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FREW Consultants Group        
Monday, August 29 2022

Return from Suspension

In the last Newsletter we discussed problems associated with suspensions.  This essay examines the process of re-integration after the suspension has been served.  Returning is always an emotional time for the student, their parents and the school staff.  The range of emotions will vary from some students whose behaviour is so out of character they will be ashamed.  Others, whose issues are so ingrained they may still be resentful and very angry.  The tone of these meeting will be varied but the desired outcome the same, to have a successful return to school.


When dealing in such a varied emotional landscape the person conducting the return from suspension meeting needs to be conscious of what the mood will be.  One technique I used when I knew I was going to be confronted with an angry family was to just delay the meeting slightly to give then a chance to settle and more importantly to reinforce my personal boundaries.  I found revising the documents that led to the suspension helped and these were fresh in my mind.


I would suggest to start the meeting with a review of the situation that led to the suspension.  Preferably I would ask the student why they thought they were suspended.  In the best case they would know and after checking with the parents if they agreed we could quickly move forward.  However, if there remains a disputed assessment of the event then it is time to take control of the meeting.  You should have evidence that you can cite but the bottom line is the decision is the schools, it is not a courtroom and the principal only has to be convinced of the events.  Parents should have already been issued with their rights to challenge the suspension so this meeting is not the place for such conversations.


Eventually you will get to that part of the meeting that you will have to clearly define the behaviour you expect from all students including the one in front of you.  Again, this is beneficial if you can get the student to identify the behaviours expected, but if not you need to be able to describe the school’s expectations and the structures, suspension being one that support those expectations.  It is important that you let the student know you believe they can behave in such a manner.  This is a tricky time because it is so tempting to point out why they failed before.  The toxic word that you should avoid is BUT; it’s too easy to say but you did this or that which caused the suspension.  You may need to point these things out however, you should try to weave this information into the conversation in a supportive manner; the word BUT immediately invites contention.


Suspension has two functions, the first is to protect the other students, physically and socially, from the actions of the perpetrator. The need to provide a safe environment is why ‘time out’ is often the appropriate consequence.  This has been imposed through the suspension.  The second is to address the inappropriate behaviour the child had used to get their needs met and replace them with behaviours that will allow them to get their needs met in a socially acceptable manner.  


It is at the times when very difficult students are returning from suspension structure becomes important – structure allows everyone to understand what is expected and therefore where the responsibility lies. The use of a structured program that is especially designed to deal with the child’s behaviours can assist with managing their conduct in the short term and moulding permanent functional behaviours in the long term.  This structure can take the form of an independent behaviour program (IBP) that the teacher can construct with the child, his/her parents and the supervising teacher.  However, if the child and/or their parents do not want to participate you should still design such a program so they know the process and the consequences for behaviour.  The following steps will help you design such a program.


Define the behaviours you want to target:

  • Be specific about exactly what the child is doing and the impact that behaviour is having.  There are ample examples of how to observe and record incidents of mis-behaviour and this provides a starting point for discussion.
  • Limit the behaviours to what you need to deal with immediately - do not take on too much.  If you can eliminate one or two quickly then you can move onto other behaviours. 
  • Spell out the consequences – these must include positive and negative.  It is not enough to extinguish behaviours knowing that they do serve a purpose.  You have to replace that behaviour with a new one that will serve the same need.
  • Keep a record of the behaviour – this allows both you and the student to track change.  This will provide an intrinsic reward for both of you.  Just a warning often students will increase the level of their inappropriate behaviour at the beginning of the process just to see if you are serious.
  • Evaluate – after a period of time check to see if the situation has changed.  If not, you can revisit the process and try another strategy.  In some cases, the student’s behaviour is so far beyond the resources of a school they must be excluded.  The process and your records will be invaluable as evidence for the expulsion.

This is the time you can identify the supports that the school can offer.  These can range from extra academic work, time with the school counsellor and/or a teacher who that have a positive relationship with who can act as a mentor.  In some cases there might be the need for the student to self-refer to in-school time out.  This often allows them to remove themselves before they explode.  However, this must be highly organised, everyone know how the student activates this (I have used a time-out card successfully), where they go and what happens before they return.  Like most this can be very individualised for each student.


The school should also come to an understanding with the parents, how they can support the school’s actions and how we can reciprocate, the minimum being regular feedback on how the students are going.


I have included a simple ‘action plan’ as an Appendix but this should be seen as a guide.  The school should design their own version and be flexible in making changes as required.  This is where all the agreements between the school, the student and the parents are recorded.


There are a significant number of students whose behaviour is so dysfunctional they need special consideration.  These students are the victims of their developmental environment and deserve our best efforts, that’s why teachers do make a difference in so many children’s lives but be aware there are another large group of kids in your class and they deserve the same compassionate care.



Return from Suspension Form


Name: ___________________                                                          Date:  _________


I have participated in a successful post suspension interview for return to school. I understand that I must accept responsibility for my learning and meet the school’s expectations concerning learning, behaviour & attendance. I agree to support the Code of Conduct; Anti-Bullying Plan, and Harassment Guidelines.

To help create and maintain a positive learning environment the following will apply:



By Whom

Follow up date



























Student’s signature:


Parent’s signature:


Observer’s signature

(where relevant)


Principal’s signature:



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John R Frew
Marcia J Vallance

ABN 64 372 518 772


The principals of the company have had long careers in education with a combined total of eighty-one years service.  After starting as mainstream teachers they both moved into careers in providing support for students with severe behaviours.

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