New National Program Will Help School Administrators Reduce Suspensions and Expulsions

Administrators at some of the nation’s largest school districts are getting extra help to keep students in school.

The national organization Children’s Defense Fund has joined with school leaders to support discipline alternatives to suspension and expulsion. Oakland Unified School District and nine other school districts from Pennsylvania to Texas have agreed to pursue or expand changes to their discipline codes.

“We know that far too many children are pushed out of school because of policies and practices that apply harsh discipline for nonviolent misconduct,” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of CDF. “We also know that far too often, those most affected are children of color and children with disabilities. So I’m honored to work with educators who are committed to keeping children in welcoming schools that support learning for all students.”

The initiative, launched last April, is a partnership between the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies.

Read the full text of the press release below.

Children’s Defense Fund and AASA Announce Partnership to Reform School Discipline Policies and Practices

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 22, 2014 – Ten school districts across the country from California to South Carolina have been selected to participate in a public-private initiative to explore effective discipline alternatives to suspension and expulsion.

The districts have agreed either to examine and pursue reform of their existing discipline codes or to embrace research and monitoring to expand the reforms they have already launched. The initiative is designed to support school superintendents who have demonstrated a commitment to improving their discipline policies and practices in order to keep children in classrooms and schools.

The initiative, launched last April, is a partnership between the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association. The 10 participating school districts funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies are:
•    East Baton Rouge Parish Schools (La.)
•    Harrisburg School District (Pa.)
•    Houston Independent School District (Texas)
•    Marlboro County School District (S.C.)
•    Oakland Unified School District (Calif.)
•    Pojoaque Valley Schools (N.M.)
•    Racine Unified School District (Wis.)
•    South Harrison Community Schools (Ind.)
•    Woodland Hills School District (Pa.)
•    U-46 School District (Ill.)

“We know that far too many children are pushed out of school because of policies and practices that apply harsh discipline for nonviolent misconduct,” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of CDF. “We also know that far too often, those most affected are children of color and children with disabilities. So I’m honored to work with educators who are committed to keeping children in welcoming schools that support learning for all students.”

Today’s announcement follows the release of new guidance from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to assist schools and districts in reducing their use of suspension and expulsion and ensuring that discipline is applied fairly to all students.

“We are excited to partner with the Children’s Defense Fund to work directly with these districts so even greater strides can be made in improving their school discipline practices,” said Daniel A. Domenech, AASA’s executive director. “School climate and discipline are huge factors in a student’s academic success. As we escalate our work to educate the total child—physical and mental health, along with the development of fundamental, lifelong learning skills—we must make sure that students are supported in school to improve their learning outcomes.”

The CDF–AASA partnership began with a convening of 30 school district leaders in October 2013 at CDF Haley Farm where superintendents explored alternative practices and system-wide solutions to take back to their districts. This spring, CDF and AASA will conduct a national survey of the needs, strengths and challenges facing school leaders in keeping students in class and developing positive school climates.

Since its 1973 publication of Children Out of School in America, CDF has sought to keep children in school and to ensure schools are safe and welcoming. In 1974, CDF published a follow-up report, School Suspensions: Are They Helping Children? and worked with students, parents, communities, educators and policymakers to address significant racial disparities and reduce the use of harsh and exclusionary discipline.

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