Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

An Examination of the Disciplinary Histories and the Individual and Educational Characteristics of Students Who Participate in an In-School Suspension Program

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

An Examination of the Disciplinary Histories and the Individual and Educational Characteristics of Students Who Participate in an In-School Suspension Program

Article excerpt


This study explored the educational and personal-social characteristics of middle school and junior high students who were referred to an in-school suspension program for engaging in disciplinary infractions at school. The pattern of offenses between the in-school suspension participants and a district-wide sample was examined. Results focused on the in school suspension sample indicated that 51.2% of all students had been previously referred to the office for discipline issues and 27.4% had previous suspensions. Significant differences were found in self-ratings of personal-social characteristics between students with previous office referrals and those without and between students with previous suspensions and those without. In addition, the relationships among assistant principals' ratings of improvement and history of previous office referrals, history of previous suspensions, and student ratings of personal-social characteristics were examined. These results provide information about the intersect betwee n students' characteristics and behavioral trajectories and the disciplinary practices of office referrals and suspensions.

In the wake of recent high profile incidents of school violence, attention and resources have been focused on serious school discipline issues such as drug use, gang involvement, and weapons possession. While highly aggressive and extremely antisocial behaviors such as these are serious and can lead to negative student outcomes, such as school failure, out-of-home-placement, delinquency, and adult criminality (Tobin, Sugai, & Colvin, 1996), their occurrence is infrequent and, in fact, they constitute a small minority of office referrals leading to suspension (Skiba & Peterson, 1999). Results of a national survey conducted by the National Center on Educational Statistics (NCES; Heaviside, Rowand, Williams, & Farris, 1998) indicate that less violent behaviors, such as tardiness, absenteeism, and physical conflicts between students occur much more frequently on school campuses and are considered to be serious or moderate problems by school administrators. Studies focusing at the district or school-level have fou nd similar results, as disobedience and general disruption (Skiba, Peterson, & Williams, 1997), defiance (Menacker, Hurwitz, & Weldon, 1988), and physical contact/fighting (McFadden, Marsh, Price, & Hwang, 1992) have been identified as the behaviors that most frequently result in office referrals.

Unfortunately, these milder forms of student problem behavior at school are sometimes precursors to more serious and violent offenses and are considered a "warning sign" for future behavior that could threaten school safety (Dwyer, Osher, & Hoffman, 2000). Tobin et al. (1996) suggest that some students who are sent to the principal's office for minor disruptions in 6th grade and do not receive additional support services, will likely return to the office during junior high school with major discipline problems. These less serious but more frequent disciplinary offenses not only impact students, but may also play a part in shaping perceptions about the safety of schools (Skiba & Peterson, 2000). Thus, attention is needed on these disciplinary infractions, the characteristics of students who commit them, and effective ways to intervene to prevent future, more serious infractions.

Interventions for Rule-Breaking Behavior

School systems often react to problematic student behaviors with punishment and exclusionary measures, such as detention, reprimands, fines, and suspension (Skiba & Peterson, 2000; Sugai & Horner, 1999; Townsend, 2000). In fact, out-of-school suspension is one of the most common consequences for disciplinary infractions and is often used in response to relatively minor offenses, such as disobedience and disrespect, attendance problems, and general disruption (Morrison & Skiba, 2001). …

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