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As outrage over the Parkland school shooting persists, lawmakers are looking for actual policy solutions. The Trump administration and its supporters are latching onto school discipline reform as the solution. But by reform, they do not mean improving school climate, ensuring fairness or getting students the mental and social services they need. They mean doing away with the school discipline reform the Obama administration helped spur.
The aftermath of Columbine also offers its own lessons. In the panic that followed, the nation ratcheted up its school punishments. Not only would students be expelled for bringing guns and drugs to school, they would be expelled for things like “habitual disruption” and disrespect.
Research has shown that high suspension rates are related to lower academic achievement, including for the well-behaved students that suspensions purportedly protect.
One of the reasons is that when schools regularly suspend students for minor misbehavior, they alter the overall student body’s perception of school. Students no longer see school officials making the learning environment safe or orderly. They see school officials acting punitively toward their friends, family, and peers.
Training and supportive approaches to discipline cannot guarantee school shootings won’t happen, but research says the best chance of reducing violence — and also improving the overall academic achievement and environment of schools — rests in rejecting punitive school discipline and replacing it with support systems. If we abandon the progressive steps that schools are taking, we will consign students to a darker world, not a safer one.
Read the full article on school shootings and zero-tolerance by Derek W. Black at GOOD Magazine