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Baltimore Public Schools Are Seeking To Replace Suspension with a More Beneficial Form of Punishment

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Public schools around the country are struggling to find a way to deal with the problem of students who need remedial help or face suspension for disreputable misconduct. Some offer in-school suspension options such as evening remedial programs, Saturday classes and lunchtime sessions, others choose the path of least resistance and have such students expelled. However, there is a public high school in 84,000-student Baltimore district, which seems to have found its own solution to the problem. Thus, students who would previously be suspended or expelled for bringing weapons to school, dealing drugs or attacking their teachers and classmates, are now welcome in a new Success Academy located in Baltimore.

This public high school is nothing like traditional schools. Firstly, because its students are expected to do International Baccalaureate-level work, preparing and delivering presentations every two months. The study groups are also very limited, some of which include only five or six students who are divided into groups depending on their age and gender. The total number of students here is about 100 people; however the yearly running costs for the school provided by the district amount to $1.2 million.

District authorities feel this money is well-spent since it allows more students to continue their education and get help and support they need to succeed. Karen Webber-Ndour, Baltimore’s executive director of the office of student support and safety admits there might be situations when the school is forced to expel a student but she also thinks that depriving a child of any education is a terrible mistake. Baltimore school district authorities believe that dropping out of school for these kids would be a much more expensive alternative in the long run.

All students are required to take behavior-modification classes alongside regular academic disciplines. Before transferring to the regular school these students are expected to make a presentation as a part of their program. They are asked to talk in front of their classmates about what caused their behavioral issues, analyze their emotions and evaluate decisions they used to make. Students mention loss of a family member, sexual abuse, and lack of emotional support from parents as the most frequent causes for their misbehavior.

Schools like the one in Baltimore are created to give such students more options to study and improve when traditional schools give up on them and start considering having them expelled. This form of punishment is proved to unequally affect black and Latino students as well as those with disabilities.



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