The increasing incidence of suspension and expulsion is an indicator of the growing behavioral management problem we are facing in our schools today. Schools would argue that these disciplinary measures are designed to teach children responsibility. However, the other side of the argument suggests that suspension and expulsion merely indicate to children that some problems can be solved by simply running away rather than facing up to the issue and dealing with it.
Although there are undoubtedly some instances where a child needs to be removed from school, for example severe bullying or violence where the child’s behavior prevents other children from attending school, there are also a number of cases where children are excluded for trivial reasons. Extreme action taken because a child is caught chewing gum, using a cell phone, or for answering back to teachers is an indicator of an underlying behavioral management problem. Schools may choose to make an example of the child to show that the school rules cannot be broken, and to ensure other pupils do not behave in the same way. However, these actions not only deprive the child of their right to an appropriate education, but teach disrespect for an authority that is seen to be upholding petty or unfair rules. Suspending or expelling pupils for such actions, rather than dealing with the problems, highlights the behavioral management problem faced by our schools.
Frequently this behavioral management problem is due, not to a lack of willingness on the part of the school, but to a lack of resources. Often teachers do not have the time to discover the reasons for the bad behavior of one of their pupils when that individual is disrupting the rest of their large class. The child is labeled a troublemaker, or naughty child, and after a couple of detentions and suspensions is eventually expelled. This behavior management problem often masks other issues the child may be facing. There are a large number of special needs children, such as those with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) being expelled when they should be given specialized treatment. The behavioral management problem in our schools needs to be addressed to ensure that these children are given the help and support they require and are not automatically excluded from the education system.