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Alternatives to Supension

The suspension or expulsion of Emotional/Behavior Disorder identified students can be controversial for school districts.  The school can not violate the Free Appropriate Public Education guarantee for students with disabilities.  Research has shown that suspension does not deter inappropriate behavior nor does suspension deter other students from engaging in inappropriate behaviors.

10 Alternatives to Suspension

  • Problem solving/contracting. Negotiation and problem-solving approaches can be used to assist students in identifying alternative behavior choices. The next step should involve developing a contract that reminds the student to engage in a problem-solving process, and which includes reinforcers for success and consequences for continuing problem behaviors.

  • Restitution. In-kind restitution (rather than financial restitution, which often falls on the parents) permits the student to help to restore or improve the school environment either by directly addressing the problems caused by the student’s behavior (e.g., in cases of vandalism students can work to repair things they damaged), or by having the student improve the school environment more broadly (e.g., picking up trash, washing lockers).

  • Mini-courses or skill modules. Short courses or self-study modules can be assigned as a disciplinary consequence. These should be on topics related to the student’s inappropriate behavior, and should be designed to teach the student to have increased awareness or knowledge about the topic, thus facilitating behavior change. These modules might include readings, videos, workbooks, tests, and oral reports on a range of topics such as alcohol/drug use or abuse, strategies for conflict resolution, anger control strategies, social skills (e.g., getting along with peers, making behavior appropriate for the setting), and appropriate communication skills (e.g., appropriate and inappropriate language, how to express disagreement).

  • Parent involvement/supervision. Parents should be invited to brainstorm ways they can provide closer supervision or be more involved in their child’s schooling. Better communication and more frequent contacts between teachers and parents, as well as coordinated behavior-change approaches, are very useful and could be formalized into a disciplinary consequence.

  • Counseling. Students may be required to receive additional supports or individual counseling from trained helping professionals (e.g., counselor, school psychologist) focused on problem solving or personal issues interfering with learning.

  • Community service. Programs that permit the student to perform a required amount of time in supervised community service outside of school hours (e.g., volunteer at another school or an organization) should be created.

  • Behavior monitoring. Closely monitoring behavior and academic progress (e.g., self-charting of behaviors, feedback sessions for the student) will permit rewards to be provided for successful performance.

  • Coordinated behavior plans. Creation of a structured, coordinated behavior support plan specific to the student and based on a hypothesis about the function of the target behavior to be reduced should be created. It should focus on increasing desirable behavior, and replacing inappropriate behaviors.

  • Alternative programming. Provide short- or long-term changes in the student schedule, classes or course content or offer the option of participating in an independent study or work-experience program. Programming should be tailored to student needs, and permit appropriate credit accrual and progress toward graduation. Change of placement or programming must be made by the IEP (Individualized Education Program) team for students with EBD or other disabilities.

  • Appropriate in-school suspension. In-school suspension should be provided and include academic tutoring, instruction on skill-building related to the student behavior problem (e.g., social skills), and a clearly defined procedure for returning to class contingent on student progress or behavior. The environment should be carefully managed to guard against using in-school suspension as a way to avoid attending classes.

Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota ( Citation: Gaylord, V., Quinn, M., McComas, J., & Lehr, C. (Eds.). (2005). Impact: Feature Issue on Fostering Success in School and Beyond for Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disorders 18(2). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration. Available at

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