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April 29, 2015

Rethinking punishment in schools

Suspension, expulsion may not be the best strategies

The timeout – it's a classic form of discipline. The child does something wrong. He or she needs to sit out for a while. Think about their actions.

As children go through school, if they get in trouble, they are suspended or expelled. Again, they are removed from the situation.

Over time, this use of exclusionary disciplinary practices, like suspension and expulsion, has increased dramatically. But is it the best method?

Sheri Bauman, a professor of counseling at the University of Arizona, in a blog piece for the Huffington Post, shares alternative ways to deal with discipline in schools

The excluded child loses the opportunity for positive socialization. One cannot learn from positive role models if there are none present, and children cannot learn how to manage their behavior in school if they are not there. The punished child learns what not to do, but does not receive counseling or coaching on alternative, appropriate behaviors that might make a real difference. And what many learn not to do is get caught.

While some may feel that punishment will deter other students from misbehaving, research suggests this is not the case. Instead of suspension or expulsion, Bauman suggests an approach that uses counseling to gain an understanding of the problem behavior, rather than simply punishing the offender.

A high school in Walla Walla, Washington, that adopted this new approach to discipline saw an 85 percent drop in suspensions in the first year it was implemented. The principal used counseling techniques to determine the source of the behavior.

Other methods suggested by Bauman include restorative justice and mental health interventions.

Read more at the Huffington Post.