How Are Schools Exploring Alternatives to Suspension?

February 21, 2024

In the past, students who demonstrated behavioral issues in school would commonly have to face some sort of discipline, usually suspension. However, lately, school administrators have begun to take an alternative approach to the traditional punitive one when disciplining their students.

Restorative Practices

Discipline no longer means a rigid punishment; instead, schools have de-emphasized such an approach. A growing number of schools have begun embracing restorative practices as alternatives to the “zero-tolerance” disciplinary policies. As we stated in the past, within the last five years, school discipline reform has significantly shifted. Restorative practices, when effective, aim to repair the student’s relationship within the school community. Instead of simply removing students from the academic environment after exhibiting troubled behavior, restorative practices focus on addressing the root causes of the misconduct while fostering communication and dialogue to encourage reflection and change. Such approaches attempt to address immediate behavior concerns for the students and contribute to the development of social and emotional skills among students.

Implementing Restorative Practices

Implementing restorative practices can come in various ways. It can take the form of a structured conference between the parties involved, along with a facilitator, usually a guidance counselor, to discuss the work towards resolution, or it can include consistent community building circles where students and staff openly discuss and share experiences to further build the school community.

As a result, of restorative practices becoming more popular, roughly 21 states have enacted legislation supporting such practices in schools. Such legislation includes requiring schools to include an assessment team that evaluates alternatives to expulsion or forming a school board to consider school policies that focus on restorative practices.


The traditional punitive approach is still available for more serious or violent disciplinary problems with students. Nowadays, schools have begun taking the restorative practices route, emphasizing empathy, communication, and skill-building over punishment. It is significant for schools to tailor their disciplinary policies as the world of student discipline evolves.


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