Expelling disruptive students from school is a sensitive issue for both parents and school administrators because punishments that are too severe can backfire. Expulsion might feed right into the student's original goals of doing something offensive or inappropriate so he doesn't have to go to school at all. Unless the offense was dangerous, illegal or extraordinarily disrespectful, detentions and in-school suspensions are often more advantageous than expulsions.
Expelling disruptive students sets a precedent that teachers and administrators won't tolerate unruly behavior. Teachers can't allow rowdy or troublesome students to ruin the learning environment for everyone. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, some teachers and administrators like zero-tolerance policies because they encourage a quick response to unsettling behavior and send a clear message that disruptive conduct is unacceptable. If an offense is harmful or illegal, off-campus expulsions reduce the risk that a student will retaliate with aggressive or inappropriate behavior. Sometimes, expulsion is necessary to protect other students from potential danger, including physical and emotional harm.
Expulsion serves as a wake-up call for students who've gotten off track and need disciplinary action to help them refocus and change their undesirable behavior. Minor consequences, such as lunch detentions and after-school detentions may not be consequential enough to get a troubled student to alter her disruptive behavior. If a student is responsive to discipline and has positive reinforcements from parents and educators, an expulsion might help her turn over a new leaf.
Expelling a student from school might expose him to other forms of disorderly conduct, reducing his accountability level. This is especially true for students who have working parents or caregivers who aren't home much. A disruptive student has issues that need to be addressed by parents, administrators and counselors, but an unsupervised, trouble-making student is like a ticking bomb. If he doesn't engage in constructive activities or have authority figures to help him address his unacceptable behavior, he might explode. Expulsion is disadvantageous when there's no reliable system of accountability.
In some cases, students who engage in expulsion-worthy behavior also struggle with academic coursework. Expelling them from school hurts their academic progress and makes it even more difficult to learn new concepts and keep up with the rest of the class. According Superintendent Bill Webster of Lewiston Public Schools in Maine, without structured academic intervention for expelled students, most wouldn't graduate, as reported in the "Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal." With an in-school suspension or alternative learning program, administrators, tutors and on-break teachers can help expelled students with academic content. The mission of most schools is to help students learn and succeed, but expulsion makes it difficult to accomplish those goals.
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