School suspensions and expulsions may seem to be an effective discipline method for severe and ongoing school disciplinary problems. However, these methods often create unforeseen problems, especially if they are applied in a zero-tolerance setting. In a policy statement, “Out-of-School Suspension and Expulsion,” published in the March 2013 issue of Pediatrics (published online Feb. 25), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not support zero tolerance policies and recommends that student suspension or expulsion should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Research has demonstrated that students who experience out-of-school suspension and expulsion are 10 times more likely to drop out of high school than those who do not. Also, suspension and expulsion can often place the student back into the environment that led to the behavior problems. If the student’s parents work, there may be no one home to provide supervision, making it more likely the student will engage in inappropriate behavior or associate with individuals who may increase violent or illegal activities. Believing early intervention is important to identify behaviors that could lead to suspension or expulsion, the AAP recommends that pediatricians screen for early childhood and preschool behavior problems so treatment can begin early to reduce risk factors for future behavior. As a student’s primary care physician, pediatricians should establish communication with the school nurse or counselor for children identified with high-risk behaviors.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.