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States Can Play a Role in Improving School Discipline, Guide Says

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School discipline is frequently viewed as a school- and district-level issue, but state boards of education can also play a role in determining that policies and practices are fair and effective, a new guide says.

The guide, released today by the National Association of State Boards of Education, provides suggestions for states to get involved in the growing discussion around reducing the use of suspensions and expulsions and ensuring that children of all races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations are treated equitably under school policies.

"State boards of education may not legislate policy, but they can collaborate with legislatures and staff from a variety of agencies to assess the latest research; collect and analyze state discipline, school climate, and court and juvenile justice data disaggregated by geography, race/ethnicity, gender, disability status, and LGBT status; review current policy; and make recommendations," says the guide.

Fair, equitable, and effective disciplinary policies matter, but feelings of safety and support affect students academic outcomes, says the guide, which includes this diagram:

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 12.29.29 PM.png

So what can states contribute to the discipline discussion?

Among the suggestions included in the guide:

  • States should thoughtfully and thoroughly collect and analyze discipline data, exploring trends and the effectiveness of school policies. 
  • State boards can encourage collaboration between schools and other systems children interact with—mental health, juvenile justice, child welfare, law enforcement, and other child-serving organizations—to ensure that children's needs are being met and not triggering disciplinary issues at school.
  • States can "encourage consistency in practices across elementary, middle, and high schools within a district and among districts, if appropriate."
  • State boards can assist schools in integrating overlapping policies and programs that relate to discipline, like multi-tiered behavioral supports, social-emotional learning, and restorative justice.
  • State boards can help schools, under pressure to meet academic standards, to understand the importance of improving discipline policies and practices. "Since school climate and discipline go hand in hand with academic success, states can help educate districts and schools on the relationship between academics and discipline and how it can be operationalized," the guide says.

States are already making strides, the guide says. It cites examples like a cross-agency task force in Nevada and an overhaul of state discipline policies in Maryland.

Read more about school discipline:

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