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School lets parents embarrass their kids as punishment, and it’s genius

Suspensions have long been used to dole out a little discipline to troublemakers at school. It’s no small thing — though occasionally kids are being thrown in the schoolyard slammer for things that are — and it’s supposed to send a message, seeing as it’s usually a step or two down from outright expulsion.

Both the in-school at out-of-school varieties of suspension, though, can sometimes fall a little flat when it comes to achieving their desired purpose: getting kids to simmer down — now. We all remember that kid from our own school days that didn’t mind getting a suspension because it was more like a mini vacation. So what’s a school to do? Well, some are trying something called a reverse suspension. It’s pretty brilliant and actually kind of hilarious.

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Instead of sending kids out of class for acting a damn fool when they should be learning, one middle school in West Virginia is calling parents in to sit with their little misbehaving angels all day and get a long, hard look at what their kids are up to all day long.

And it might just be working. According to Huntington East Middle School principal Frank Barnett, about 30 families have participated in reverse suspensions so far this year, and they’re already seeing results. The number of in- and out-of-school suspensions doled out are already down for obvious reasons, but the school is also seeing a marked decrease in the amount of negative behavior over all, for reasons that should be totally obvious.

No one wants their parents cramping their style at school.

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Think about it. When you were a kid and you hit a certain age, even the threat of the buzzkill or buzzkills that made up your parental unit hanging around where they weren’t welcome — at the epicenter of schoolkid socializing that is the lunch table, for instance — was probably enough to get you to straighten up.

There’s a certain type of kid that acts out because they’re working hard at cultivating the reputation of a rebel without a cause, with less leather and (hopefully) fewer cigarettes. Having Mom or Dad come in and side-eye you all day while occasionally triple-naming you in front of your friends when you start to get rowdy will kill that reputation faster than you can lob a spitball. Heaven help you if your middle name happens to be Norbert or, say, Gertrude.

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There’s only one issue, says a Virginia-based high school teacher that SheKnows spoke to this morning about the idea of reverse suspensions, and that’s that this has the potential to be little more than a Band-Aid for schools where discipline is a real issue. “Parental involvement is important,” she told us, noting that she welcomes parents to come observe in her classroom, “but I doubt that type of setup will be effective in changing behavior for the long term. The kid will behave in the presence of their parent and go right back to old habits once they leave.” Plus, she adds, taking a day off work just isn’t feasible for a lot of moms.

A Texas-based educator that we spoke to, however, thinks the idea of reverse suspensions is a good one. “I have had parents and grandparents come into class and sit with kids before, and most of the time it helped so much more than [in-school suspension] or [out-of-school suspension],” adding that, “I would rather see a parent in my class than a student out of my class.”

For schools that already have a fair amount of parental involvement, this certainly seems like a great way to take the blinders off parents who may not understand just how disruptive their child is being. And for parents who can take a little time off, shadowing their kid through the hallways of middle school might just do the trick if a child is only just starting to explore a life of truancy and incessantly belching the alphabet in the middle of a lesson.

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