Reducing Disproportionate Discipline & Building Positive School Culture
Students of color are up to three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students. This is especially true for boys. Exclusionary discipline is driven by systemic racism and bias, combined with a lack of alternatives that keep students in the classroom. It severs students’ connection to school and often leads to dropping out and becoming involved in the criminal justice system.
THE WORK SO FAR
In recent years we’ve seen major reductions in suspensions and expulsions countywide. Today we are working closely with eight school community teams to improve practices and ask hard questions to challenge biases. Teams meet monthly and use data to understand disparities and develop strategies to keep students engaged and learning.
2019-20 School Community Site Teams:
- Centennial Middle School
- Floyd Light Middle School
- George Middle School
- Glenfair Elementary School
- Hall Elementary School
- Lincoln Park Elementary School
- Patrick Lynch Elementary School
- Reynolds Middle School
Each of our school community teams has organized professional development to help the entire school staff understand and acknowledge racial disparities, with a vast majority of them seeing drops in discipline referrals over the past year. Teams are connecting across district boundaries to share effective practices. George Middle School sent a delegation to Reynolds Middle School to understand how their daily advisory period builds a sense of belonging for students. This informed their approach and the team at George has gathered data showing that students feel more connected to school—and behavior referrals are down 57% overall for the school and down 64% for African American males.
THE WORK YET TO BE DONE
While suspensions are down overall, students of color continue to be disciplined at a higher rate. Schools need to integrate culturally-specific partners and work as equals to develop solutions. Quality professional development, combined with real-time data, is necessary to dismantle persistent biases and shift school culture.
“I look at the work being done in our school through the lens of a white educator and also as a white mother raising a child of color. We’re focused on how a child’s skin color can impact the way they are treated at school. Our job is to ensure that we are examining the data that reflects this reality, while also exploring how identified and unidentified biases might be impacting our response. This work causes me to constantly explore my own white privilege—something all of our students need from adults.”
– Shannon Foxley, Counselor, Hall Elementary School