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Credit: Alison Yin for EdSource Today

A new national survey asks superintendents for their views on school discipline policies.

Superintendents say teachers are the group most likely to object to policies that would reduce student suspensions, according to a new national survey on school discipline released Monday by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and the nonprofit advocacy group the Children’s Defense Fund.

At the same time, conflict between teachers or staff and students is the leading reason for out-of-school suspensions, with 40 percent of superintendents surveyed stating that insubordination, defiance, failure to obey and disrespect of teachers and staff are the most common causes of suspension. Another 30 percent of superintendents said fighting is the most common cause.

The survey of 500 superintendents was conducted as part of a collaboration between the Virginia-based superintendents group, which has 13,000 members nationwide, and the Washington, D.C.-based Children’s Defense Fund. The partnership aims to assess current discipline practices, find solutions that keep children in school and improve school climate, according to the superintendents group. A full report on the survey will be forthcoming, the group said.

Of those who responded, 72 percent of superintendents said they expected opposition to suspension-reduction programs from teachers and 57 percent said they expected pushback from principals.

More than half of the superintendents surveyed said they expected parents and students to support policy changes that would reduce out-of-school suspensions.

“We either pay now or quite frankly, you pay later, in the prison system,” said Richard Carranza, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

Among other findings, the superintendents surveyed were not interested in collecting additional data as a way to manage discipline practices. “Only 11 percent believe a greater focus on data would improve discipline rates,” said Sasha Pudelski, assistant director of policy and advocacy for the superintendents group.

Asked what would have the greatest impact on reducing suspensions and expulsions, 58 percent said greater parent involvement, 40 percent said building student skills in conflict resolution and social and emotional understanding, 38 percent said more mental health supports and 38 percent said training for teachers and staff on creating positive relationships with students.

The superintendents group presented the survey results in a webinar that also featured remarks from Richard Carranza, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, where suspension rates have fallen in the last three years, as has the number of students being identified as having an emotional “disturbance” and referred to special education.

Carranza said data was at the core of  his district’s efforts: tracking which schools, classrooms and teachers are suspending students the most, what interventions specific students have received and how restorative practices to make amends have been used to help the student make a bad situation right.

Behavior management is supported by tiers of interventions, he said, including programs to reinforce positive behavior, evaluations and trainings by behavior analysts, mental health counseling and what he called “emergency triage for extreme behaviors.”

More broadly, Carranza said, “This is a crisis for us in American education. This cannot be the system we have designed…where a certain segment of the student population cannot be successful. It’s a social justice issue. We either pay now or quite frankly, you pay later, in the prison pipeline system.”


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  1. Frances ONeill Zimmerman 2 years ago2 years ago

    Since teachers are at Ground Zero in the classroom, it is no surprise they would be the ones most likely to object to changing the discipline rules for student "willful defiance." Throwing kids out of the building for anything other than mayhem is a bad idea. (I always remember black playwright August Wilson's story about being expelled from junior high and shooting hoops on the school playground until an administrator noticed him through the window and invited … Read More

    Since teachers are at Ground Zero in the classroom, it is no surprise they would be the ones most likely to object to changing the discipline rules for student “willful defiance.”

    Throwing kids out of the building for anything other than mayhem is a
    bad idea.

    (I always remember black playwright August Wilson’s story about being expelled from junior high and shooting hoops on the school playground until an administrator noticed him through the window and invited him back.)

    But changing the rules will mean more space and more qualified staff to run a detention room — to oversee tutoring or instruction there, to do meaningful counseling, to reach out and make a human connection with angry out-of-control kids who have been referred there.

    Replies

    • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

      Frances, isn’t this a bit of wishful thinking? Where is the funding to support the detention rooms, the tutoring, the counseling, the hiring of certified teachers?

      • Floyd Thursby 1941 2 years ago2 years ago

        We always hear there’s no money for school supplies, papers, copiers. Well when you see babysitters hired to watch kids in a rubber room, that will be the cause.

  2. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Last summer at an event called the Administrator's Institute Richard Carranza, in his introductory speech, said it would be disrespectful to his administrators if he were to ban suspensions. Shortly later he reversed his position and supported the Board's ban. In addition, since then the video has been removed from YouTube. I can appreciate changing one's mind, but it is hard understand how to change one's mind on what is respectful or not. … Read More

    Last summer at an event called the Administrator’s Institute Richard Carranza, in his introductory speech, said it would be disrespectful to his administrators if he were to ban suspensions. Shortly later he reversed his position and supported the Board’s ban. In addition, since then the video has been removed from YouTube. I can appreciate changing one’s mind, but it is hard understand how to change one’s mind on what is respectful or not. Oh, well, that’s politics.

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