When it comes to the criminal justice system, it is typically seen as counterproductive if a sentence for a crime involves letting the convicted continue what he or she got in trouble for in the first place.
Therefore, I found it quite ironic that out-of-school suspension is often used as a punishment for continued unexcused absence from class. To an outside observer, suspending somebody for continuously missing class would be comparable to sentencing someone convicted of animal cruelty to work at a puppy mill. In both of these situations, the person is being allowed to continue the very act they got in trouble for as a form of punishment trying to encourage them not to do the act again. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how these suspension disparities expand much further than just this little piece of absurdity.
From Kindergarten through 12th grade, I went to private Catholic schools in Montgomery County, MD. Based on my experiences in private schools, suspension was always seen as a last resort – something that was only used as a punishment for acts committed with malicious or selfish intent like cyber-bullying, destruction of property, intentionally causing physical harm to another student, cheating, or stealing. A more typical punishment for something like frequent unexcused absences was detention, which requires a student to stay at school longer, which would appear to be a more sensible punishment by making the student do the opposite of what he or she got in trouble for. Also, based on what my friends from my upper-middle class neighborhood who attended the well-integrated public schools of Montgomery County have told me, suspension policies at their school were almost identical to those of the county’s private schools that I attended. The Montgomery County Public Schools’ website appears to confirm my friends’ observations, with suspension being used as a sanction for serious rule violations, including threats, weapon possession, arson, and intercourse, among others.