The Real Reason for ISS at BFA

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Ashley Seymour, Writer

With students being sent to ISS for various reasons this school year, it raises the question of whether or not it is a helpful and sustainable option for our school.

According to, when students are sent to ISS, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) believes that children should be educated, not incarcerated. If students are placed in a room without having a conversation with them about how their actions affected others, they will continue with these actions and continue down this path.

According to Bellows Free Academy’s Assistant Principal, Heather Fitzgibbons, at BFA, ISS is not an acronym for In-School Suspension, but rather In-School Support. While in ISS, certain students focus more on a restorative track, where it is a safe place for students to process an event or a violation. Sometimes it is important for students to leave the classroom, and they need a short conversation with an adult. 

“It’s supposed to be about learning. It’s supposed to be about beginning to get those skills that, hopefully, will help them avoid that [school-to-prison] pipeline. Where we could just stick them in a room, have them set like in detention and then move on their way. But the whole point of ISS is how do we do different[ly] next time? What do you need? Is it to talk to someone, or is it to read about something to educate yourself?”  Fitzgibbons said.

According to Fitzgibbons, in order to continue on the restorative track, it is important that all schools in the Maple Run School District are communicating with their students frequently, rather than only using restorative actions when students make mistakes because, in reality, it isn’t a punishment. The main goal of restorative justice is to repair the harm caused by a crime, which can only be done if a student is willing to take responsibility and act on it.

It also helps form trusted relationships between teachers and students. Fitzgibbons suggested that starting restorative circles in our elementary schools and the high school in our district allows for students to feel empowered and practice growth in the community. 

According to, “For the growing number of districts using restorative justice, the programs have helped strengthen campus communities, prevent bullying, and reduce student conflicts.” These circles could begin in homerooms/advisories and allow a safe space for students to air out their thoughts and feelings rather than taking them out on others later on.

According to Fitzgibbons, to take full advantage of this suggestion, it would be necessary for both students and teachers to be on the same page, trusting each other with patience every step of the way.