Spotlight Exclusives

School Discipline Continues to Draw National Attention, Scrutiny

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As OOTS recently noted,a national debate is intensifying over school discipline and its links to thecriminal justice system.  At the same time that some schools have turnedtowards strict disciplinary measures such as suspension, studies are showing that this harshmedicine may make things worse for at-risk students by increasing thelikelihood they will drop out or even be incarcerated down the line.

For those who don۪t know much aboutthese trends, an articlein today۪s Washington Post describes in alarming detail just how farsome school districts have taken school discipline:

“InTexas, the specter of harsh discipline has been especially clear.

Here,police issue tickets: Class C misdemeanor citations for offensive language,class disruption, schoolyard fights. Thousands of students land in court, withfines of up to $500. Students with outstanding tickets may be arrested afterage 17.”

Thanks to a major study by the Councilfor State Governments Justice Center, in partnership with the Public PolicyResearch Institute at Texas A&M University, policymakers are beginning torethink this approach.  Writes the Post, “Now, such practices areunder scrutiny nationally. Federal officials want to limit punishments thatpush students from the classroom to courtroom, and a growing number of stateand local leaders are raising similar concerns.”

The reason for this newfoundconcern?  Far from helping students get back on track, the CSG JusticeCenter study suggests that criminalizing student discipline may ultimatelylimit life opportunities for students.  Based on millions of schoolrecords in Texas, the study found that:

    – Nearly a third of suspended or expelledstudents repeated a grade, compared to only five percent     who weren۪t expelled

    – Ten percent of students who had beensuspended or expelled dropped out, and six in 10 who were     disciplined 11 ormore times did not complete high school

    – Almost half disciplined 11 or moretimes encountered the juvenile justice system, compared with     only 2 percent ofthose who suffered no disciplinary action

These are just a few of the report۪sfindings, but they paint a bleak picture of many disciplinary practices. And Texas isn۪t the only state under criticism, either.  According to the Post,school systems in Colorado, Connecticut, and California are alsoexamining their disciplinary practices which, in Connecticut for example, haveincluded ticketing students for “having soda, running in the hall and dressingimproperly.” 

Spotlight has devoted significant attention to the links betweeneducation, poverty and future economic opportunity.  It۪s important thatthese conversations not overlook school discipline and the important role itplays in whether students have a chance to succeed, or whether they will fallbehind for good.


Postedby Sam



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