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New Student Discipline Rules—Summary of Changes

kids-girl-pencil-drawing-159823 (1)Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is proposing new student discipline rules as a result of changes to the law made by HB 1541 in 2016. HB 1541 requires that expulsions be no longer than an academic term (previously a year); students cannot be long-term suspended or expelled for “discretionary discipline;” school districts must provide educational services to students while they are suspended or expelled; and other changes to the development and distribution of district discipline policies, training, and reengagement plans.

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Changes in the new rules:

General

  • The state’s Menu of Best Practices for Behavior is referenced a number of times as a resource for schools and districts they should consider or use before suspending or expelling a student—or instead of suspending or expelling a student.
  • Adds and clarifies definitions for discipline, disruption of educational process, behavioral violation, and other terms.
  • The whole chapter of rules is reorganized and renumbered, so all sections appear as “new,” even if the language is unchanged from previous rules.
  • All hearings and written communications regarding a student’s suspension or expulsion must be in the primary language of the parent.

Discipline policy development

  • Must be reviewed periodically in light of a district’s discipline data and developed or changed with input from students, families, and community.

Suspensions and expulsion generally

  • Parents must be involved in school efforts to “support students in meeting behavioral expectations” early on.
  • Educational services must be provided to students when they are suspended or expelled.
  • A student may not be suspended or expelled for tardiness or absences from school.

Short-term suspension

  • Districts must first attempt another form of discipline before short-term suspending a students. Districts can no longer develop rules that allow for immediate short-term suspension for “exceptional misconduct.”
  • All short-term suspensions are limited to 10 days, but the new rules put into place further restrictions:
    • Kindergarten through fourth grade students may not be short-term suspended for more than a total of 10 days in an academic term (i.e. multiple short term suspensions cannot be added up to be more than 10 days.)
    • Fifth grade through twelfth grade students may not be short-term suspended for more than a total of 15 days in a semester or 10 days in a trimester.

In-school suspensions

  • In-school suspensions are treated as short-term suspensions in terms of limits on use and time.
  • School staff must be available to provide direct supervision and help students with keeping up with assignments and classwork while in-school suspended.

Long-term suspension

  • Long-term suspensions may only be used for the behaviors below and after a districts has determined that returning a student to school before a long-term suspension would pose a danger to students or staff, or a disruption to the educational process:
    • Weapons offense
    • Gang activity
    • Defacing school property
    • Violent offense
    • Sexual offense
    • Drug and alcohol offense
    • Behavior that “adversely impacts the health and safety of other students or staff”
  • Districts must consider another form of discipline before long-term suspending a student.
  • Kindergarten through fourth grade students cannot be long-term suspended, except if they commit a gun-related offense.

Expulsion

  • Expulsions may only be used for the same behaviors as long-term suspension (see above) and after a district has determined that returning the student to school would pose a danger to students or staff.
  • Kindergarten through fourth grade students cannot be expelled, except if they commit a gun-related offense.

Emergency expulsion

  • A student may still be emergency expelled if they pose a danger to other students or staff, or a disruption to the educational process.
  • The school must notify the district of the emergency expulsion within 24 hours.
  • An emergency expulsion must be converted to another form of suspension or expulsion within 10 days and any days a students was emergency expelled count towards the other suspension or expulsion (e.g. if a student is emergency expelled for 4 days before having it converted to a short-term suspension, they could only be suspended for another 6 days.)

Educational services

  • When determining how to provide educational services, the district must consult the student, parents, and student’s teachers and consider whether the student currently receives special education services, English language services, or other supplemental instructional services.
  • For exclusions up to five days, a school district must, at a minimum, provide coursework, access to school personnel who can offer support to keep the student current with coursework, and an opportunity to make up any assignments and tests missed during the exclusion.
  • For exclusions six to ten days, school personnel must also periodically contact the student or parents to coordinate delivery and grading of coursework and communicate with the student and the student’s parents and teachers about the student’s academic progress.
  • For exclusions longer than ten days, a school district must provide educational services in accordance with WAC 392-121-107, which includes options for providing alternative learning experiences.

Reengagement plans

  • Districts must work with students that are long-term suspended or expelled and their parents to create a reengagement plan that is culturally sensitive and responsive. The plan must consider:
    • The nature and circumstances surrounding the behavior and how to support students in preventing similar behavior in the future.
    • The student’s cultural histories, contexts, family norms, community resources, and community and parent outreach.
    • Providing academic and non-academic supports to ensure students stay engaged and on-track to graduate.

Hearings and appeal process

  • The process for hearings and appeals for all suspensions and expulsions is aligned in the new rules.
  • Students must be provided an initial informal hearing where they are informed of the violation, decision to discipline, and conditions of discipline before being suspended or expelled.
  • Parents must be informed in writing of the suspension or expulsion.
  • Parents and students can request an informal conference with the principal to share the student’s side of the story and discuss other forms of discipline.
  • Parents and students may formally appeal the discipline decision to the school district and must receive a formal hearing.
  • Parents and students can ask for a review of the appeal decision after the formal hearing.

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