Articles tagged with school discipline

Schools reversing Zero Tolerance policies

It was called the “broken windows” theory, and it shows — quite tragically, in some cases — how taking a social policy that might make sense in one context and applying it to another can have disastrous consequences.

The theory, popular with police departments and big-city mayors in the 1980s and 1990s, was that if police ignored petty crime – the broken windows of a neighborhood – these incidents would grow to create a climate where more serious crimes would occur.

Was the policy successful? That depends on whom you talk to. But big problems resulted when it was applied to the public schools.

“Some of the same crime policies filtered into the school system,” said Dwanna Nicole, Policy Advocate for the Advancement’s Project’s Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track Program, who gave a webinar Thursday sponsored by her organization and NSBA’s National Black Caucus of School Board Members.

That policy, also spurred by the Columbine shootings and a mistaken fear that youth violence was increasing, has spawned the kind of zero tolerance policies that have resulted in huge spikes in the number of suspensions and expulsions for all students, but particularly for African-American and Hispanics students, students with disabilities, and gay students.

Now, however, in places like Denver, Buffalo, N.Y., and Broward County, Fla., those numbers are starting to turn around as more school districts embrace discipline polices that put the long-term needs of students first. The Denver Public Schools now have one of the most progressive discipline codes in the nation, Nicole said. This has been augmented by a recent state Smart School Discipline law and a brokered Memorandum of Understanding between law enforcement agencies and the school district.

While black students in Denver are still suspended at greater rates than whites, these numbers are going down. In 2010-2011 86 percent of black students did not have out-of-school suspensions. By 2012-13, 90 percent had no  suspensions.  Attendance rates for black and Hispanic students have also increased steadily since 2008.

Districts such as Denver are explicitly addressing racial disparities in suspensions, expulsions, and other forms of discipline and collecting better discipline records, Nicole said.

Lawrence Hardy|December 6th, 2013|Categories: Bullying, Data Driven Decision Making, Discipline, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, High Schools, School Climate, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

Here are two unsettling statistics on school discipline, based on an unprecedented study of nearly 1 million Texas secondary school students: Nearly 60 percent of these children were suspended or expelled over the course of the six-year study, and African-American students were disproportionately disciplined for infractions that the researchers described as “discretionary” – that is, the school had the option of not suspending or expelling the student but chose the harsher path.

As it turns out, it’s not as much the behavior of the students that leads to vastly different kinds of discipline, says the study by The Council of State Government’s Justice Center and Texas A&M University’s Public Policy Research Institute. It’s the policies of school leaders.

“The bottom line is that schools can get different outcomes with very similar student bodies,” Michael D. Thompson, a co-author of the report, told the Washington Post. “School superintendents and teachers can have a dramatic impact.”

To that list we should also add school board members, who hire the superintendent and, through their policy-making decisions, have significant authority over the way schools handle discipline.

The day after that report was made public, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder issued a new Supportive School Discipline Initiative that aims to dismantle the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” that pushes students into the juvenile justice system for school infractions that could be handled in other ways.

Citing the Texas report and the high number of suspensions and expulsions it found, Holder said, “I think these numbers are kind of a wake-up call. It’s obvious we can do better.”

In yet another critical look at school discipline, journalist Annette Fuentes, in her new book, Lockdown High, examines the heightened national concern about school safety – and its negative consequences – since 9/11 and Columbine.

“The Columbine scenario is terrifying, but the odds of it occurring in your hometown are about one in two million,” Fuentes told the Post.

In a later interview, she makes another point that is well known to most school board members: School is among the safest places for children and young people to be.

So how about those ultra-safe playgrounds, with nothing too high or too hard, too fast or too rickety? Not good for kids, says Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University of Norway. Yes, they may prevent a few physical injuries (and even that is open to debate) but the psychological toll – in children becoming more fearful because they’re not given the chance to adequately explore their world — outweighs the benefits, she says in a New York Times article.

So too safe is bad – psychologically. What about too extravagant, for example, the $248,000 playhouse a former CEO built for his grandchildren? Not a great idea, notes the Post’s Ruth Marcus. Could make for overly indulged, uncreative kids. Imagine that?

At least that’s one problem cashed-strapped school districts don’t have to worry about.

Lawrence Hardy|July 22nd, 2011|Categories: Reports, School Climate, School Security, Teachers, Uncategorized, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , , |
Page 1 of 11