Good news on school discipline

Posted by: Gordon on 1/9/2014

Good news today from the U.S. Department of Education -- new guidance from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan underscores the need for schools to administer student discipline in ways that do not discriminate on the basis of race.

Restraint and seclusion of students, particularly students with disabilities, as well as instituting programs that help to keep kids in school instead of zero-tolerance, are among strategies and policy Gamaliel affiliates have advocated.

"It is going in the right direction and it has many positive things that I agree with," says Deb Opramolla, a board member at Gamaliel affiliate ABLE New Hampshire. "It did not mention restraint and seclusion outright, which is our issue, [but] it’s saying that more positive methods need to be used." Opramolla has been among a group of leaders supporting federal legislation that would limit the ability of schools to restrain children for discipline reasons. 

Another strand of Gamaliel affiliates' work around education has been to keep students in school in order to reduce violence in surrounding communities, and keep our children out of prison. Gamaliel of Metro Chicago has been working with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on a program to reduce violence in communities, while other affiliates have created and won funding for programs that mitigate or end zero-tolerance policies and provide support for kids to stay in school.

"We look forward to these procedures and this direction, but it still doesn't solve the school to prison pipeline,” says Rev. David Bigsby of Gamaliel of Metro Chicago. "It is, however, a step in the right direction."

(Photo by Emory Maiden CC BY-NC)
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