The below members of the Every Student, Every Day Coalition condemn the pervasive use of undocumented suspensions and fraudulent attendance record-keeping practices at several DC Public Schools (DCPS) high schools. Last night, the Washington Post released an article, Some D.C. High Schools Are Reporting Only a Fraction of Suspensions (Matos & Brown, July 17, 2017), detailing the practice at various DCPS high schools of placing students on “do not admit” lists without properly documenting the suspension and without properly marking the student’s absence as excused.
The use of these practices raises serious concerns regarding DCPS’ commitment to serving all of its students, especially in light of the wealth of research demonstrating the harms associated with excluding students from school and the fact that documented suspensions in the District disproportionately harm students of color, students with disabilities, and students who have suffered trauma. Additionally, the revelation of these practices calls into question the integrity of DCPS’ publicly reported attendance and discipline data and undermines DCPS’ claims of progressing towards its goals of increasing in-seat attendance and decreasing suspensions.
These practices are incredibly disturbing, disappointing, and disheartening. Suspensions discourage and disconnect students from educators, making school dropout and failure much more likely. Undocumented suspensions allow schools to push students out of the classroom and school building without notice, process, review, or regard to DC and federal law. Moreover, “do not admit” lists create liability for students and their parents, who can be charged with truancy and educational neglect respectively when DCPS fails to mark suspended students with excused absences, as required under their official DCPS policy.
We know that Chancellor Wilson began his tenure at DCPS in 2017 and inherited a school system using these practices. Based on his stated and demonstrated commitment to reducing the use of exclusionary discipline, we hope that the Chancellor will lead on this issue, hold school administrations accountable, and promptly address the widespread use of undocumented suspensions used to keep our kids out of the classroom.
In particular, the Every Student, Every Day Coalition calls on Chancellor Wilson to ensure that:
- DCPS immediately end the use of undocumented suspensions and put in place a public plan to monitor schools to ensure that the practice does not continue;
- DCPS conduct an audit of all high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools to correct the discipline and attendance data for the past four school years to reflect the use of suspensions that were not appropriately documented;
- DCPS place a moratorium on all truancy court referrals as the integrity of DCPS’ attendance data has been wholly compromised as a result of the use of undocumented suspensions;
- DCPS increase funding for restorative justice for School Year 2017-18 and ensure that restorative justice is implemented with fidelity; and
- DCPS hold restorative circles at all offending schools. These circles should include central office leadership and school leadership, as well as the students and families affected by the use of undocumented exclusion, in order to identify ways to repair the harm caused by these undocumented exclusions.
Additionally, the Every Student, Every Day Coalition calls on the Committee of Education for the Council of the District of Columbia to:
- hold a public hearing, immediately after the Council’s recess, on the issue of do-not admit lists, the extent of their use, and the existence of other undocumented exclusionary practices; and
- pass legislation outlawing the use of undocumented suspensions and clearly defining the meaning of suspensions and expulsions so that such practices cannot continue.
Lastly, the Coalition calls on the Office of the Attorney General to dismiss all active truancy cases based on DCPS referrals.
Unless District stakeholders take the above actions, trust in DCPS schools will rightfully continue to erode. Using “do not admit” lists and other undocumented discipline practices undermines hard fought reforms implemented in DCPS, like restorative justice approaches to discipline, and raises serious concerns about the accuracy of the data used to determine the effectiveness of programs and specific schools.
On June 1, 2017, the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic and Advocates for Justice and Education, members of the Every Student Every Day Coalition, filed a state complaint against DCPS with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), asking OSSE to stop DCPS’s practice of using “do not admit” lists and other undocumented exclusionary practices. The coalition expects OSSE and other stakeholders to take all necessary steps to stop DCPS’s use of undocumented suspensions as well.
Our students and their families deserve better from our schools. We call on Chancellor Wilson and other District officials to take swift action and affirm that DCPS schools will not turn its back on the students and families of the District of Columbia.
The mission of the Every Student, Every Day Coalition is to promote social, economic, and racial justice, and advocate for policies and programs that increase school attendance, enhance school engagement, promote student achievement, and decrease the District’s reliance on suspensions, expulsions, and school-based arrests. The coalition is made up of advocacy organizations, researchers, service providers, and individuals engaged in a variety of issues including juvenile justice, child welfare, youth empowerment, special education, and civil rights. More information can be found at www.dcly.org/every_student_every_day_coalition.
Statement Signatory Members
Advocates for Justice & Education
American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia
Children’s Law Center
DC Alliance for Restorative Practices
DC Lawyers for Youth
Homeless Children's Playtime Project
Racial Justice Initiative of Time Banks USA
Took Crowell Institute for At-Risk Youth – UDC Juvenile & Special Education Law Clinic