Giving Compass’ Take:
• Michael Petrilli, writing for The 74, suggests three areas for school boards to focus on when thinking about school discipline reform in the new year.
• Petrilli’s third point about school reform speaks to how educators respond to bad behavior. How can alternative conflict management tactics such as restorative justice make real progress with students who consistently act out in class?
It’s true that African-American and Latino youngsters are suspended and expelled at higher rates than their white and Asian peers; in some high schools, more than half of all students get suspended every school year. It’s understandable that communities of color worry about the impact this has on kids’ academic trajectories, as well as their likelihood of dropping out of school and into a life of crime.
Smart school discipline policies, then, must attend to the needs of both chronically disruptive students — who often suffer from trauma and violence outside school — and their better-behaved classmates, who deserve every opportunity to learn in peace. Any successful approach also needs the buy-in of teachers and other educators, who deserve to feel safe, too, and shouldn’t be asked to work miracles.
So what might local school boards embrace?
The top priority must be safety and order. Parents, teachers, and pupils will not accept a “reform” that leads to chaos, violence, or less learning — nor should they. The answer cannot be to tell teachers just to keep them in class no matter the impact on their peers.
Second, potential racial discrimination or bias should be attacked aggressively. The Trump team’s recent action doesn’t alter the fact that treating students differently on the basis of race is illegal. There remains a federal responsibility to investigate any complaint from students who feel they’ve been given harsher penalties because of their race.
Third, schools should seek to improve student behavior, not just react to it. Students who act out in class, bully their peers, or get into fights don’t benefit from adults looking the other way, because these habitual behaviors are likely to continue when they become adults themselves.
Read the full article about school reform on school discipline by Michael Petrilli at The 74.
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