As the new legislative session begins, there will likely be yet more legislation introduced that would further empower schools to discipline students in ways that move the children from school disciplinary procedures to juvenile delinquency proceedings or just out onto the streets with no educational opportunities at all. To aid in the discussion, the U.S. Department of Education has published Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline (Washington, D.C., 2014) and an accompanying Directory of Federal School Climate and Discipline Resources, both of which include action plans and resources to improve schools and student outcomes. According to data cited in the Resource Guide, “a significant number of students are removed from class each year — even for minor infractions of school rules — due to exclusionary discipline practices, which disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities.”
The three guiding principles are:
- Climate and prevention: Schools that foster positive school climates can help to engage all students in learning by preventing problem behaviors and intervening effectively to support struggling and at-risk students.
- Expectations and consequences: School that have discipline policies or codes of conduct with clear, appropriate, and consistently applied expectations and consequences will help students improve behavior, increase engagement, and boost achievement.
- Equity and continuous improvement: Schools that build staff capacity and continuously evaluate the school’s discipline policies and practices are more likely to ensure fairness and equity and promote achievement for all students.
Additional resources on improving the conditions for learning, including a series of webinars on supportive school discipline, the school climate, and higher education hosted by the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, are available at the Safe Supportive Learning website. The Supportive School Discipline Initiative highlights a collaboration between the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice and offers links to a variety of resources to support “school discipline policies that foster safe, supportive, and productive learning environments while keeping students in school.”
See also Administration Urges Restraint in Using Arrest or Expulsion to Discipline Students, by Motoko Rich for the New York Times, published January 8, 2014.