Suspensions generally are a result of students’ behaviors manifested as an act of deliberate defiance as in breaking school rules and/or policies. Suspensions are usually short-term of ten or less days and reinstatement is automatic. The school principal usually has the authority to render a short-term suspension. Procedures and processes vary from state to state. Most often students are suspended for defiance, stealing, first offenses that are non-violent, and disruptive behaviors that interfere with the education of the student’s peers.
Expulsions however, are handled differently than suspensions. States follow the guidelines of the federal policy for expulsions, which are generally one or more of the following:
- Violent behavior (violent behavior is operationally defined by school districts, more on that later).
- Possession of a gun or other weapon at school, on school grounds, or at school events
- Hurting and/or threatening others
- Possession of drugs (for personal use or distribution)
Which Method is More Effective?
What is Zero Tolerance?
The University of California Los Angeles Institute for Democracy/IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) Education and Access (2006) completed a study to determine which method of punishment is more effective.
The implementation of the federal Zero Tolerance model was a result of school shootings by white students in white school districts in predominately-white communities in the early 1980s. The purpose of the federal Zero Tolerance model was to reduce school violence by removing those students who posed a threat by committing serious offenses such as having guns and weapons at school, on school grounds and at school events. Zero Tolerance was also an attempt to regulate the possession of drugs at schools, on school grounds and at school events whether for personal use, to give away, or to sell.
However, since the inception of the federal Zero Tolerance policy, schools continue to suspend and expel students of color at rates far greater than those of their white peers. The results of the UCLA/IDEA study found that the difference between utilizing suspension or expulsions in the reduction of school related violence was statistically insignificant.
The UCLA/IDEA Education Access study At-A-Glance is provided for your review via the link: