School Boards Use Discipline Policies to Reduce Suspensions, Increase Learning

Apr 14, 2013 by

National School Board AssociationA new report shows how school boards are creating discipline policies to avoid excessive out-of-school suspensions, which disproportionately affect minority students, that disrupt student learning and engagement.

The report, “Addressing the Out-of-School Suspension Crisis: A Policy Guide for School Board Members,” was released today during the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Annual Conference in San Diego. The report was written by NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education, National Black Caucus of School Board Members, National Caucus of American Indian/Alaska Native School Board Members, and National Hispanic Caucus of School Board Members along with National Opportunity to Learn Campaign.

Using examples of successful student discipline policies created by school boards, this policy guide will help school board members build policies that support learning and safe environments. The guide also shows how out-of-school suspensions have a negative impact on student achievement and can predict a students’ likelihood of dropping out. In particular, the guide points to research findings that highlight the troubling racial disparities in school suspension and expulsion nationwide.

“Discipline should not deprive a student of an education,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA Executive Director. “While all students are affected by overly harsh policies, it is well documented that minority students are being disproportionately affected by suspensions and expulsions. These measures should only be used when the safety of other students and staff are threatened.”

In the 2009-2010 school year, more than 3.3 million K-12 students were estimated to have lost time in their classrooms because of an out-of-school suspension, according to The Civil Rights Project at UCLA. National suspension rates show that 17 percent, or 1 out of every 6 African-American students enrolled in K-12 were suspended at least once–much higher than the 1 in 13 (8 percent) risk for Native Americans; 1 in 13 (7 percent) for Latinos; 1 in 20 (5 percent) for whites; or the 1 in 50 (2 percent) for Asian Americans. Students with disabilities are also disproportionately affected.

School board members can increase learning time and decrease out-of-school time by focusing  on student learning and behavioral needs, professional development for teachers and administrators, and parental and community engagement. Many school boards have policies that offer alternatives to suspension, including proactive strategies to de-escalate tensions and address school climate. For instance, the Baltimore City Public Schools introduced a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program to help improve student behavior. School personnel participate in ongoing PBIS training.

“Across the country school boards are succeeding in finding alternatives to out-of-school suspension that promote student growth,” said Gentzel. “This policy guide provides school board members with ideas, models, and processes that school boards nationwide are using to keep students in school through positive school discipline reform models.”

Read this policy guide on NSBA’s website at: www.nsba.org/suspensions

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Founded in 1940, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is a not-for-profit organization representing state associations of school boards and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. Working with and through our state associations, NSBA advocates for equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. www.nsba.org

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