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Middle school reduces bad behavior dramatically with 'reverse suspensions' that invite parents to school when students misbehave

"Who as a parent wants to sit in class? It's embarrassing."

Image source: WOWK-TV

Administrators at one West Virginia middle school have introduced a new disciplinary alternative to traditional suspension that they believe could be more effective in reforming troubled students.

At Huntington East Middle School, non-violent, non-verbally abusive behavior is handled by offering parents the option of a “reverse suspension."

Image source: WOWK-TV

In a reverse suspension, instead of sending a child home, the student's parent is invited to come to school and spend the entire day by his side.

"When we started combining schools we had a lot of kids getting in trouble and getting suspended," school parent partner Stephanie Powell told WOWK-TV.

Huntington East Middle School student Justin Young shared how the policy has worked for him personally.

"I was suspended multiple times last year. But this year, not once," Young told WOWK.

Justin explained that when he and his mother got home from their day of reverse suspension, they had a family talk.

"She wanted to know if I acted like that when she was not around, I said, 'No, because I wanted to be good for you.'" Justin said.

Principal Frank Barnett said the approach has helped the school reduce student suspensions by two thirds and bad behavior incidents by more than half. The school discovered that, for many students, suspensions were seen as a break from school, something they planned for.

"We try to avoid that at all costs, but there are times it cannot be avoided," Barnett told WOWK.

The principal shared that around 30 families opted for reverse suspensions this year.

"Who as a parent wants to sit in class? It's embarrassing," parent Stephanie Howell told WOWK. “It's a good motivator to not have your parents come and sit with them."

Principal Barnett explained that the school decides how to address each behavior incident on a case by case basis.

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