Administrators bringing parents to school instead of suspending students

DONALDSONVILLE, LA (WAFB) - Students at Lowery Middle School in Donaldsonville now have the option to sit side by side with their parents or face suspension and possible expulsion.

"Oh, we're playing right into their hands," said Principal Darryl Comery. "You have a lot of kids that will say, 'Give me my three days,' and we're like 'No, not this time around.' You're going to have a day here with your parent," Comery explained.

It's called reverse suspension. The program was tested in 2017 and fully implemented for the 2017-18 school year. "I was like, let's do it," said Assistant Principal Paul Sampson, who says he got the idea from a school district in another state. When a student is facing their third or fourth suspension, they can be recommended to attend the alternative school, but reverse suspension lets them avoid that, giving them one more chance.

Sampson says they've found the best place for students is an environment they're most comfortable in. He says it's tough to get back into a regular routine after missing up to three days of school instruction. School leaders said the, "Reduction in suspension and expulsions has resulted in approximately 34,200 additional instructional minutes."

Principal Comery, who is in his second year as head of the school, says the suspension will still go on the student's record, but it will not count towards expulsion. Comery says since the program began, the number of suspensions has gone down. In November of the 2016-17 school year, 136 children were suspended. This school year, it's d ropped to 83. "It's middle school, so no middle school kid wants to be in the classroom with their mom or dad," Comery said. Students are more likely to be suspended during the months of October, November, and December, according to Comery.

Comery says the response from parents has been mixed, since they're forced to change their schedule based on their child's behavior. "They're upset with their child, which is what we want," Comery said.

Math teacher, Devin Wright, says it's all about holding students accountable and having parents understand everyone is on the same team. "Sometimes, there was a sense of maybe we're attacking the child or maybe we don't have the best interest of that child," Wright said. "When they see us being intentional about redirecting them and giving them those chances, parents really were able to buy in."

Wright says after having a handful of parents step into his classroom and see their child in action, their opinions quickly changed. "The truth of the matter is, students don't change their stripes very much. Even when their parents are there, they fall into those different things," Wright explained.

School administrators, along with Wright, say a better school to home relationship with parents has been formed. "So now we have a parent who's now saying, 'Hey I was there... I see how your teacher is trying to help you.'"

"I would rather have them on campus with us than at home on suspension any day," Comery said.

Officials with the Ascension Parish School District say currently, there are no plans to implement this program throughout the district.

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