A New Approach to In-School Suspension

By Kyle Taylor, Communications Manager, School-Based Health Alliance

In School Suspension BlogTeachers and school administrators have a lot on their plates, and when a student is acting out in class, removing the disruptive student from the classroom is oftentimes their only option. But when a student is removed and placed in a suspension classroom, he is not able to talk to anyone about why he was acting out, or continue his studies.

The Loyola University Health System, a New Directions for School-Based Health Care grantee, is trying to address this issue with a behavioral health program at Proviso East High School in Illinois. Adriane Van Zwoll, a clinical social worker who works in Proviso’s school-based health center (SBHC), implemented an intervention program to help students who often find themselves in the in-school suspension classroom. When a student is sent to in-school suspension, they are given a processing form to determine why they are there.

“The form is short and gets right to the point—this is what I did, this is why I did it, this is what I was feeling, and this is what I can do different next time,” said Van Zwoll. “The form allows me to pinpoint the kids who are at a higher risk. I will meet with those students one-on-one to talk about what is going on.”

Van Zwoll also holds group sessions with the students to discuss a wide range of topics—relationships, anger and anger management, substance use and abuse, life skills plans after high school, stress management. The group sessions provide an opportunity to talk about something new with the students, and Van Zwoll will encourage students who are there often to join her for individual sessions, or refer them to the SBHC for follow-up services.

The program is in its first year, and Van Zwoll hopes to continue to improve on it. She has found that curriculums and evidence-based programs can be difficult to use because different students are sent to in-school suspension, which creates a lack of continuity. Even so, Van Zwoll hopes to expand the program and reduce suspensions at Proviso.

“From my perspective, I feel I’ve been able to connect with some of the hardest to reach students. I have a different mindset; I’m there to help them. I’m not there to keep them in trouble. I’m there to get them out of trouble. I think my role has a big impact.”

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