Students' experiences of school suspension

Publication Date



Issue addressed: School inclusion and academic attainment are key social determinants of health. Students who have been suspended from school are more likely to disengage from school and consequently not receive the health promoting benefits of social inclusion and academic achievement. This study sought to explore the experiences of students who have been previously suspended (i.e. had experienced school exclusion).

Methods: Seventy-four previously suspended adolescents from five schools in the state of Victoria, Australia, completed a written questionnaire. Students reported their understanding of the process of being suspended; what they did and with whom they spent the day(s) of suspension; and their perceptions of their return to school post-suspension.

Results: While suspended, a minority of suspended students received adult supervision and most suspended students participated in benign leisure activities. Upon return to school, students reported diminished teacher assistance and found that suspension did not help resolve the underlying issues that lead to the suspension.

Conclusions: Removal of a student displaying problem behaviours from the classroom may provide temporary relief to the school community but suspended students report minimal benefits from suspension. Suspension removes the potential pro-social normative influences of school and provides an opportunity to establish antisocial peer networks. Suspended students appear to perceive a stigma upon their return to school, further diminishing an already tenuous school relationship.

So what?: School suspension exposes disadvantaged students to several negative social determinants of health. Students displaying problem behaviours would benefit from interventions that maintain the student’s relationship with school. Should suspension be necessary, schools could assist by ensuring that suspended students receive appropriate adult supervision and a formal reintegration to school to promote social inclusion and academic attainment, two recognised key determinants of health.


School of Psychology

Document Type

Journal Article

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