Happy March! We're hoping this will be the spring for school discipline reform. This month's newsletter has a summary of a new report on equity in DC school discipline, an update on legislation that would limit suspensions of pre-K students, information on new special education, and the latest news clips on the school-to-prison pipeline.
Council for Court Excellence releases Equity in School Discipline report
This new report features a review of DCPS and charter school discipline codes, an in-depth description of the due process protections students are entitled to, and interviews with school administrators. The report documents significant limitations in some charter discipline discipline codes, such as failing to adhere to due process requirements and having zero tolerance provisions for non-violent acts. The school administrators suggested that if the District wants to reduce exclusions, it should provide more funding opportunities for classroom management training, technical assistance, and discussions on school discipline practices.
The report offers ten recommendations for improving equity in school discipline, including holding all discipline hearings for long-term suspensions and expulsions in front of an impartial hearing officer and allocating funding for LEAs to have frequent training on school discipline and classroom management. The Council for Court Excellence also hosted a great event at which policymakers commented on the findings of the report. You can check out the full report here.
The Pre-K Student Discipline Amendment Act of 2015 unanimously passed its first reading and vote in the DC Council. The bill prohibits the expulsion, or suspension lasting a full day or more, of pre-k students, unless a school administrator determines that the student has willfully caused or attempted to cause bodily injury. The bill is expected to pass its second required reading on April 14th. The Every Student Every Day Coalition continues to advocate for legislation that addresses the many counter-productive suspensions of students in older grades.
New special education laws go into effect
Three laws aimed at reforming DC’s special education system came into effect on March 10th. As you may know, special education students are disproportionately likely to receive out-of-school suspensions. Key provisions of the new laws include requiring schools to give written notice of any proposals to change a student's location of services, requiring schools to begin transition planning at age 14, and allowing charter schools to provide a lottery preference for students with special education needs.
Advocates for Justice and Education, the District's special education The Parent Training and Information Center, has prepared a two page fact sheet about the effect of the new laws.
The Every Student Every Day Coalition - Hearings Are Hopping - Basic Due Process and DCPS School Exclusion
"Should school administrators and parents spend their time and money paying school personnel to act as prosecutors of students and making witnesses attend school-exclusion hearings at OAH? Is that worth the time, energy, and expense? Imposing an adequate version of true due process would clog a legal and educational system that is already too busy and overwhelmed. The obvious answer is to stop using long-term suspensions and expulsion from school as a way of addressing children’s needs. It doesn’t work, and it’s counter-productive."
"Juvenile crime rates are plummeting, and the number of Americans in juvenile detention has dropped. One report shows the juvenile incarceration rate dropped 41 percent between 1995 and 2010. But school discipline policies are moving in the opposite direction: out-of-school suspensions have increased about 10 percent since 2000. They have more than doubled since the 1970s."
US News and World Report - Schools Hope Changes in Policy Will Bridge the 'Discipline Gap'
"Elliott’s first goal was to change the punitive culture at the school and create an atmosphere for learning and cooperation. Discipline policies weren’t working – there was no trust between staff and students, leading to high numbers of referrals to law enforcement and out-of-school suspensions, especially for minority students, Elliott said. Looking for alternatives, Elliott first enrolled his staff in the Why Try program to help teachers build positive, meaningful relationships with students. Soon after, they started applying what they learned."
The Washington Post - Chronic truancy rates above 50 percent in D.C. high schools
"D.C. public school officials reported that in the first half of the current school year, more than 4,000 students were referred to support-team meetings because of attendance concerns. But the compliance rate was only 38 percent. Meanwhile, court referrals have increased dramatically. After one semester of the new law taking effect, there was a 92 percent increase in the number of new complaints in Family Court in the category that includes truancy cases, the report said."
"A new government study on discipline in the nation's public schools shows just how very early that gap is present. According to the report, black children make up 18 percent of preschoolers, but make up nearly half of all out-of-school suspensions. (We're talking mostly four-year-olds, people.)"
"Senate Bill 500, in part, seeks to streamline the collection and analysis of school data, according to one of its authors, Sen. Pete Miller, (R-Avon). Senate Bill 443, meanwhile, calls for allowing schools to apply for grants that could then be used to train counselors and teachers and alternatives to suspension and expulsion."
Education Week - States Have Role to Play in Fostering Student Engagement, Report Says
"The report's recommendations come at a time when teachers and schools are recognizing the importance that interpersonal relationships and non-cognitive factors play in supporting academic achievement, and increasingly changing their policies as a result. But the crucial role that state policymakers can play in supporting student-engagement efforts is sometimes overlooked, said Kristen Amundson, the executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education. 'When we dug into it, we realized there were policy changes that state boards of education could make and not just say to teachers, "Hey, go out there and engage those kids," ' she said."
The Washington Post - Suspended students lose millions of days of instruction while out of school
"Suspension rates dropped for many of the nation’s school districts — including some in the Washington region — but U.S. students still lost about 18 million days of instruction to out-of-school punishments in the 2011-2012 school year, according to research released Monday."
Thanks for working with us!
We're very excited about the Education Committee's continued interest in school discipline issues and think that the folks on this list can make a big impact on how the Council thinks about the issue. We'll let you know about future opportunities to weigh in and help tip the balance towards more positive school discipline. In the meantime, we hope that you'll read the articles above and share whichever one interests you the most on Twitter and Facebook. Let's keep raising the profile of efforts to close the school-to-prison pipeline.
The Every Student Every Day Coalition Steering Committee