Significant update to Washington state school discipline policy

Governor Jay Inslee signs Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541 into law, with (l-r) Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Rep. Tina Orwall
Governor Jay Inslee signs Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541 into law, with (l-r) Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Rep. Tina Orwall

During the 2016 session, the Washington legislature passed Opportunity Gap House Bill 1541, which includes significant changes to student discipline laws.

These changes also affect the rules for student discipline (Chapter 392-400 WAC) and student enrollment reporting for state funding (WAC 392-121-108) during the period of suspension and expulsion. The Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) will align the rules with this new law before the upcoming school year. OSPI will provide further clarification through additional rulemaking during the 2016–17 school year.

Below is summary of changes effective June 9 that impact the 2016–17 school year. For more information, see OSPI Bulletin No. 024-16.

Limitations on Long-Term Suspensions and Expulsions

A long-term suspension or expulsion must not exceed the length of an academic term, as defined by the school board, from the time of the disciplinary action. This shortens the maximum length of a suspension or expulsion from the prior limitation of one calendar year.

School districts must not use long-term suspension or expulsion as a form of discretionary discipline. “Discretionary discipline” is a disciplinary action taken by a district for student behavior that violates the rules of student conduct, except for actions taken in response to:

  1. A violation of the prohibition against firearms on school premises, transportation, or facilities;
  2. Certain violent offenses, sex offenses, offenses related to liquor, controlled substances, and toxic inhalants, and certain crimes related to firearms, assault, kidnapping, harassment, and arson;
  3. Two or more violations within a three-year period of criminal gang intimidation or other gang activity on school grounds, possessing dangerous weapons on school facilities, willfully disobeying school administrators or refusing to leave public property, or defacing or injuring school property; or
  4. Behavior that adversely impacts the health or safety of other students or educational staff.

Except for in response to the above, school districts may no longer use long-term suspension or expulsion. Even for any of the violations above, districts should consider alternative actions before using long-term suspension or expulsion, except for violation of the prohibition against firearms on school premises.

Possession of a telecommunication device and violation of dress and grooming codes are removed from the list of discretionary violations that, if performed two or more times within a three-year period, may result in long-term suspension or expulsion.

Requirement to Provide Educational Services

School districts may not suspend the provision of educational services as a disciplinary action, whether discretionary or nondiscretionary.

While students may be excluded from classrooms and other instructional or activity areas for the period of suspension or expulsion, districts must provide students with an opportunity to receive educational services during that time.

If educational services are provided in an alternative setting, the alternative setting should be comparable, equitable, and appropriate to the regular education services a student would have received without the exclusionary discipline.

Reengagement Plan and Meeting

School districts must convene a reengagement meeting with the student and family when a long-term suspension or expulsion is imposed.

Families must have access to, provide meaningful input on, and have the opportunity to participate in a culturally sensitive and culturally responsive reengagement plan.

Policies and Procedures

School districts must:

  1. Annually disseminate school discipline policies and procedures to students, families, and the community;
  2. Monitor the impact of discipline policies and procedures using disaggregated data; and
  3. Periodically review and update discipline rules, policies, and procedures in consultation with staff, students, families, and the community.


Questions? Contact OSPI:

For questions about student discipline, alternatives to suspension, and reengagement meetings:

Joshua Lynch, Program Supervisor | Student Discipline and Behavior



For questions about Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) and online learning:

Lillian Hunter, Director | Digital Learning Department | 206-543-5426


For questions about student enrollment reporting for state funding:

Becky McLean, Supervisor | Enrollment Reporting and Categorical Funding | 360-725-6306


Additional Resources

HB 1541

Equity in Student Discipline

Data and Analytics: Suspensions and Expulsions

Education Advocate June 2016

ED Advocate, League of Education Voters Newsletter, June 2016


Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

As yet another school year ends with blinding speed, work is heating up for team LEV.  The new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), replacing No Child Left Behind, gives states more leeway in a wide range of areas.  Our state is figuring out how to modify our accountability system and fully implement other parts of the law.  If you’re curious how ESSA will work here in Washington, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is holding forums around the state.  Get all the info here.

And speaking of the state Superintendent, watch for OSPI candidate forums from now until the November election.  LEV is keeping track of upcoming forums here.

Looking ahead, we’re taking a hard look at how to best fund our state education system as the McCleary debate will be front and center in the next Legislative session.  If you would like more info on what the McCleary Task Force is up to, check out our recent Lunchtime LEVinar on the topic here.

May you and your family enjoy a glorious summer.

Thank you, and thanks for all you do for kids.
Chris Korsmo signature



Chris Korsmo

ESSA Regional Community Forums

ESSA regional community forums are scheduled around the stateBeginning June 14, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is holding forums across the state to provide an overview of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation in Washington. Each forum is open to the public and there is no registration required.

LEV’s Activist of the Month

Mary Fertakis is LEV's June 2016 Activist of the MonthThe work that we do to improve public education is only possible thanks to the support of our activists and advocates – the parents, community members, students, and teachers who stand up and speak up.

Congratulations to longtime Tukwila School Board Member Mary Fertakis, June 2016 Activist of the Month, who has spent more than two decades fighting for people who have been marginalized – denied opportunity by race, place of birth, or government. Read more

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Candidate Forums

OSPI candidate forums are happening now until the November electionCandidates who want to lead Washington’s school system as its next Superintendent will speak at forums around the state. Current OSPI candidates include: Robin Fleming, Ron Higgins, Erin Jones, Chris Reykdal and David Spring. Learn more

The McCleary Task Force: What to Expect

LEVinar: The McCleary Task ForceThe Washington Supreme Court is fining the Legislature $100,000 a day for not fully funding public education. During this year’s session in Olympia, the Legislature passed a bill that created a task force to determine how to end the state’s over-reliance on local levies to pay teacher salaries and other components on basic education. But will the Court be satisfied? Watch here

Get Involved


July 19 and 21 | Every Student Succeeds Act: What You Need to Know, Online webinar


League of Education Voters

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State Superintendent of Public Instruction Candidate Forums

Olympia - LEV OSPI Superintendent Meeting

Candidates who want to lead Washington’s school system as its next superintendent will speak at forums around the state.  If you know of any other scheduled OSPI candidate forums, please email info to LEV Communications Director Arik Korman

OSPI candidates advancing to the general election November 8:

  • Erin Jones, a Tacoma Public Schools administrator. Listen to her interview with LEV HERE
  • State Representative Chris Reykdal (D-22). Listen to his interview with LEV HERE
Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Erin Jones (L) and Chris Reykdal
Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Erin Jones (L) and Chris Reykdal
Date Location Time Address

If you are unable to attend a live candidate forum, TVW will carry them. Info HERE

Watch the October 5th Woodinville candidate forum HERE

Note: The League of Education Voters is not promoting or endorsing either candidate.

Activist of the Month: Dakoda Foxx

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 April: Dakoda Foxx. Read more about Dakoda’s advocacy and activism in her community.

Dakoda FoxxDakoda Foxx’s advocacy work began close to home in 2011, after her daughter was suspended for 100 days. Dakoda knew this “wasn’t right,” so she went to TeamChild to talk to them about her daughter’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) and her options for reengagement. Through her conversations about school discipline, Dakoda learned that many parents in her Puyallup community had children facing the same issues.

From there, she began advocating in earnest. Dakoda advocated at all levels—from doorbelling to testifying about discipline. In 2012, Dakoda began looking for organizations who would work on legislation about school discipline, and that’s how she learned that the League of Education Voters was already working on Senate Bill 5946.

The rest, as they say, is history. Dakoda has continued testifying about school discipline and closing the gaps on a regular basis—most recently in support of Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos’ bill on closing the achievement gap (HB 1541). Shortly before that testimony, Dakoda also spoke at the March State Board of Education meeting in Tacoma about transforming school discipline. Read More

Activist of the Month: Linda Lozano

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 June: Linda Lozano. Read more about her experience as an activist and advocate for her community, her family, and everyone around her.

Linda Lozano testifies to the Office of the Superintendent of Public InstructionIt’s something of an understatement to say that the odds were against Linda Lozano from the very beginning. Born to a teenage mother, Linda essentially raised her younger sister after she was born—and Linda was just seven years old.

Linda learned a “culture of abandonment” from an early age, and she says she was angry for a long time. Linda openly admits that she made a lot of bad choices as a young adult, some of which landed her in jail, and some of which caused her kids to be taken by Child Protective Services.

“Sometimes in life, the stage is set for us. We know we want something different but don’t know how to achieve it,” says Linda.

So Linda set out to learn how to achieve something different. Read More

Transforming School Discipline: The Next Step

Transforming School Discipline: The Next Step [image of children running]During the 2013 legislative session, many of you helped us pass a law (SB 5946) that makes school discipline data public and limits the number of days that students can be removed from class.

That was the first step in transforming school discipline policies. Now it’s time to take another.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is inviting public comment on its implementation of the new law.

There are a few ways you can get involved. Read More