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FEATURE ARTICLE

Strategies for reducing suspensions By David E. Bartz

David E. Bartz, Ph.D., is professor emeritus in the Department of Educational Leadership at Eastern Illinois University.

T

he requirements of Senate

In Illinois, the group Voices of

suspensions because of numerous

Bill 100 are prompting major

Youth in Chicago Education was

repeat offenders. I was too caught up

changes in how schools address disci-

instrumental in the establishment

in the daily routine of the job to take

pline, specifically punishment. In part,

of Senate Bill 100. This “sweeping

time to be proactive, to figure out

the bill is causing schools to focus on

school discipline reform” took effect

why the misbehaviors were occur-

reducing suspensions, both in school

last fall after being signed into law, as

ring and how to change behaviors

and out of school. School personnel are

Public Act 99-456, in 2015 by Gov-

to reduce suspensions. This was my

scrambling to come up with ways to

ernor Bruce Rauner.

mistake. Since then, I have focused

do so under the watchful eyes of board

I have studied suspensions for

on what can be done to be proac-

of education members and superin-

over 45 years. As an assistant junior

tive and minimize suspensions to

tendents. School personnel in Illinois

high school principal of approxi-

the extent practicable.

are not the only ones addressing the

mately 1,000 students in 1969-70,

From 1972 to 2006, I worked

suspension issue. This is a national

I was troubled because there were

with school districts in Michigan,

movement that some view as address-

at least 100 suspensions, although

Missouri, Louisiana, Texas, Arkan-

ing the issue commonly known as the

there were fewer students actual-

sas, and Illinois on matters pertain-

“school to prison pipeline.”

ly suspended than the number of

ing to school desegregation, often including suspension issues. Based on these experiences, studying research and literature on suspensions over the years, and talking with building administration in Illinois; the following techniques are offered as considerations for addressing Senate Bill 100. These techniques are classified into four categories: communication of standards; instruction, classroom management, and staff development; administration and human relations; and counseling. It is unlikely all of these suspension reduction techniques are appropriate for any given building or district. Hence, it is

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THE ILLINOIS SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL / JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2017

The Illinois School Board Journal, January/February 2017  

A bimonthly magazine for public school board members and administrators highlighting issues in education.

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