Why We Suspend: Teachers’ and Administrators’ Perspectives on Student Suspensions

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Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Research Proposal

WHY WE SUSPEND: TEACHERS’ AND ADMINISTRATORS’ PERSPECTIVES ON STUDENT SUSPENSIONS

Candidate: Ms. Debra Shilkin

April, 2005

Supervisors:

Associate Professor Marnie O’Neill
Dr. Elaine Chapman

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Table of Contents2
Abstract3
Introduction4
Terminology5
Statement of Purpose5
Research Questions6
Central6
Guiding6
Conceptual Framework7
Theoretical Perspective7
Current Suspension Policy in Western Australian State Schools7 Background to Western Australian Discipline Policies8
Context of the Research9
Empirical Literature10
The Present Study12
Method13
Design13
Settings14
Participants15
Data Collection16
Data Analysis17
Limitations and Delimitations19
Ethical Considerations19
Major Scholars20
References20
Proposed Timeline26
Proposed Budget26
Appendix A: Interview Schedule28

ABSTRACT
‘Suspension’ is a sanction used by schools in which students who have contravened the rules are not allowed to attend school for a specified number of days. Despite its widespread use, empirical research suggests that suspension is ineffective, punitive, and a predictor of further social problems, such as substance abuse and crime. The proposed study will use qualitative methods to explore the beliefs of teachers and administrators regarding the rationale for and the impact of suspension in Western Australian secondary schools. Case studies will be conducted on three schools, two of which are currently trialing different programs to assist in both reducing suspensions and making them more effective. The third school will be selected for its more traditional ways of dealing with students, and will have been identified by District Education Office staff as a school with a high suspension rate. One-on-one interviews will be conducted with teachers from different Learning Areas at each school, pastoral care staff, the Deputy Principal in charge of Student Services, and the Principal. After analysis of the data, the themes will be presented to the participants in focus groups for them to verify or refute. It is hoped that by examining the reasons why school staff suspend students, viable alternatives and suggestions to improve practice may be created that are more well-supported by school staff.

INTRODUCTION
Schools have increasingly reported concerns with disruptive behaviour in class (Dettman, 1972; White, Algozzine, Audette, Marr and Ellis, 2001; Metzler, Biglan, Rusby & Sprague, 2001; Mukuria, 2002; Uchitelle, Bartz & Hillman, 1989). Disruptive behaviour can function as a major impediment to classroom learning (Slee, 1988). In recent times, safety, violence, drugs and weapon use have been uppermost in the problems schools face (White, 2002; Skiba, 2000; Mendez, Knoff & Ferron, 2002). Events such as the shooting of staff and students by students in the United States (US), coupled with the media presenting incidences of school violence on a regular basis (Vavrus & Cole, 2002; Schiraldi & Ziedenberg, 2001; Christie, Petrie & Christie, 1999), have contributed to schools feeling the need to increase the severity and intensity of their disciplinary practices (Fields, 2002). In countries such as the US, zero tolerance policies have been adopted in efforts to decrease the prevalence of severe behaviour problems within schools (Skiba, 2000: Skiba & Peterson, 1999; Sughrue, 2003). In the US, mandatory suspension – and, in some cases, expulsion – may be imposed for behaviours such as bringing a weapon to school and gang-related activity (Skiba & Peterson, 1999). In some states, mandatory suspension has also been implemented for students who show open, ongoing defiance and continued disorderly or disruptive conduct (Sughrue, 2003). Suspension has also been used as a consequence for behaviours such as truancy, lateness, disrespect and non-compliance (Skiba, 2000). The abolition...
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