Fixing School Discipline in 2014!



Research Shows Zero Tolerance Doesn’t Work

Study after study has shown that zero-tolerance discipline policies are harmful to all students and disproportionately affect students of color, students with disabilities and LGBTQ students.  Recently, the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit center that studies justice policy recently released a report, “A Generation Later: What We’ve Learned about Zero Tolerance in Schools,” which found that zero-tolerance policies do not actually make schools safer but may make them more unsafe.

But Positive Prevention Does

Research has offered positive, preventative ways to address student behavior and improve school climate:

– Restorative practices
– Positive behavioral interventions and supports
– Social emotional learning
– Trauma-sensitive strategies

Students, teachers, community leaders, and school administrators are coming together to abandon harsh discipline policies that frequently push students out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. To learn more about research based alternatives, read more about real educators who are implementing these strategies, and get the tools and assistance you need to make real changes in your community or school, visit the How We Can Fix School Discipline Toolkits.

New Federal Guidelines to Change School Discipline Policies

As many of you heard, combatting the school-to-prison pipeline is even on the President’s agenda. This past week, the Obama administration pressed school districts to move away from “overly zealous” discipline policies that disproportionately affect minority students.  For the first time ever, the United States Department of Education and Department of Justice jointly released guidance to education stakeholders, in which they revealed, among other things, that while African American students maybe up 15% of public school students, they account for 35% of students suspended once, 44% of those suspended more than once and 36% of those expelled.

You can find these new guidelines here. The new guidelines include data on disproportionate discipline, explicit guidance that exclusionary should be a very last resort, and information about research-based alternatives to suspension and expulsion.

Creating Change in a Big Way

Members of the education community from Boston to the Bay Area are paying attention to these new federal guidelines. Laura Faer, Statewide Education Rights Director at Public Counsel said, “The Department of Education is holding up a giant magnifying glass to discrimination in school discipline, and it is reaching out a helping hand to parents, teachers, and students across the country.” To hear more from them, you can read the latest news here.

New Understanding at the Local Level

On Tuesday, in San Francisco, school board members will consider adopting a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the police department and school district, an effort that resulted from analyzing data from a public records request on San Francisco school campus arrests and referrals to law enforcement. The MOU would put limits on law enforcement involvement in student discipline that should be handled by school administrators.  The aim of this MOU is to reduce arrests on San Francisco school campuses and end racially disproportionate arrests. To read more about this step to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, click here.

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