Sunday, August 26, 2012

Groups Ask Districts to Stop Using Out-of-School Suspensions

Time was....teachers were expected to whoop the tar out of recalcitrant youngins so they didn't grow up wrong. Corporal punishment was replaced by the "more humane" act of punishing the student by denying them some part of their education - thus making the child's problem in school, the parents problem at home. This worked better in some situations than others.

Among old school administrators, including those who did not abuse children (alas, some did), the loss of paddling took an arrow out of the quiver.

Now suspension is in the crosshairs. Regardless of one's point of view, disciplanary actions are the only administrative response I can think of, that were designed to change unproductive behaviors, yet a person can get "into trouble" for using them.

If one grants that most suspensions are legitimately deserved as a direct result of some bad act by a student, then what's the alternative?

This from District Dossier:
Several national groups are asking school districts to stop suspending students out of school and replace this form of discipline with what they consider to be "more constructive" approaches that benefit students, teachers, and communities.

The New York-based Dignity in Schools Campaign launched its call for a moratorium on out-of-school suspension at a gathering in Los Angeles on Tuesday, joined by more than 50 other groups.
They cited a growing body of research and data that shows the disproportionate use of suspension, in which black and Latino students and students with disabilities are more likely to be suspended and more likely to be punished harshly compared to other students for the same infractions. The research also shows the connection between school punishment and students entering the juvenile justice system. The groups said students who need to spend the most time in class are losing it at an alarming rate.

"At a time when we should be expanding learning opportunities for all young people, we are cutting classroom time for those who need it most," said Jermaine Banks, a student organizer with Power U Center for Social Change in Miami, in a statement. "The harsh discipline policies now in place around the country do not make schools safer nor improve academic achievement, but instead feed the school-to-prison pipeline."

Some researchers argue that discipline data is incorrectly used as a measure of school safety and doesn't actually contribute to the security of a school campus.

The groups have created a website,, which asks district leaders to sign a pledge for a year not to suspend students out of school.

At the same time, Dignity in Schools launched a "Model Code on Education and Dignity" that they hope schools will adopt as an alternative to zero-tolerance discipline policies that rely heavily on out-of-school suspensions and expulsions to address student behavior.

"If we know there are alternatives out there, ... we would be foolish to not try them," said Tina Dove, the director of programs for the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, which is endorsing the moratorium. "Ultimately the goal should be... keeping kids in the school house and not in the jailhouse. It's just that simple."

She pointed a case this month in which the federal Department of Justice found that the Meridian school district in Mississippi had contributed to the "school-to-prison pipeline" because the city police agency arrests all students referred to it by the district. "The children arrested by [the Meridian Police Department]are then sent to the county juvenile justice system, where existing due process protections are illusory and inadequate. The Youth Court places children on probation, and the terms of the probation set by the Youth Court and [the Mississippi Division of Youth Services] require children on probation to serve any suspensions from school incarcerated in the juvenile detention center," the DOJ wrote in a letter to the agencies.

"No one could dare look me in the face and say 'That's acceptable,'" said Dove, a former high school teacher. "It truly says we have gone off the edge. It's an indicator of how far gone this is in some places."

At a recent conference hosted by the Office of Safe and Healthy Students, Lafayette Parish, La., Superintendent Patrick Cooper said that his district has eliminated essentially all out-of-school suspensions and expulsions in his 30,500-student district.

"We're not going to put you out there," Cooper said. "Everything the research is saying is about connections with people."

In a statement today, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said her organization supports the initiative and will establish a leadership committee to lead the union's response.

"Many of our affiliates are already engaged in this work," she said. To support their efforts, the AFT will establish a leadership committee to lead the union's response, survey affiliates to gain a greater understanding of their school and community needs to target support, and collaborate with Solutions Not Suspensions and other stakeholders on policy decisions regarding discipline, among other things.


Anonymous said...

Seems like a pretty simplistic perspective which is more concerned about the education of a student (regardless of their race or intellect) who has committed a significant offense to merit suspension than it does about the larger school community and its global mission for all students to maintain a safe learning environment.

Once again we find another group who wants to blame educators for yet another societal issue - growth in prison populations. So what would these folks have us do with students who are found committing crimes at school like selling drugs, committing assaults or harrassing other students or faculty? I know that once they leave the school building and commit the very same acts in public, these folks are arrested by the police and sentenced by the judicial system (often to jail). So by these folk's line of logic perhaps the police need to start developing better relationships with kids ("connecting") who commit crimes. Instead of sending them to jail for dealing drugs, robbing someone or beating a citizen up, they need to find ways of keeping them out of jail and in the community so they are deprived of the freedoms the rest of us are suppose to have. Heck, maybe that is the way of keeping the jail populations down, just make "connections" with prisoners and they will magically become law abiding citizens.

Just ask a kid who has just had his phone stolen or the parents of a student who has been beat up in school what they think about this. A school is a place where we educate students, but when you transgress and cease to function in that role you lose those priviledges, just like the adults who have done the same in our communities. Quit blaming schools for social inequities which it attempt to combat through educating kids and stop trying to divest individuals of the responsibility for their actions.

Anonymous said...

How pequliar, they use Mississippi and Louisanna to prove their points - not exactly the states at the for front of educational reform or student success.

The Mississippi school is demonized for having kids who have probalby committed criminal violations placed in juvenile detention instead of . . . allowing them to continue attending school?

The LA parish superintendent may be claiming not to suspend or expell students but I am betting a good portion of those transgressing students are not actually in the schools of their infraction but relocated to special schools within the district for offenders. They might continue to be enrolled but I doubt their communities would support allowing kids who steal, fight or deal drugs to remain in their schools.

Sorry but like the previous contributor I agree that when you break the rules you lose some of the rights as opposed to expecting the victims to continue paying the price by ongoing exposure to kids who have crossed the line.