Calls for review of suspension, expulsion practices

Calls for review of suspension, expulsion practices

A new report has called for greater transparency about the number of students who are suspended or expelled from Victoria’s state schools.

The Youth Affairs Council for Victoria (YACVic) released a discussion paper yesterday, which called for public data on the number of student suspensions or expulsions to be made available.

The report – titled: Out of sight out of mind? The exclusion of students from Victorian schools – said that suspending or expelling students was rarely an effective way to address disruptive behaviour or prevent students from becoming disengaged in school.

“Up to date, comprehensive data on suspensions and expulsions is not readily available at present,” the report said, adding that figures dating back to 2011 should be made available in order to reveal any changing trends.

“While [the Department of Education and Training] collects suspension data via their school census, we have been informed this data is not released publicly.”

The report said that even though principals record and report student expulsions, this information did not appear publicly either.

The findings also suggested the real number of suspensions and expulsions may be higher than any official figures suggest.

“While some students go through a standardised, official process of being expelled from school, there are others who are encouraged or urged to leave,” the report said.

“A number of stakeholders from the education and youth sectors have reflected to us that formal expulsions are only the tip of the iceberg. We suspect these informal exclusions constitute a much broader problem than formal expulsion.”

The report suggested “a therapeutic approach” that recognises the impact of students’ trauma, neglect and abuse occurring in some students’ lives, and “how that plays out in classrooms and school settings”.

“In many cases where a student’s disengagement or behavioural problems are serious enough to provoke exclusion from school, these behaviours are being informed by issues of trauma and/or mental illness,” it said.

“While we do not suggest that teachers should be required to act as health practitioners, we maintain that better support for school staff to understand, recognise and respond to these issues would help to produce more positive, productive and connected classrooms.”