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The Call Blog: School Suspensions And Dealing With Disruptive Students

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I'm sad to report my high school ranked third in the entire city for number of suspensions. Susan Wagner on Staten Island didn't have this problem when I graduated 25 years ago. "The Pill on the Hill" improved dramatically by the 1980s. But it appears problems have returned.

Are too many public school students being suspended for minor infractions? The U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan believes so, and he's proposing $50 million in grants to more than 1,000 schools to train teachers in strategies to improve student behavior.

Secretary Duncan said 95 percent of suspensions nationwide are for nonviolent offenses, such as disruption, disrespect, and tardiness. In New York City, the Department of Education reports there were 53,465 suspensions during the 2012-13 school year, down from 69,643 suspensions in 2011-12.

The 23 percent decline is an improvement, but the DOE says students of color and students with disabilities are suspended at higher rates than white students. Many parents and students say offenses that once landed students in a principal’s office now unfairly land them in a police stationhouse. What do you say?

What is the best way to deal with students who disrupt the classroom? Are education officials too quick to suspend students for minor infractions? Is spending $50 million tax dollars to train teachers the best way to improve student behavior?

Send your thoughts using the link above.

In my school there is a strict discipline policy guided by the DOE Discipline Code. It is very rare that a child gets suspended. We follow the code book to the T.

Arden Heights

Shows how much they really are concerned. They are using the race card to justify pouring money into a social problem that begins at home. Put it like this, people of color are more disruptive and the statistics show this.

Park Hill


It there are this many incidents, I'd say something's wrong with the rules and the way the kids are being taught.

Port Richmond, SI

When i was i school we were punished and given tasks Such as "" i will not --what ever" 100 times after school. The children are out of control today.


Hi John

Students that's disrupt the classroom make it bad for the students that want to learn and achieve their goals.. Parents need to teach their kids how to act in school and definitely not to disrespect anyone. the police are cracking down on the students that start fights they should be released into the custody of their parents or guardian more parents need to get involved in their kids lives. every child needs both parents in their life so they will have balance espically during the middle school years, a single mom or dad cant do it alone.

Upper west side

Hi John,

The answer to this problem is that the suspensions nationwide are nonviolent offenses, such as disruption, disrespect and tardiness. These reasons and not excuses are very serious in order to get along in this society and all of the above should be handled by the parents/guardians in the home. Yet it seems as though the burden is always brought on the teachers. The teachers are there to teach and not be disciplinarians nor should they be baby sitters. Remember if these students do not show any respect at home and the biggest problems is they just don’t listen to anyone and what is a teacher suppose to do with cases such as these mentioned. As usual the ones in charge always use the very same solution and that is throw good money after bad and think this is going to solve the problem. If this is an ongoing problem them maybe by bringing them to a stationhouse their thinking just might be some sort of scare tactic especially since all of the above mentioned are being acted out repeatedly. I refuse to answer to yet another statistic.

Thank you John,

Yes, it happens way too often. Start by educating PARENTS and CAREGIVERS, then send them to school to use what they learned at home! How is the school supposed to be responsible for EVERYTHING that should be taught at home!? Parents have to be held more accountable. I work in a school for the last 17 years, and I've seen it all. We are not babysitters! And, yes, socioeconomic plays a role in this, but how can we actually MAKE students WANT to come to school? Especially NOW when learning is no longer FUN, it's WORK! I feel sorry for teachers with all this Common Core stuff, it's no longer fun to teach. By the way, I am a school secretary with a Guidance degree but I cannot get hired as a Counselor for the last SIX years, because there's a hiring FREEZE!

Thank you.

Ms. V.
New Rochelle, NY

Suspensions are hardly ever given to students in my school. There are students running around the building, refusing to go to class, others curse or assault staff and nothing is done. These are elementary school students, I can't imagine how these students will succeed in life because they are given no consequences for their actions.

Sam from Staten Island

The problem isn't the student its the school security they thinks they are the police and will cuff you quick then u can say sorry in my school you do get suspended for any little thing it really dosnt make sense i was suspended for talking and my grades went down from a's to all c's so it really did have an affect on my grade and that wasn't cool The principal said to my dean " i dont even got time for this suspended him " that isn't fair !!


I have worked in the City's schools for over 30 years and have seen many trends regarding nearly everything school-related, including suspensions. Over the past 12 years, I've noticed that in my home school, at least, test scores WENT UP under Michael Bloomberg's tenure as the "Education Mayor", and the number of suspensions WENT DOWN. It makes for a wonderful headline but, to my gut says it's a debatable result, arrived at by a manipulation of data accompanied by a newer, more-difficult-to-reach threshold for proving any act a clearly suspendable one. To compound this grey area even further, a school's principal's enhanced powers, gained over the past 12 years, logically led to the inevitable reluctance to bring negative attention to herself/himself. Nor to her/his school. That had to have lead to dealing with any potentially-suspendable infraction in the least public manner, like an unofficial "in-house" way.

My conclusion to the question: "Are schools suspending students too quickly??" Sometimes, yes. But many students are also NOT being suspended who may actually need to be punished somehow, not necessarily by suspension. No informed judgement in this matter can be a clearly-defensible, "Yes" or "No". It needs to be a "Yes" AND "No".

A still-anonymous Guidance Counselor

In many instances, the schools do not apply the discipline code appropriately for the offense. Some schools apply the policies literally and some bend the rules. My daughter and I returned from a camping trip and my swiss army knife was left in the pocket of one of her sweatshirts. The 2nd day of school, it was cold so I made my daughter grab a sweat shirt. My daughter didn't even realize the knife was in the pocket. It fell out of the pocket as she ran up the steps in the school to go to class. She was suspended for 6 days, because I insisted that she grab a sweat shirt. She was a great student, had not behavioral issues or problems with any kids. And the principal had the discretion to give her an in school suspension, but opted not to. She actually enjoyed the teachers and classes at the suspension school better than her regular school, because there were only 2 kids and she got a lot better lessons during the day. She was able to move on without a problem.


My name is Yvette I work in the New York City public school I disagree with Ms. Fernandez and what she stated about students being suspended for infractures that along time ago we wouldn't of got suspended but students are becoming fearless even becoming verbally abusive to each other and to the teacher bullying which is becoming a huge problem may not be violently acted out at that time but it can escalate to verbally overpowering I agree we do need more guidance counselor and psychiatrist in the school system.

I believe its completely outrageous that student are getting suspended so quickly. Half the problems can be handle in the classroom. The real problem is this, many of these teachers are young and are not parents so they dont know how to solve simple problems without getting the child suspended.

Titus from harlem

Although, I don't think school suspensions should be the last resort in disciplining bad behavior, I also do not think it should be a first, or second, resort. When I was a Correction Officer, me and a few of my coworkers were in a you-tube (documentary) video, showing how we voluntarily visited elementary, and junior high, schools, reaching out to young students explaining how bad decisions could lead to bad choices that could be deemed as criminal behavior which could ultimately result in denying them that American dream we all want to strive for, and achieve.

Celestino M.
Queens, NY

I am a NYC middle school teacher in the Bronx. If a student bullies DAILY, threatens students and teachers on a regular basis, flips desks, throw trash baskets out of the window, leave the class/building without permission. etc, what are we suppose to do? We have students removed daily by security and administration and they see guidance counselors daily only to repeat the behavior the next day. So please New Yorkers, tell us what to do? I love teaching but the lack of discipline solutions are troubling.


I think that we need to understand minor infractions. Distrubtion in class is not just talking to much but itcan go from student being completely disrespectful and one of the only ways a teacher can truly get some type of control and have a deterent for the other students. People forget this students are not the students of the 60s or 70s when kids respected there elders some of these kids are being raised by grandparents who have no control over them at home let alone in the streets. Plus we have lot of parents who because of the economy do not have the time or resources to help their children because they need to work and pay rent. There area number of things that need to be looked at not just stats but the details matter.


My son goes to a Charter school and they have a very strict discipline policy which I do not 100% agree with. I believe some teachers and school personnel are not equipped and trained (enough) to work with students who display "disruptive behaviors". I believe that sending children out of the class and/or suspending them are the teacher's way of not dealing with the issues and show that they are not invested in addressing social and/or emotional issues of children, yet they promote that the school is to "foster the whole well-being of the child".

Harlem, NY

Although two years retired from DOE in administration, the problems are the same. Intervention is needed for challenging students...hire counselors, deans and administrators.

Karla.....from Hollis

If you want to solve this problem you need to give students a reason to go to school and keep up attendance, not send a cop or police officer to their house. We have served over 40,000 students and have the most successful motivational program in the system. Positive reinforcement good..negative reinforcement bad!

West Side Cultural Center 501(c)3

While I have not read the data about student suspensions and I don't doubt that they are excessive in some districts, I think that there is a lot of generalizing on the parts of Mayor DiBlasio and Arne Duncan. Here in New York City, principals under-report student incidents because they don't want their schools to be labeled as violent or problem schools (especially because those distinctions made it easy to close schools in the Bloomberg era). I can't speak for all schools, but in my school, students who should be suspended are not. There are no clear and appropriate consequences for inappropriate behavior. In some cases the principal invites problem students to her office for lunch or lets them help out in main office. The kids who do the right thing would love to be rewarded in this way! Last week I was actually told by my school's dean that there was nothing that could be done about a disruptive student in my class and that my school would no longer suspend students unless the infraction is something serious like "attempted murder" (his words). There has to be a middle ground in which inappropriate behaviors are addressed without excess. There also has to be accountability for parents who have lost control of their children or who teach them anti-social and inappropriate behavior.

Washington Heights

I am a retired teacher who always stood up for children. However, the bottom line here is that in order for teaching and learning to take place in any school, an environment of respect and discipline MUST be established. Parents must shoulder the responsibility of teaching their children to respect themselves and others. That would go a long way in solving the suspension problem.

I believe that the whole issue of suspensions for minor infractions is exaggerated and distorted. Actually, the truth is that it's just the opposite.

Teachers and safety officers are routinely disrespected and abused by students who haven't been properly trained by their parents to respect themselves and others. Most teachers I know are actually afraid of their students and parents.

If you are going to hold teachers accountable for students' learning, you can't take away their authority to discipline students properly.

Daniel (Queens, NY)

Discipline starts at home. If I acted up in school, my parents did not tolerate it. Parents today have to understand that they are responsible for how their children behave. Someone can't send their child to school knowing they have disciplinary problems, and then get mad when something happens. The world doesn't work that way, then some of these parents wonder why their children grow up and are unprepared to deal with life.

Upper West Side.

Mr. Schiumo,

I went to Catholic school. There were 60 children in our class, and you could hear a pin drop. Parents have to teach their children that school is not a park. They have to talk to their children to respect. Children should not be arrested for minor infractions. The school should call their parents, and find out what is going on at home. Not every kid comes from a supportive home. They sometimes act out there home problems in school.

Upper east side

Create a separate strict school that has uniforms and strict discipline. Instead of arresting and suspending kids, send kids to the separate school as punishment. At the same time reward kids for behaving. Reward them with trips, movies, days off, pizza parties etc.

Jeff in the LES

I'm a retired Supervisor of school security, children today are forsaken by their parents and or their environment it's true that you hv some lazy administrators who just pass the buck as well as teachers and agents it seems a lot of workers are there for the dollar! I've seen bad kids that should be counseled sent from school to school to create havoc


yes, students, good students are suspended for ridiculous things, it's out of control and extremely punitive. I used to represent public school students at Board of Ed suspension hearings. One 12 year old boy was suspended for accidently hitting and older child with a basketball. This accident happened because there were 2 schools in one building, so students in one of the schools had gym while the others were at lunch. A group of boys came into the gym from lunch and walked through the gym class. The suspended student was playing basketball and when he threw the ball to another student in the gym class he hit one of these older boys. This kid was an A student, mild mannered and never in trouble yet he was suspended for this. Luckily, I was able to get the hearing officer to agree with me and this student's record remains unscarred. Not so for too many other students. These hearings are star chambers.

Meryl from Manhattan

When u take away the discipline from the teachers who have the child for 8hrs a day and then take away the parents right to discipline by telling the kids to call acs this is the system your left with..


I think every child should have an etiquette class young and in junior high.. And there should be more support for children more at risk for failure .. A child being disruptive acting out most of the time coming from a harsh environment.. lets remember these are children doing only what they were taught ...


Is it possible that this increase in disruptive students been arrested may be a reflection of a larger problem in today's society? Increasingly educators at public schools find ourselves having to teach our students the most basic of morals and civic skills, such as respect for adults, their peers and themselves that they should be taught at home. Often times we have to teach our students the very basics of the proper behavior that is expected of them not only at school, but in any professional environment, like raise your hand, wait for your turn, listen to each other, be ready to learn, bring your your learning supplies, to say the least.

Washington Heights.

The problem of student infractions and harsh consequences are a result of system-wide failures at every level and require systemic changes, not short-term solutions. Children born into low-income, high-need household are at greater risk for developmental delays and social-emotional problems, as high levels of stress have toxic effects on brain development. As a result, children go into school in "fight or flight" mode and withdraw and/or act out. Children, parents and teachers do not have the kind of support that fosters emotional well-being, self-regulation and coping skills. Instead, these children from high-stress households are thrust into overcrowded classrooms with teachers who are overwhelmed by so-called academic standards that don't take into account children's developmental levels and real academic needs. System-wide supports are needed at every level to foster emotional well-being that leads to real cognitive development. This model, advocated by Lesley Koplow and Bank Street College's Center for Emotional Responsive Practice seeks to build schools that truly support children, parents and teachers rather than focus on giving children punitive consequences for system-wide failures.

Gillian, early childhood special educator in Brooklyn

How about we hire security officers who set a good tone for a positive learning environment. Even for a few extra thousand dollars. Not those who would use inappropriate language right at the beginning of the school day. I mean as early as during scanning. For the 11 years that I have been, the officers are often a problem to our misbehaving children. No matter how high the teachers and administrators set standards, they belittle them by their vague and lame attitude.

Andrew from BK

Discipline comes from the home first. When kids see how their parents are disrespecting other adults at a young age, what do you expect? We constantly request parent involvement especially in the upper grades and get very little response, so it's not the Bloomberg administration. Most schools do not suspend for minor infractions because administration are now hesitant to suspend because it is reported to the state and can negatively affect the school's rating.

Cathy (SI)

I used to be a public high school teacher. In each school I worked there were students who were so disruptive and took so much management in the classroom they made it impossible for other students to learn. In some cases it was take one student out of the classroom so the rest could learn or leave the disruptive student in the classroom and no one learns.

I don't know the short answer regarding suspensions or how to help students with behavior issues, but you have to look at this challenge from many angles.

Lisa, UWS

When did teachers become the welfare system for children with no home training? Before teachers are contractually obligated to teach, they have to keep children safe. If a child poses a possible threat to ANYONE in the classroom, they forfeit the opportunity to be in that classroom. PERIOD. Too many times this weak and broken system coddles spoiled and entitled children who just want the negative attention because their home lives are subpar. Or better yet (which is usually the case) they are mad because their parents didnt buy them an IPAD or $300 sneakers.

It's not an accident that the top schools on this list are not in urban areas. Those schools are getting the job done because they set boundaries and stick to a code of discipline. Suspensions are not out of control. The schools are.


It seems like there are a lot of general statements being made and general questions like "are too many students being suspended for the wrong reasons?" I think the problem is that it is different in every single school. I can only speak for the situations in my own school (as a teacher) so who am I to say that teachers in other schools aren't handling student misbehavior a correctly? This is exactly why it is difficult for central administration to make decisions that work for everyone. Some things need t be handled internally. Let the professionals handle their own students in an appropriate way with support as needed, rather than get caught up in red tape bureaucracy that may not even apply to them.

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