Kids need school discipline reform now. Don’t make them wait.

Kids in Washington are being kicked out of the classroom unnecessarily and new proposed rules would help change that. Legislation was introduced in 2015 that requires the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to replace most suspensions and expulsions with alternatives that are proven to improve behavior and promote academic success. That law went into effect in 2016 and since then, kids have been waiting for OSPI to approve new discipline rules. OSPI has now proposed a delay of another year to implement while kids are funneled through suspensions and expulsions into the school-to-prison pipeline. Tell OSPI to approve new discipline rules for the upcoming school year.

Dear Mr. Meierbachtol and Superintendent Reykdal,

Washington’s constitution makes it the paramount duty of the state to provide education to its children.  But too often, students (especially students of color and students with disabilities) are excluded from their classrooms through suspension and expulsion.  Suspensions and expulsions are damaging to students, making it more likely that they will drop out of school and end up in the school-to-prison pipeline.  Instead of suspensions, the state and school districts should ensure that parents are engaged in addressing behavioral issues early on, and that teachers and school administrators use positive and preventative strategies to make sure that students have what they need to be successful in school.

The discipline rules that OSPI has proposed will help ensure that parents are engaged in addressing problems and that suspensions and expulsions are imposed after schools have tried other strategies.  The rules are consistent with HB 1541, which was introduced in 2015 and became effective in June 2016.  It has been over 3 years since the legislation was introduced and 2 years since it became effective.  Every day that the rules are delayed denies Washington’s students opportunities to stay in school and continue learning.

Washington’s kids cannot wait another year for discipline reform.  OSPI should ensure that its discipline rules fully go into effect during the 2018-2019 school year.