student ratio to encourage good behavior. They should also be in a space away from the rest of students, to keep students from being distracted.”
With this information we need to ask ourselves which of these strategies our school is using and which ones need to be instituted so that we can help our students.
Our in-house system does try to encourage behavior by instituting punishment, but it seems that there’s more that could be done in terms of offering behavioral and academic support. As of now, our suspension system is primarily based around punishment, but what we need to ask ourselves is, is this what’s best for our students?