Putting Education Reform To The Test

In-School Suspension: a Better Alternative or Waste of Time?

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

Students at Power U Center in Miami advocate for keeping students in class and out of in-school suspension.

There is a place on school campuses for students who break the rules.

In some Florida schools, it’s called SCSI.

Marcus Pryor, a junior at Miami Northwestern Senior High, thinks it stands for School Criminal Scene Investigation.

SCSI actually stands for School Center for Special Instruction. And in Miami, it’s where students go when they get an in-school suspension.

It’s an alternative to out-of-school suspension Florida schools can use for offenses considered minor, like consistent tardiness, wearing baggy clothing or cutting class.

The idea is that students will learn more during an in-school suspension. But being on school campus does not mean students are actually in class or receiving instruction.

Pryor got an in-school suspension for consistent tardiness when he was in middle school. He said the other kids in the classroom were a group of friends who had all cut class.

“They all have their friends in there with them and that’s the time they really want to make fun and criticize,” Pryor said.

Pryor says he does not feel comfortable being in a room with all the “bad kids.”

“Most kids that go to SCSI are the main bad ones,” he said. “The ones that like to pick on and bully and it makes you feel like you need to be more on your toes.”

“We Just Read and Watched Teachers Eat…”

More than 455,000 Florida students were suspended last school year.

“Some of the student actually don’t mind going there because they can sit there and do nothing.”

- Jennifer Smith, Hialeah High School teacher

The majority – more than 243,000 – were in-school-suspensions.

Students are held in a classroom away from other students. It could be for on class period, an entire school day, or multiple school days.

Each school handles in-school suspensions differently.

In Miami-Dade County, certified teachers supervise suspended students and act as tutors if students have questions.

In Orange County, schools hire separate staff at a lower salary than beginning teachers.

In Duval County, schools sometimes re-purpose staff to watch over in-school-suspension students.

And students are supposed to be doing work during in-school-suspension.

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

Keisha Campbell, a sixth grader at Norland Middle School, got in-school-suspension for 10 days.

But Keisha Campbell, a sixth grader at Norland Middle School in Miami, says it feels like busy-work.

“We didn’t really do anything,” Campbell said. “We just read a book and just watched the other teachers talk and eat and things.”

She got 10 days of in-school-suspension for pushing a student she says pushed her first.

“It’s like jail,” she said. “We have to have last lunch and last lunch means after all the kids eat you get all the scraps left.”

Campbell said she was lucky to get in-school-suspension over out-of-school-suspension. But she didn’t realize she would miss so much class.

“They mark you absent for 10 days,” she said. “And me, I go to school everyday, so those 10 days messed up everything.”

School officials say being on campus gives students access to teachers if they have questions about classwork. And sometimes students are allowed to go back to class to pick up classwork or take a test.

Earl Green handles discipline and student services at Orange County public schools. He says it’s better to keep suspended students on campus.

“When a child is suspended out of school, many times they are on their own during the day because mom and dad have to go to work,” Green said. “And lots of times they end up roaming the streets and getting into more trouble.”

But Jennifer Smith, a teacher at Hialeah High in Miami, says in-school suspension is not effective at deterring students from breaking school rules.

“Some of the student actually don’t mind going there because they can sit there and do nothing,” she said. “A lot of times those are students who are sitting there doing nothing to begin with.”

Are In-School-Suspensions Applied Evenly? 

Statewide black male students are the only subgroup more likely to get out-of-school suspension than in-school-suspension over White, Hispanic and Asian males combined.

School officials say it mirrors national trends.

And Valtena Brown, a regional superintendent in Miami-Dade County, says they are trying to figure out why.

“Our superintendent has commissioned a task force to actually look at the phenomenon in Dade County.”

But she said out-of-school-suspensions across all groups are down over the past few years — being replaced by in-school-suspensions.


  • Njones0623

    out of school suspensions are a waste. …Many young people think that the few days off are worth the trouble.  Take aways something they like instead!!

    • Sam Taylor, Jr.

      That’s because parents don’t know what the HELL they are doing. If I had been suspended as a child… Wow. I don’t even want to THINK about how jacked up I’d have been at home. It certainly wouldn’t be viewed as a vacation, I can tell you that…

  • KNC1014

    I think that in school suspension is a good idea.  Its true that the majority of the kids that get out of school suspension are out roaming around during the school day doing what they want while their parents are at work.  As for the in school suspension, I don’t think that the child attending the in school suspension should be counted absent and maybe as a provision to just having to sit in this room they should be made to visit each of their teachers each morning to get class work so they are not just sitting around doodling…Or another alternative is to set up other small schools for the kids that are in need of more dicipline.  I know there are some states that have these in place.  So once a child has had so many strikes they are then made to attend a different school….

  • Pmdorsey

    Our in-school suspension usually means sitting in the office, sometimes doing school work, mostly just talking and bothering the secretaries.  It’s a no-punishment alternative that really doesn’t work.  If only our school district would use a multi-level of suspension program such as hiring a full time behavior specialist who will take the children into a special room and counsel them about how to handle their behavior (usually related to reactive anger) in addition to helping them do some school work.  We also need a CONSISTENT counselling session for these children, the top 5% Tier 3 of our enrollment.

  • katied

    I’ve supervised a middle school In School Suspension room for eight years and most days are a success. Students are not marked absent. I arrange for work from teachers or at least the chapter they are working in. I also request a list of all assignments that are overdue. It has proven to be a place where the kids can catch up on work and return to the classroom feeling less defeated in re classwork. It is a very good place for them to complete project work as the supplies are available. My biggest challenge was incorporating all the kids on behavioral intervention plans as that causes a revolving door each period. Between the two groups, there may be anywhere from from 5-20 students in the room any given period. When I see that a tight group of friends have been placed in ISS together, I usually have asked admin to reschedule some. They are usually supportive in that request. The kids biggest complaint is they cannot join their friends for lunch. Lunch is in the ISS room as well. Some may use ISS as a safe haven when they are feeling overwhelmed academically or socially, but I still believe it is a better system than OSS.

  • A helping teacher in S.C.

    In our school, students that are assigned to ISS as we call it must get a class work sheet filled out by their teacher or teachers and all assignments must be completed and the asignments are checked off and signed by the in school suspension teacher.. If that work is completed the Iss teacher has other assignments for them to do…The only time they leave out is when they go to lunch and barthroom breaks….It has worked out well with the way our program works…Once the students are allowed to go back to class, the ISS teacher does follow up visits with the student and sometimes visits the class to help the student out if needed….

  • school convict

    I am currently in an in-school-suspension for the first time ever in my senior year in high school. Frankly I have found it more helpful than anything and kind of want to get them on a regular basis just so its easier to keep up with my school work. I miss the last class of my rotating schedule every day and in one morning I have compleated all the missing assignments I’ve had the whole first trimester and also the rest of the homework for the week in the rest of the afternoon. These aren’t effective ways to punish kids because most schools do not run them well enough for them to seem like a punishment. This feels like a blessing to me.

  • Devin

    This article is terribly bias and shows none of the benifits to in-house suspension. That’s fantastic. Let’s get the STUDENTS opinion on it. Of course they will all say it’s terrible, because it is! No middle or high schooler wants to sit in a quite room all day and be forces to read or complete alternative classwork assignments! Of course it will feel like busy work, because half the time it is! The purpose is to punish students for breaking rules and help them understand that being in class is a privledge and is more fun than busy work and silence all day! Not to mention, where I work, when students get sent home they spend the day texting friends (that are probably getting in trouble for their phone sounding off in class), roaming Facebook or Twitter, playing Xbox Live, or in worst cases, roaming the streets! I had in-house one time in high school and it was the worst experience ever. You’re forced to watch/hear all your friends socialize and enjoy the school day (as much as high schoolers do) all while you site quitely in a room. What happened to punishing children for their misdeeds? Instead we send them home to play on the internet all day. At least with some busy work, they might learn something new!

    • Theprobruh

      You’re a piece of busy work

  • 8909

    In school suspension at my school is exactly what it is said to believe in this article. Students want to be in ISS simply because they get to be with their other trouble making friends and end up doing nothing. And nothing is said. They stay behind and have fun. Perhaps this system works in other areas but in my school it is a total waste of time. Students are not suppose to like ISS they are meant to fear it and learn from it.

  • Jane Ovenden

    I substituted for an ISS teacher. This article mentions teachers eating in class. This teacher has to eat while she supervises the ISS room because she does not have a lunch break in her schedule. I worked from 7:30 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. this day without a lunch break a minute to myself. The students mentioned how much they disliked ISS. I told them it is supposed to be miserable so you will try not to get set back again. Unfortunately several of students talked about which were there “regular” seats in ISS because they spent so much time there. Don’t know if it helps the kids but the teachers have to have some option to discipline kids who break rules and to remove kids from class who are preventing others from learning.


    I have in school suspension with other kids in my class and we didn’t do crap. We’re planning on starting something up and get outta school. Were getting lots and I mean LOTS of kids in our school to start an uprising.

  • Billybon


  • Aaron Garner

    okay guys, while all of you bash on iss, i am loving it. i get to finish my work on my own time, and i get to read. im ahead of all my classes, and i get to finally get away from the noise of the classroom. im more of a quiet person with no friends, so im used to being alone, but for sure, if youre smart, you would love iss.

    • Maximo Salceda

      When you go to ISS, the school writes a document and puts it on your permanent record, which affects your chances of getting accepted into good choice high schools (if you’re in middle school) and eventually colleges.
      So don’t be a dumb ass cuz your gonna mess up your future.

      • maryhandymoore

        That is true. I do not understand why it is that school kids (and their parents) misunderstand what the penalties for misbehavior really are. If parents were really involved in their children’s educational welfare at home and abroad, this would be no problem because they would know it is no light thing for their children to get detention of any kind, especially so much. For example, I know of a student who has been in and out of ALC or alternative learning center since ninth grade and is possibly on his way for a fourth time. That student is most obnoxious; he is academically capable but ruining his personal history that will follow him all the days of his life (especially because he is a black miss-behaver who holds authority in disdain).

        So far, that teen (11th grade) is about the worst I have ever seen, and I hope I never meet anyone worse than him (and his cousin) because that would be most unpleasant. Common sense tells us that there are consequences to every act we do – consequences good or bad. The problem though is that people have to care about that. Kids laugh at being “bad boys” and “bad girls” in school because they are young and stupid as well as given license to do those things. For example, when these youngsters (from primary to secondary school) are rewarded positively for their misbehavior, they think it is good to act out because they get the most expensive clothes, pods and phones among other things (even if they eat rice because food money went to “things” ). Sadly, all of this work together to nourish two of their worst traits: they have as little respect for reading books as they do for older people.

        All this serves to set kids up for life from prison-to-prison. Common sense tells us that that is the impetus behind those activities that get prisons ready for those kids who will not get a good education, which is the remedy for many maladies in the social arena and privately because it is good for the self-image, etc. I am a substitute teacher who has been in this environment for almost four years (preparing for certification as a teacher), and I have never seen anything as sad as what I see – because I think I will never work in a prison. Kids come to school and expect to be allowed to make trouble and party all day while a very, very few wish they could have peace and do their work (those are the ones I believe in keeping order for).

        As long as kids can get the backing of their parents/guardians to act out as they please, they will do it if the school system allows parents and children to run the schools while staff babysits them during the day, rather than working together to get the best out of children that is possible for them to achieve. It still takes a community to rear children, but that community of responsibility begins at home. Like it or not, it should begin at home but parental guidance is becoming even more incapable for numerous reasons; inept parenting strategies and skills are at the top of the list. Schools can only receive what the home front sends to them.

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