The Department of Justice is urging schools to pull-back on suspensions which often derail students from graduating and can saddle them with a criminal record. The Highline School District is already seeing success in its campaign to have "No Suspensions by 2015."
The Feds say overly zealous discipline for relatively minor infractions can lead to the so-called "School to Prison Pipeline" that disproportionately affects minorities. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told students at Frederick Douglass High in Baltimore that routine school discipline "should land a student in the principal's office and not in a police precinct."
The Highline District recently adopted a policy to eliminate out-of-school suspensions by 2015, except in cases of student safety. The district's data show suspensions and expulsions decreased annually, from 2722 in 2010 to 1628 in 2013. In the first 32 days of this school year, there were 113 suspensions and expulsions, half of what they were for the same period last year. The program, called Positive Behavior Interventions and Support, basically teaches students positive behavior and sets expectations. Students are rewarded when they achieve the goals.
Doug Honig of the ACLU of Washington says the Feds' proposal to provide grants to schools is "very positive.”
Honig said, talking about prison inmates, "If you go back and look at their middle school, early high school years, maybe if the discipline had been handled differently, they could've stayed in school and had a much different life."