New school discipline guidelines aim to keep WA kids from falling behind

Students class room generic maybe middle school KOMO om.jpg
KVI's John Carlson examines the new discipline guidelines going into effect for Washington public schools and students in September as the new school year starts after summer break . (photo: KOMO News)

New rules for student discipline are arriving at Washington public school campuses when students return to class in September. The new discipline criteria have been crafted over the last few years but go into effect now.

KVI's John Carlson interviewed Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, about the new changes and whether or not the chronic mis-behaving students will negatively impact the learning environment for all the other students.

Reykdal says the new guidelines are intended to make student discipline more consistent from school to school and district to district.

Reykdal tells KVI, "that inconsistency we found out from the research is actually landing very disproportionately in terms of discipline against boys, boys of color and students with disabilities. They are being disciplined at significantly higher rates than others." Reykdal said, "and we need to change that.

Carlson questioned the gender and racial component of discipline by saying, "the criticism by school teachers is that they will have to ignore boys acting out in certain ways that they woudldn't have to if girls do because boys if they, ya know, invoke the same rules will be disciplined at a higher rate than girls. So you're really kind of saying treat boys different from girls 'cause if you treat boys the same as girls more boys will be disciplined."

"Well as long as its equal treatment", Reykdal responded. "That's the whole point of this thing is equal treatment and making sure that when students are disciplined they get education support. So no longer kicking them out and having them wander hallways and no longer putting them on 8 to 10 day suspensions where they put their head on a desk in a study hall. If the treatment is equal and the students get equal educational opportunities and parents are engaged much earlier, which is one of the big parts of the rule changes. And we think we can avoid a lot of that stuff."

Reykdal said the way districts and schools have been operating has unintentionally created a system that’s biased, racist and hurts students struggling with disabilities. He adds a big part of the policy overhaul is making sure teachers and faculty are contacting parents or guardians when a student is suspended or expelled, as well as making sure students have access to educational services while they’re being disciplined.

Starting next fall during the 2019-2020 school year OSPI said districts will are expected to put “several new conditions and limitations on the use of suspension, expulsion and emergency expulsion.”

OSPI said they worked closely with the American Civil Liberties Union, communities and districts to come up with the updated policy framework.

Offbeat News