Do out-of-school suspensions help or hurt school climate? Are student discipline problems getting worse or better? Betsy DeVos has eliminated the Obama era policies of federal oversight of discipline policies that may impact some student groups more than others. She charges that the Obama policies that are intended to reduce inequitable discipline practices have made problems worse. When teachers are afraid to refer students to the principal, and schools are afraid to suspend students acting in a dangerous way, are school classrooms becoming a ‘free for all zone’? Some teachers may think so. Others claim that minority students are often subjected to harsher penalties than white students for the same offenses. Suspending students, moreover, may simply make student problems worse. It is a conundrum.
There is a report: School-safety that addresses these concerns and the need for more attention to factors within and outside of schools that impact student safety. There are best practices identified from which states and local district are urged to select those that fit their circumstances.
One has to wonder if this data driven educational system based on student test scores and a ‘test and punish’ mentality is also at fault. Students’ schools are labeled as failing or near failing; so are the students themselves. Even students who are achieving at grade level may feel alienated when they do not qualify for a particular magnet program or other selective program. Students feeling tense, left out, and inadequate may well act out.
Some parents opt out of local schools only to find that they enter into a separate system of schools where take it or leave it policies prevail. What they are forced to put up with in many charter and private schools has little to do with student achievement. Discipline and discrimination, moreover, may be even more rigid and arbitrary. These schools have everything to do with which kids get in, which do not and who gets kicked out. There is a better way, a more equitable way, where students and parents from diverse backgrounds feel a sense of belonging. These schools exist. How can we create more of them?