Today, the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC), together with the Opportunity to Learn Campaign, launches Solutions Not Suspensions, a national campaign calling for a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions. Teaching Tolerance supports this initiative.
The dangers are well documented. More than 3 million students are suspended each year, according to the DSC. These students are more likely to drop out of school and to eventually be incarcerated. That’s a high price for both our students and society to pay when there are disciplinary methods proven to be better for students and more effective in changing behavior.
DSC’s 50 member organizations recognize the need to abandon zero-tolerance policies that disproportionately push students of color and students with disabilities out of school. To meet this need, in addition to Solutions Not Suspensions, the DSC will also release a set of discipline policies—the Model Code on Education and Dignity—as a starting point for schools looking to make a change.
This Model Code “articulates a positive vision for ensuring a fundamental right to education based on the best practices, research and experiences of communities around the country, and on a human rights framework for schools grounded in principles of equity, dignity and community participation.”
Consisting of five parts, the Model Code focuses primarily on alternatives to zero-tolerance policies. It provides “detailed policies, practices and implementation guidelines for transforming school climate and discipline models and de-criminalizing our schools.” In particular, the Model Code offers practical guidelines for implementing either School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports or restorative practices.
Teaching Tolerance also has resources to highlight the importance of making the switch from detrimental zero-tolerance suspension policies to a climate rooted in prevention and intervention.
“Suspending Hope,” from the most recent issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine, explores how promoting positive behavior can lead to higher graduation rates, especially among students of color.
Today when students, parents and educators gather in Los Angeles for the official launch of Solutions Not Suspensions, they will make a statement of solidarity with their physical presence. We can’t all be in California this morning, but you can make a stand wherever you are.
Talk to your school leaders about their discipline policies. Give them the information they need to understand the damage criminalized schools cause. Remind them that the benefits of positive discipline models—such as smaller achievement gaps and lower dropout rates—are essential to the success of both our schools and our society.
The voices of parents, students and educators calling for equitable school discipline can be a powerful motivator for change.
Pettway is associate editor for Teaching Tolerance.