Lansing schools administrator seeks to decrease suspensions

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By Asha Johnson
The Lansing Star


Lansing — Often when students have behavioral issues in school they are suspended, but Assistant Superintendent Diana Rouse of the Lansing Schools believes a suspension only worsens the situation rather than making it better for that child.

Schools exist to help children learn and grow, Rouse said, and it is only fair to keep them in school and get help from qualified teachers.

“Having students off the streets and in school works for students and parents. Students suspended need very clear home guidelines,” Rouse said.

According to Rouse, suspensions vary depending on what the student did and to the extent as well as how many times the child has done it.

“We have behavior specialists and student assistant providers in the schools,” said Rouse. “They work on changing student behavior.”

Retired Lansing School District education instructor Dr. M.J. Garcia stated that sometimes the student isn’t the only one who may need guidance. How a student behaves may be reflecting the morals and values they pick up from the behaviors of their parents while other students may act out in public just because it is easy to do so, so it wouldn’t hurt for both the students to meet with counselors.

“A way to help both the child and the parent is to have different disciplinary options, one being to call special meetings with the parents, instead of going straight to suspensions,” said Garcia.

The Lansing School District provides these meetings when the proper help is available, but Rouse feels that they aren’t provided as often as they should be. One reason is that certified teachers who are highly qualified in special assistance are in demand, however, this is very costly and leaves the job to be done by school counselors.

“Counselors have gotten too comfortable and have forgotten that they are there for the emotional well being of students, so it is unacceptable that they have become too busy to do what they are there for,” said Rouse.

Although Rouse feels that counselors have gotten too comfortable and don’t do enough for students, Garcia stated in a phone interview that many teachers are only human and can become overwhelmed with continuous disruptive behavior, therefore not suspending a child isn’t always a good outcome.

Rouse said in a phone interview that school counselors are in the schools to deal with schedules, credits, college etc., but if a student needs extra assistance, the counselors should be the ones doing that job, if need be.

“Though fewer suspensions may help a child to have a better learning experience since they’ll be at school more than at home, I am afraid that they will take advantage of this policy and increase their unacceptable behaviors,” said Garcia.

Garcia also said students are going to stumble sometimes because of lack of maturity, but teachers and administrators must work with them and help them as much as they can.

“After all, the well being of the child is what they are there for,” said Garcia.

According to Rouse, there are pros and cons for in-school suspensions like there are pros and cons in every situation, but if personal help in school for a child with behavioral issues could benefit them, that should be the focus.

“The goal is to not suspend students at all, but we know that’s impossible, so in-school suspensions need to be in effect,” said Rouse.

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