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Archive for July, 2013

Know your rights: What communities need to know about school discipline procedures

On July 11th, League of Education Voters hosted a webinar in partnership with TeamChild on the rights of parents and students experiencing disciplinary actions in the public school system.

TeamChild is a civil-legal advocacy group that helps get students the services and help they need to continue their education. Their website is chalked full of resources for parents and students and worth checking out if you are experiencing issues around discipline.

Over the past twenty years, suspension in schools has become commonplace and many parents and students never receive access to basic information about appeals, re-entry, and educational services while out of school. TeamChild helped outline families’ basic rights:

  • In the case of a short-term suspension, schools must provide oral or written notice and opportunity for informal conference. Written notices must be provided in the language most commonly spoken in the student’s home.
  • In the case of a long-term suspension, emergency expulsion and/or expulsion, schools must provide written notice of the discipline to be imposed to the student and parent/guardian. The notice must be delivered in person or by certified mail to the student and the parent/guardian.

The timeline is mapped out here:

Lastly, a few key tips for any correspondence with your student’s school administrator or teacher:

  • Act quickly – timelines are short and stakes are high.
  • Notices may be confusing, delayed or missing.
  • Schools may discourage pursuing a discipline hearing.
  • Districts might not be able to reach off-campus conduct.
  • Nature and circumstances must warrant punishment.
  • Try other forms of corrective action first.

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Legislation boosts early reading and tightens rules for school discipline

By Fiona Cohen

In the dramatic end to the Washington state legislature’s special session last week, a bill (5946), was signed into law that will be a step forward for public school students.

It includes measures to bolster reading programs for kids in the early part of elementary school. How well kids read in those years makes a big difference to their future success. One study found that kids who are not reading proficiently in third grade are four times more likely not to graduate from high school.

Under the new law, whenever a child in grades K through 4 is below grade-level in reading, the teacher will have to inform the parents or guardians of the child’s progress, and what strategies the school is using to strengthen the child’s reading.

Another component will start in the 2014-2015 school year.  The timing is important because it should coincide with the state switching to a test that will give teachers results before the end of the school year. The current MSP gives out the results the following August.

If a third grader scores below “basic” on the language arts tests, the school has to schedule a meeting with the parents or guardians and discuss what to do to improve the child’s skills. One possible solution: enroll the student in a summer program.

The legislation also provides significant progress on how schools implement discipline policies

Washington used to have no time limit on how long students could be suspended or expelled. Now it does.

Students cannot be suspended or expelled for longer than one calendar year, though a school can petition the district superintendent to exceed one year if staff have health or safety concerns. Emergency expulsions must also be converted into a definite disciplinary action within 10 days of being imposed, thus removing students from a state of limbo.

Also, schools must make public their data on suspensions and expulsions, including information about the race and gender of those suspended, the status of petitions to re-enroll in school , and information about educational services the student received while suspended or expelled.

Tracy Sherman, policy analyst for the League of Education Voters said this is an important step towards getting students who have been removed from school back into the classroom. 

“This is a big win for students, and we’ll continue to work on this issue.”

Editor’s Note: This post originally ran on the Our Schools Coalition blog.

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The 2013 legislative session: It’s a wrap

In what has become unfortunately common in Washington, the 2013 legislative session went into overtime. An agreement on a two-year budget was reached with less than 24 hours to spare to avoid a shutdown of state government. While significant hurdles remain as we strive to ensure our public education system is amply, equitably and sustainably funded, measurable progress was made during the extended 2013 session.

The legislature and the Governor were faced with competing requirements and political trends. Our state’s constitution required increased investment in K-12 education. And while I-1053 was ultimately ruled unconstitutional, the voters of Washington state have consistently sent a strong message that any tax increases must have 2/3 majority support in the legislature. The legislators were charged with increasing investment in K12, without broad based revenue increases, and avoiding cuts to other areas of education or essential social services.

On that score you have to say the session was a mild success. As a state, we expanded investment in early learning, brought a modicum of stability to the Working Connections Child Care program, increased investment in K-12 with an intense focus on the opportunity gap, and stopped the crippling cuts to higher education. We did all of this without cannibalizing essential social services. While it took longer than was needed, the outcome reflected the values of the voters who sent the legislators to Olympia to represent them.

In addition to the budget items, significant bipartisan efforts on education policy were passed (See LEV 2013 legislative accomplishments). Legislation related to addressing customer service issues in child care, supports for persistently failing schools, literacy, STEM education, gathering and reporting of discipline data, and assessment reforms all passed with significant bipartisan support.

As we move forward, LEV will continue to work with parents, members of both parties, and members of the education community to address the continuing challenge of providing ample, equitable and stable funding and ensuring those dollars are invested effectively to ensure that every student in Washington state receives an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success.

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You did it! We did it!

It couldn’t be done.

It will never happen.

That is what we were told.

But, we did it.

You.  Yes YOU!

Did it.

We passed a discipline bill in the state of Washington.

It was dead, then revived, then dead again and again and again.

But you emailed, you spoke, you called, you wrote.

You did it.

You know who you are.  You are one of the 150 people that we interviewed 18 months ago about your thoughts on a discipline bill.  You are one of the people who attended a local events that we sponsored around the state.  You are one of the  200 people that are on our discipline Google group.  You are one of 1,900 people who have signed up for email action alerts about discipline.  You are one of the hundreds who emailed, testified, wrote letters, cards, notes.

You are students, parents, teachers, principals, community leaders, lobbyists and legislators.

You did it!  We did it!

Enjoy.  Tell your friends.

And then, let’s figure out what everyone says can’t be done for next year and make a plan.

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