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July 30, 2018, was a very important date for all educators in Washington state. The date wasn’t an important elected officials birthday, it wasn’t the day a royal baby was born, or even the date Game of Thrones announced its return for season 8. It was the day that the Office of Public Instruction (OSPI) adopted the final draft of discipline rules for public school students. House Bill 1541 allowed OSPI to address disparities, improve equity in student discipline, and close opportunity gaps in learning across Washington state.
In a nutshell, recent federal and state laws:
1) Limit the use of exclusionary discipline in schools.
2) Minimize the impact of exclusionary discipline on students who are excluded.
3) Reduce disparities in the administration of student discipline.
What exactly does this mean? I have heard many educators assume that the new rules just mean two things. Students perceived as “Bad” will no longer be suspended for their behavior or that those same students will be rewarded in hopes the rewards will change behavior. This judgment brings many questions to mind and it is evident that educators could benefit from clarity about HB 1541. OSPI’s Equity and Civil Rights Office officially advises schools to review the effectiveness of discipline and/or intervention strategies using a four-part model based on their school’s discipline data.
Plan: Analyze the data and identify root causes
Do: Decide on a plan and implement
Study: Evaluate and monitor progress
Act: Adjust your plan, if necessary
In reviewing discipline policies schools should adjust their discipline rules if data shows little or no progress in student behavior.
According to OSPI, “School and district teams should consider whether additional time or support might be necessary for staff to fully implement the strategy or intervention with fidelity, or whether implementing a new or additional strategy might be necessary.”
The American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force found that previous zero tolerance, punitive, and exclusionary disciplinary methods haven’t been effective in altering educational disruptive behavior. The Task Force did find an increase in racial disparities and referrals to the juvenile justice system often referred to as the school to prison pipeline, negative effects on child development, and unintended consequences for students, families, and communities. Additionally, there is data to support the success of alternative approaches to zero tolerance that were effective in improving school climate.
These three alternatives are a researched-based framework that highlights equity in school discipline.
Framework for Increasing Equity in School Discipline
Prevention and Intervention
As educators, we differentiate instruction for students who struggle academically or learn in a different manner. It makes sense that educators use the same process for regulating behavior, as a discipline is not a one-size-fits-all model. The new format is a prevention-based approach, schools must attempt to correct behavior before requiring disciplinary action. Following this format ensures fair and equitable practices across the state for all students.
What are the final steps for school year 2019-2020? OSPI has identified new student discipline rules and best practices.
“By the start of the 2019–20 school year, school district discipline policies must identify other forms of discipline that school personnel should administer before or instead of exclusionary discipline actions—which may involve the use of best practices and strategies in the state menu for behavior (i.e. restorative justice, behavior monitoring, social skills instruction, etc.).”
How is your school implementing House Bill 1541? Which framework option for increasing equity in school discipline does your school use for prevention and intervention?