Posted by Jerri Derlikowski on January 21st 2014
New federal guidelines, released last week, give schools guidance on discipline policies aimed at curbing the school-to-prison pipeline. When youth are policed in schools, they are more likely to be written up for non-felony offenses such as simple assault, therefore more likely to be arrested and detained for these non-felony offenses. This is typically referred to as the "school-to-prison pipeline."
The guidelines result from data collected by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), for the 2011-12 school year, which indicates students of color disproportionately bear the burden when schools use exclusion as punishment - they are disciplined more harshly and more frequently than other students, resulting in serious, negative educational consequences. This federal research is consistent with state-level research completed by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families in 2013.
The resource guide will aid schools seeking to develop school climate and school discipline policies and practices that are both "locally tailored and grounded in recognized promising practices and research."
The U.S. Department of Education identifies three guiding principles for policymakers, district officials, school leaders, and stakeholders to consider as they work to improve school climate and discipline:
1. Create positive climates and focus on prevention;
2. Develop clear, appropriate, and consistent expectations and consequences to address disruptive student behaviors; and
3. Ensure fairness, equity, and continuous improvement.
Arkansas is already making some headway on this challenging issue. In 2013, the Arkansas Opportunity to Learn Campaign worked to ensure passage of Act 1329. The Act requires the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) to make an annual report to the State Board of Education beginning July 1, 2014.
Among other the things the Act 1329 report will require data on the demographic make-up of each school along with the overall rates of various discipline measures for the whole district and for various student groups such as low-income and minority students. ADE is required to identify discipline-related strategies, alternatives, and resources available to districts. They are also asked to identify districts with reductions in overall discipline rates or those that have reduced disparities in the rates of discipline between student groups. The successful strategies used by those districts will be shared with other districts. Finally, the Act requires ADE to develop information concerning resources needed by school districts to reduce discipline and restraint of students with disabilities.
The Arkansas School Board Association has joined with the National School Board Association's adoption of the Solutions Not Suspensions Campaign. "Addressing The out-of-School Suspension Crisis: A Policy Guide for School Board Members" is available here.