Suspended: Out of School Suspension is Unjustified and Unfair

Bryn Valdez, Sports Editor

 

 

There’s no denying it: disciplinary action policies are under fire now, more than ever.

   With the growing tidal wave of demand for increased school security, schools are scrambling for ways to appease the masses, DHS included. However, it has recently come to light that students’ so-called safety is being favored over their realistic well-being, and the relentless mentality behind security measures has gotten out of hand.

   Time and time again, the administration has assured the student body that their safety is the top priority, and they are taking all precautions necessary to protect it. The problem with this ideology though, is that it has shown to easily get sidetracked, and soon favors frequent and rigid suspensions over trivial matters, in place of realistic precautions. Every year that passes brings an increase in suspensions and even expulsion over things that administration wouldn’t have given a second thought five years ago. In January, for example, So. Baxter Moore was suspended over posting a “kill list” of his closest friends, who were present, on the theatre call board. When administration found the list, Moore was suspended for five days, missing all of his finals and the underclassmen gala which he was scheduled to appear in.

   At first glance, this instance would hardly seem out of line, but an issue arises with the fact that the list was a joke between friends, a fact which the “victims” stated to administration repeatedly, even going to so far as to write a parent-endorsed letter explaining the situation.

     The school policy itself even states that all victims and witnesses of an instance warranting disciplinary action should be interviewed, however So. Sophie Schiavone one of the students on the list, stated that the administration failed to interview anyone or proceed with any further investigation of the matter. With that said, administration is required to keep all disciplinary matters private, not allowing them to comment on the nature of suspensions or the procedure taken.

      Additionally, Moore never received a formal citation for the basis of his suspension or an alternative to it.

      In many cases students will be offered restorative justice, in-school behavioral counseling, as an alternative to suspensions, “We brought [restorative justice] in to help curb the number of days and get students back into the classroom . . . It’s meant to work together so you can get the education you need and also decrease the suspension days, so if it is an offense that would be a five-day suspension, if a student is willing to take restorative justice we can take is down to three days,” said Assistant Principal Amy Swartz. Yet with Moore’s suspension, one that seemed fitting for the offense, he was still required to spend 5 crucial days at home, making up his finals later.

      Swartz also stated that each offense has a formal title, each document in a shared matrix between administration. This matrix is constantly changing, but essentially outlines the different offenses and their tentative punishments. While administration uses this a guideline to discipline, many of the real-life cases do not exactly fall under one classification, leaving much of the judgment to the assistant principals themselves.

      This creates a level of erratically to punishments and makes them somewhat subjective to the which administrator is doing the reprimanding. It seems as though all information is not consistently reviewed with each case that arises, such as a clean record through middle school and good grades in Moore’s case.

   In another situation, an anonymous DHS student received three days of OSS for indirect involvement in an altercation among friends. Similarly to Moore’s case, no outside witnesses were consulted, although the student’s punishment was reduced from five days to three, given the fact he complied to participating in restorative justice.

   “Having this suspension tanked me in school. When I got back I had absolutely no idea what was going on in any of my classes, and I was remarkably behind. This is not a good place to be in because when all your thinking of is the work you have to catch up on, your not really thinking about what is currently being taught to you. I wish I could have spent the time that I used catching up to actually learn something new,” said the student.

   Almost every student that has been subject to OSS is in agreement; DHS administration uses suspensions a weak excuse for actual reformation, and at the end of the day they are doing more harm than good. It is past due for a reassessment of how the school system handles discipline, with student’s practical safety and education in mind.