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"ISS" - In School Suspension

Written by Nicole Norris about her experience with this form of punishment in her high school in New York.


On the first day of my Freshman year of High School, our new vice principal of Discipline was talking to the student body about the discipline policy. He said to the students,"If you are sent to my office, don't think of it as a punishment, think of it as a learning opportunity. I am here to teach you."

The most common form of "punishment" at our school is In School Suspension, or I.S.S. What sudents "learn" from spending a day or multiple days in I.S.S, I have yet to discover.

Think of I.S.S as a prison. It is a small room with several desks lined up in a row. On both sides or a person are boards that act as walls. They are put there so that one is unable to see anything on either side of them. One has to remain seated at all times, keep your head turned towards the wall, and one can't eat, talk, laugh or cry. Even a prisoner convicted of rape or murder can eat when they are hungry, laugh when they are happy or cry when they are sad. These are needs that humans being must have fulfilled in order to live healthy lives.

Having been in I.S.S on several occasions, I have experienced and witnessed students being treated unjustly and no better than a prisoner. On one particular occasion, I was eating breakfast durring the morning hours of I.S.S. It's my daily routine to eat breakfast in school, for there isn't time before school. The teacher, or rather, the "warden", in charge of the period approached me. She demanded that I put my food on her desk. She says that I am prohibited to eat in I.S.S. This confuses me. These "teachers" have been telling me for years that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I am being denied the right to eat it? Not wanting to be kicked out of school for insubordination, I turn over my breakfast. Hours pass, my stomach is growling and I feel sick. I tell myself that next time I will stand up for myself and eat if I am hungry.

Durring another excrutiating day in the "cell," an incident occured in which the "warden" used her power to humiliate a student. Somebody in the room was making a light tapping noise. (There isn't much to do in while in I.S.S, therefore, the littlest noice can greatly entertain a person.) However, the teacher was infuriated by the noice. She demanded to know who was making the sound. When nobody answered, she accused a boy in the back of the room. The boy denied being at fault for the noise. The "warden" then told the kid that he's a troublemaker, a pathological liar, and that he's annoying. The warden then told the student that he had to stand up for the rest of the period. Now, where does this teacher come off calling students names? Aren't teachers supposed to encourage students, build their self esteem and help them to pursue their dreams? Perhaps in theory, but not in practice.

As I reflect on my experiences in In School Suspension, I wonder what my vice principal meant when he announced that students should consider being punished by him as a learning experience. What does a student learn by being thrown into a room all day with dictator-like supervisors watching our every movement and listening to our every breath. The only things that one will learn from being placed in In School Suspension is to resent the people that put them there, to feel powerless and humiliated, and perhaps, not get caught doing whatever they did that put them there in the first place.

On the occasions that I have been placed in In School Suspension, nobody has ever talked to me about what I have done wrong. They simply saw that I skipped a class and announced that I had to serve the time. If they had asked, they would have known that sometimes, before I go to class, I get a knot in my stomach. It feels as though my stomach is on fire. My heart races, my palms sweat, I get dizzy and confused. I begin to feel as though my class mates can read my thoughts. I feel disconnected with reality. These intense feelings become to much to handle, and I simply leave school to take a walk or sit in the bathroom to read to calm myself down. However, nobody asks why I wasn't in class. Instead, I am labeled as "bad" and put in the school's "jail" to "learn a lesson."


Nicole went to Peru Central School in Peru, New York


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Respect | Empathy
Caring | Listening

Other EQI.org Topics:

Emotional Literacy
Invalidation | Hugs
Emotional Abuse |
Feeling Words
Depression |Education
Emotional Intelligence
Parenting | Personal Growth

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See also

Letter from mother of an 8 year old who was locked alone in a room in school

My writing on ISS iun the USA and "Isolation" rooms in England

Editorial about punishment in schools

Nicole Norris