The Impact of Teacher Absenteeism on School Suspensions

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School psychologists and other professionals concerned with school mental health often grapple with the complex dynamics affecting student behavior and academic performance. A recent study titled “Out-of-school suspensions in U.S. public schools: relations with chronic teacher absenteeism” sheds new light on this intricate web. The findings suggest a significant correlation between teacher absenteeism and increased rates of student suspensions, a revelation that holds profound implications for the educational landscape.

Unpacking the Research

At its core, the study delves into the data from U.S. public schools, examining the relationship between teacher absenteeism and out-of-school suspensions. Chronic teacher absenteeism, defined as a teacher missing more than 10 days in a school year, appears to have a direct impact on the frequency of student suspensions. This relationship, while complex, highlights the critical role of consistent teacher presence in maintaining a stable and conducive learning environment.

Implications for School Mental Health Professionals

For school psychologists and related professionals, these findings are particularly salient. Suspensions, while a common disciplinary measure, can have long-lasting negative effects on students, including increased risk of academic failure, dropout, and involvement in the juvenile justice system. Understanding the factors that contribute to suspension, such as teacher absenteeism, is crucial in developing strategies to mitigate these outcomes.

The Role of Teacher-Student Relationships

One key aspect illuminated by this study is the importance of teacher-student relationships. Consistent teacher presence fosters a sense of stability and trust, crucial elements for a positive school climate. When teachers are frequently absent, this bond is weakened, potentially leading to increased behavioral issues and, subsequently, suspensions.

Strategies for Intervention

The study’s findings suggest several intervention strategies for school mental health professionals. Firstly, addressing teacher absenteeism through support and resources can be a direct way to reduce student suspensions. Additionally, developing strong teacher-student relationships, even in the face of absenteeism, can help mitigate its negative impacts. This might include training for substitute teachers to maintain continuity or implementing school-wide programs that promote positive interactions between students and educators.

Broader Educational Implications

The study’s implications extend beyond the immediate school environment. It underscores the need for a holistic approach to education, where teacher well-being is as vital as student discipline. Policies aimed at supporting teachers, reducing absenteeism, and fostering a positive school culture can have far-reaching benefits for students’ mental health and academic success.


For school psychologists and educators, the connection between teacher absenteeism and student suspensions highlights a critical area for intervention. By focusing on the underlying causes of disciplinary issues, such as teacher absenteeism, and fostering positive school environments, professionals can play a pivotal role in enhancing student well-being and academic outcomes. This study serves as a call to action, emphasizing the interconnected nature of teacher well-being and student success.

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