(by Gustavo Ramirez, Guidance Counselor) – Education, at San Pedro High School and in general, is about bringing out the best in our young students – helping them to develop their minds, bodies and souls. The word ‘education’ is derived from the Latin words,
*educare, to bring up
*educere, to bring out, bring forth what is within, bring out potential
*ducere, to lead
Based on our 40 years experience and on research in the field of education, out-of-school suspensions (OSS) prove to be rather ineffective, perhaps even detrimental to students. In San Pedro, students who must stay home during suspensions are, in effect, on vacation; many who work at the Town Council during their days in suspension actually enjoy their time away from school. So, do we bring out the best in our suspended students by giving them an escape/vacation from school?
San Pedro High School is now implementing in-school suspensions (ISS) as an alternative to punish misbehaving students (who distract other students, and/or are a danger to them) without requiring them to miss instructional days. The idea is for suspended students to carry out time-on-tasks in a more structured and supervised environment. Moreover, by keeping suspended students in school, but in a separate and isolated room, we show students that they must face the consequences of their misbehavior.
Some characteristics of San Pedro High School’s ISS program include:
* students must come to school in uniform but must remain in an isolated room, away from all other students
* students are accountable for daily class assignments and/or tests while they are in isolation; teachers/supervisors work with them daily
* the guidance counselor spends quality time with suspended students to show them why their behavior is unacceptable or merits a suspension; and, he provides intensive counseling to ‘guide’ students in the right direction (behavior identification and replacement counseling)
* students must reflect on their misbehavior and show ‘in writing’ (worksheets and essays) alternatives that could be chosen in lieu of the misbehavior
* parents of suspended students are required to participate in the program (parental disapproval of student misbehavior required)
* a regular follow-up is done on each suspended student so that he/she is not allowed to fall back into old patterns or misbehaviors (behavior modification process)
San Pedro High School’s new suspension program is not merely a punitive or temporary controlling program that resembles solitary confinement. Rather, the program involves rehabilitation and functional behavior assessment and replacement, while it continues to provide an engaging and challenging learning environment for suspended students. Consequently, we make every effort to reduce students’ rule infringements, and still maintain the integrity of their education by ensuring that we do not disrupt the educational process.