Posts Tagged common sense discipline

Activist of the Month: Carol Solomon

At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for May: Carol Solomon. Read more about her experience as an activist and advocate for her community and for Washington students.

Carol Solomon first became involved with LEV through LEV Field Organizer Andaiye Qaasim, who describes Carol as a “lifetime advocate” and the “backbone” of her community. (more…)

Posted in: Activist of the Month, Advocacy and Activism, Blog, Closing the Gaps, LEV News, School Discipline

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Transforming school discipline key to better education

This post was written by League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo and originally published in The Seattle Times on September 25, 2013.

Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education VotersIf we are serious about closing our state’s opportunity and achievement gaps, we need to find ways to keep kids in school and learning, writes guest columnist Chris Korsmo.

STUDENTS can’t learn if they’re not in school.

If we are serious about closing our state’s opportunity and achievement gaps, we need to find ways to keep kids in school and learning.

While Washington state made progress in the last legislative session, there is more to be done.

Nationally, school-discipline rates are at an all-time high, double what they were in the 1970s. Millions of students are suspended from school every year. And students in groups with persistent achievement gaps are suspended and expelled from school at higher rates than their peers.

The school house, the place we all hope can serve as the “great equalizer,” is closing its doors to an alarming number of the very students who need the most support.

In Washington state, we have historically had no maximum length for suspensions. Expulsions could last indefinitely. Students, many of whom were arguably the most at risk of failure, were being left out of school indefinitely with no educational services and no plans for how to transition back into school.

A 2012 Washington Appleseed and TeamChild report requested discipline data from all 295 districts in Washington. Only 183 districts could provide detailed information about the number of long-term suspensions (defined as 10 or more days in Washington), emergency expulsions and regular expulsions. Even fewer districts could provide race and ethnicity or free and reduced-price lunch-status information of the impacted students.

Data from the 183 districts that did provide information showed that only 7 percent of students reportedly received educational services while they were out of school.

The League of Education Voters, TeamChild and Washington Appleseed were part of a strong effort to address the discipline crisis in our state during the most recent legislative session.

Washington legislators took a first step by passing a bill requiring emergency expulsions to end or be converted to another form of discipline within 10 school days. The bill also mandated that suspensions and expulsions last no longer than one calendar year, though a school may petition to exceed that limit based on public health or safety.

The new rules require schools to make detailed discipline data to be publicly available on the state’s education website. School districts are also required to create a re-engagement plan for suspended and expelled students

These are meaningful and significant improvements that will positively impact the lives of many, many children. And there is much more work to be done.

As a state, we must continue to minimize the amount of time students are out of school and maximize the opportunities for learning. District leaders must consider shortening the length of suspensions and expulsions and limiting their use. Instead, use in-school suspension and detention.

Each school district must decide what program works for its students, but many successful examples focus on keeping students in school and providing training and support for teachers covering topics such as cultural competency, social and emotional development and classroom management.

A program that is gaining attention is Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports, or PBIS. Highline Public Schools is implementing this program in every school in the district.

A number of school districts across the country have addressed discipline problems with practices that educate and teach, rather than punishments that remove the student from class.

Baltimore’s discipline policies emphasize prevention and intervention strategies and discourage the use of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions and arrests for most student misbehavior. In four years, suspensions dropped from 1 in 5 students being out-of-school suspended to 1 in 8. The dropout rate fell nearly 4 percent.

Let’s aim to outperform Baltimore in reducing dropouts.

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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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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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Community members attend school board meeting, rally for our schools

This post originally appeared on the Our Schools Coalition blog, of which LEV is a member.

More than 35 Seattle students, parents, and community members came together at last night’s school board meeting to share their message with Seattle Public Schools’ leaders.

Several Seattle University students attended the school board meeting and talked about the discipline issue in depth.

Several Seattle University students attended the school board meeting and talked about the discipline issue in depth.


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KIRO: 3 decades after desegregation, students say race a factor in unequal punishment

From the Our Schools Coalition blog.

KIRO News reports on the growing movement in the community to push Seattle Public Schools to address disproportional effects of discipline on students of color.

KIRO unequal punishment video

Join us Wednesday, May 8 at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute for Stop School Suspensions: Solutions for safe, secure classrooms without removing kids to learn about alternatives to punitive discipline that are working in our community right now.

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Guest Post: What is PBIS?

This guest post was written by Lori Lynass Ed.D., the executive director of NorthWest PBIS Network, Inc. It originally appeared on the Our Schools blog

You can learn more about PBIS and other strategies to keep classrooms safe while keeping kids in school at the event Stop School Suspensions: Solutions for safe, secure classrooms without removing kids on May 8th at 7 p.m. at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Insitute in Seattle. The event is free and open to the public. Register here.

With an increased focus on school discipline issues, suspensions and drop outs, many people have been hearing more lately about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), however many people are still not sure just exactly what PBIS is.

Incorporating policy efforts and evidence-based practices from the fields of education and mental health, the PBIS model has emerged as a three-tiered framework of support focused on prevention and early intervention strategies that promote positive school climates and provide needed non-cognitive skills to students. The premise of PBIS is that measures are put in place proactively so that problem behaviors are less likely to occur and academic engaged time increases. PBIS emphasizes the prevention of problem behaviors and promotion of a positive school culture at the first tier and offers group and individualized intervention services for students who continue to struggle with problem behaviors at the second and third tiers. PBIS is a framework–not a program. Schools can choose to use various evidenced-based programs within the PBIS framework.

Now implemented in over 20,000 schools nationally and about 500 schools in Washington, PBIS actually took root right here in the northwest at the University of Oregon which houses the National Technical Assistance Center for PBIS. PBIS is supported as a best practice by the federal department of education and OSPI. PBIS is invaluable to many Washington schools who have witnessed reductions in problems behaviors, instances of bullying and harassment and referrals to special education that are related to behavioral issues. In exchange, schools are gaining back academic instructional time; and staff, parents, and students report being more satisfied with their schools.

PBIS is really about systemic change. To implement it, schools need professional development, coaching and technical assistance support. Many of these supports have been cut in the past few years with funding reductions so organizations like the NorthWest PBIS Network have worked hard to provide free and reduced costs supports to schools.

Examples of How PBIS Has Impacted Schools in Washington:

Komachin Middle School in North Thurston is in year two of PBIS implementation. They call their program the “Wolf Pack” and they highlight giving Positive Office Referrals for students who make considerable behavioral improvements and have the “Howl of Fame” for students who consistently demonstrate the school values. They are reporting their best year yet in regards to student disciple referrals and suspensions with a 49% reduction in office discipline referrals and 45% reduction in suspensions.

At Ridgecrest Elementary in the Shoreline School District principal Cinco Delgado reports that the school has not had one major office referral over the last several weeks. He reports, “It is night and day here with PBIS because teachers now have more tools and can handle behavior in the classrooms”. The school calls their PBIS program the Ram Pride program and they emphasize the school values of being Respectful, Responsible, Safe and Kind. They have also recently started the Check, Connect and Expect program for their students who need additional support at the Tier 2 level.

Want to know more about PBIS? Visit or

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Guest post: Restorative Justice: Helping kids learn from their mistakes

This post appeared on the Our Schools blog on April 8th, 2013. It was written by Joseph Thomas, an intern at ACLU of Washington State. It is crossposted from the ACLU Washington blog.

Kids can’t learn if they aren’t in school. That’s why our state has a mandatory attendance rule that requires students to go school or give a good reason why they have missed a day of class time.

But our current discipline laws allow schools to expel or suspend kids as a punishment for breaking rules sometimes for even minor infractions. These laws have resulted in an increase in kids–especially kids of color–missing out on an education, falling behind in class, and often dropping out and getting involved in criminal courts. Schools are missing an opportunity to teach kids about self-discipline, good citizenship, and empathy by kicking them out instead of using their misbehavior as a teachable moment.

As an intern, I’ve been researching Restorative Justice. This is an approach that has been successfully used to reduce suspensions and expulsions, especially among students of color, in schools across the nation, including in Oakland, Denver, and Chicago. Restorative Justice focuses on the needs of all parties involved (victims, community, and offenders). Offenders are encouraged to take responsibility and make amends for their actions, through such means as apologizing or performing community service. Rather than simply punishing and ostracizing misbehaving students, it educates and integrates them into the community.

My interest in the use of Restorative Justice and other Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies is more than academic. Without strategies like these, I might not have completed high school and college and been poised to start law school in the fall.

When I was a teenager in eighth grade, I was really into wrestling. The Undertaker was my favorite wrestler, and his choke slam was my favorite move. The choke slam is when you pick someone up by the throat and throw them to the ground. One day at school, I ran into a fifth-grader who was making fun of the Undertaker. Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with me and I showed him a choke slam.

I carried on with my day as if nothing happened until lunch, when the principal came to the cafeteria (never a good sign), walked right to my table (an even worse sign), and asked me to come to her office. She asked me why I thought she called me in, and I didn’t answer, though I knew. She told me that slamming a 10-year-old against a cement floor is not why parents send kids to school. The principal said that they do not tolerate students putting their hands on each other and that I was going to be suspended.

A suspension from school is the worst. You feel like a failure, and worst of all you feel like nothing you do can ever make up for it. But there was even more to come, and in hindsight I’m thankful there was.

The school called my grandmother, with whom I was living. As the principal, my grandmother, and I talked about the situation, I saw nothing but disappointment in my grandmother’s face, which is worse than anger.

At home, I was banned from watching wrestling. At school, they wanted me to learn how older kids need to be careful around younger kids, so besides the three-day suspension, I also had to volunteer in the kindergarten class. When I look back, it’s clear that the behavior intervention actions used – discussion, involvement of multiple affected people, and volunteering – made a big difference. Because the school and my family took the time to address my behavior, I never went back to the principal’s office.

By not assuming the worst in students and trying to fix behavior before it gets worse, Restorative Justice engages in what should be a standard at schools. If I had just been suspended, without the conversations and volunteer experience, I wouldn’t have learned the important lessons I did and may have continued to act out.

I was lucky to have supportive school and home environments. But what happens to kids who don’t have those supports? Kids don’t come fully assembled; they should be given the opportunities to learn from their mistakes and grow.

Attend Stop School Suspensions: Solutions for safe, secure classrooms without removing kids. Register here.

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Bringing Dignity to Schools

This blog post was written by LEV Organizer Andaiye Qaasim.

“Our nation’s ‘dropout’ crisis is in reality a ‘pushout’ crisis.” You may already be familiar with this phrase made popular by the Dignity in Schools Campaign. If not, you are most likely familiar with the federal investigation into Seattle Public Schools focusing on the disparate use of discipline against students of color and the 2012 Washington Appleseed Report on the economic and educational costs of exclusionary discipline in Washington state. Disproportionality in school discipline for Washington mirrors many of the larger ills around school climate and discipline nationwide. Across the U.S., over 3 million students receive out-of-school suspensions each year. Students of color, special education students, foster and homeless youth, and LGBTQ youth are targeted the most. Exclusionary discipline practices push youth out of school and put youth in vulnerable positions that can lead to poverty, unemployment, and incarceration. When we take a closer look at low graduation rates across the country it is clear that students are not dropping out on their own accord, but that they are being pushed out of school by harsh and punitive discipline policies.

The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) sees this as a national crisis and challenges the systemic issues around school pushout. DSC is a coalition of over 60 organizations from 20 states made up of youth, parents, educators, advocates, grassroots groups, policy groups and legal groups working to end school pushout; stop student suspensions and arrests; and implement approaches that keep schools safe and healthy. This inspirational coalition brings equal voice to all of its members, with a high priority given to youth of color and parents.

Recently, DSC held its annual conference from March 1st-March 5th in Washington D.C. This conference was a work intensive weekend of workshops, teambuilding, strategy sessions, and advocacy skill-building which culminated in a youth-led rally/direct action, and a team of DSC representatives lobbying at the Capitol. Below is a list of the legislation that DSC is asking Congress to support:

  • The Restorative Justice in Schools Act (H.R. 415)
  • The Positive Behavior for Safe and Effective Schools Act (H.R. 3165)
  • The Mental Health in Schools Act (S. 195)
  • The Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students Act (S. 919)
  • Youth PROMISE Act (H.R. 2721)

As we learn from the work of DSC, and are inspired by their youth-led, grassroots advocacy, we can also work on our own home front. We must remember to keep the heat on the bills in the State Senate and House that are moving forward to address disproportionality in school discipline. SB 5244 and HB 1680 are alive and moving forward in the state legislature. Please write your senator or representative to encourage support for these bills. Together, we can all bring dignity back to our schools.

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