Report: Exclusionary discipline removes students from school emotionally and physically
- Harsh school discipline policies and practices are leading students — particularly students of color and students with disabilities — to disconnect from school, according to new research from the Center for Promise, the research institute of America’s Promise Alliance.
- Interviews with students who had experienced exclusionary discipline in three cities in Minnesota were transcribed and analyzed. Some of the insights shared by the students included not feeling heard — that they weren't given the chance to explain the context of their behavior — and that being excluded from school had detrimental effects on their long-term academic achievement.
- School leaders who have had success implementing alternatives to exclusionary discipline policies, like expulsion and suspension, at their respective schools were also interviewed for the report. They emphasized the need for school-wide professional learning that engages experts in the non-exclusionary practices being implemented, intentionally engaging skeptics to promote full buy-in among staff members, and engaging students as leaders in implementing new practices.
Districts across the country are looking to various restorative practices to keep students in school. The goal is to reduce suspensions and expulsions, which affect students of color and students with disabilities disproportionally, resulting in the phenomenon known as the "school-to-prison" pipeline. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released data showing that black students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students.
A school in Nashville has adopted CHAMPS, or conversation, help, activity, movement, participation and success. At each transition from one part of the class period to the next, students are reminded of the appropriate behavior at the juncture. Teachers also team up with a "bounce buddy," another teacher to whom they can send a student who's being repeatedly disruptive.
In Texas, schools can no longer expel students in pre-K through second grade unless the reason is possession of drugs, weapons, or extreme violence. In West Virginia, meanwhile, the state's education department passed a measure that made out-of-school suspensions count against a school's attendance rates.
Some administrators, though, are finding themselves in between the proverbial rock and a hard place: wanting to give students every chance to stay in school, while not sending the signal to teachers and others that they've gone soft on discipline.
The key to walking that fine line may be involving students in fixing the problem themselves, so to speak. Educators in some California counties have implemented Alternatives to Suspension, a class taught by a teacher in which students who have violated the behavior code can spend up to five days owning and recognizing the behavior, creating and implementing replacement strategies, and making amends. It doesn't work, though, unless teachers know the replacement strategies they come up with, so they can keep them on track once they're back in their classrooms. A 2016 report from WestEd suggested grant opportunities, Title I funding, and partnerships with community organizations as ways to fund this type of professional development.