Fewer Kennewick students could find themselves sent home after being suspended from school for breaking rules.
The Kennewick School Board plans to spend about $105,000 to create in-school suspension rooms at its high schools over the next two years.
Sending students home for a day or more can get parents’ attention and also keeps them from disrupting other students.
But it also can put a student at risk of falling behind academically and can give misbehaving students exactly what they want — a day out of school.
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It also may give them time to get into more trouble.
A study recently published in the American Journal of Public Health found that marijuana use was higher in schools in Australia and Washington state where suspended students are sent home.
“It seems like we’re doing it more for the school than the student,” Kennewick board member Ben Messinger said at a recent meeting.
So after discussing the issue since January, the school board agreed to hire more paraprofessionals — such as teachers or other educators — to work with the students in designated in-school suspension rooms.
“Sometimes you just need a place for students to cool off,” Assistant Superintendent Ron Williamson told the Herald.
In-school suspension is already being used at Kennewick High. A paraprofessional supervises the students in the room while doing other clerical work.
Having a staff member fully dedicated to the suspended students rather than someone splitting attention with other tasks could lead to better coordination with teachers, leading to more constructive learning, said Kennewick High Principal Van Cummings.
“It doesn’t work if the student doesn’t have meaningful work to do,” he said.
Randy Hoover, a physics teacher at Kennewick High, said the model in place at Kennewick High works for some kids, but not for students who routinely break the rules.
In-school suspension then becomes a “babysitting gig.” “Oftentimes it ends up becoming their classroom,” Hoover said.
“I’m not sure if it modifies their behavior the way we want it to,” he said. “It becomes this kind of punitive thing.”
But the additional resources should give school administrators more ways to work with not only troublesome students but anyone who is struggling, said administrators.
The program would be for students who were suspended on more minor offenses, such as truancy, smoking on school grounds or arguing with a teacher.
Out-of-school suspensions will still have a role for more serious rules violations, such as fighting or having drugs, officials said.
Some said there’s no guarantee keeping suspended students in school will solve problems, especially with repeat offenders. However, administrators said, with more support from the district, schools could augment what they already have.
Another paraprofessional in Southridge’s room could lead to more one-on-one work with students who are acting up and could be a study hall of sorts for students who need more academic help, Southridge High Principal Steve Biehn.
“We think it could be more than just for kids who are misbehaving,” he said.
Having a well-staffed, in-school suspension room available could still help turn some kids around.
“It’s an option. It’s an extra tool,” Cummings said.