Eliminating suspensions for younger students

ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – There is a push to eliminate school suspensions for younger kids in favor of alternative methods of discipline.

Correcting behavior and keeping kids in class are the reasons several schools have stopped suspensions for students in kindergarten through third grade at Ladue and Normandy.

“The data has been around that if you suspend children, odds are when they come back they will be performing less stable academically and that child ends up failing,” said Dr. Charles Pearson, superintendent of Normandy Schools Collaborative.

While there is now a strong focus on younger kids, Pearson said they have also been trying to reduce suspensions for older grades in the past few years as well.

“What you have to stop doing is saying, ‘What is wrong with this child?’ and ask the question, ‘What happened to this child?’” he said.

Dr. Jennifer Allen, assistant superintendent of curriculum at the Ladue School District, said the district will use what they call “sensory rooms” to calm a student down and also counselors to help the child.

“This was something that aligns with Ladue’s vision that all students stay in school and have the opportunity for a quality education,” she said.

Allen said most of the suspensions they have in the district come from a child having social or emotional concerns.

“We just know we need to put supports in place long-term to minimize disruptions and get them back in the learning environment as soon as possible,” she said.

There are severe cases where a student has to be separated from the general school population for violence or bringing a weapon into safe zone. However, those incidents are rare and a suspension will be used. At Normandy, administrators have the option for in-school suspensions as well.

“I was talking to a principal this morning and out of 11 suspensions this year, 5 are repeat offenders,” Pearson said.

St. Louis Public Schools adopted this practice last year. The Maplewood Richmond Heights School District began the school year with a goal of reducing suspensions.

The Ladue and Normandy districts are set to officially start by the 2018-19 school year; several more school districts are on board as well.