Keep Kids in School with Fair Discipline

A discipline issue in school should not end a student’s studies or get them arrested. But children as young as six have been arrested at their schools for misbehavior that is treated as a criminal justice issue. Even without police involved, “zero tolerance” suspensions and expulsions effectively make education impossible. Over-policing of schools and these zero tolerance policies both contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline. Students that are suspended are twice as likely to drop out before high school graduation, a rate even higher for students who are expelled, and those forced out of school are twice as likely to be arrested later in life. Fairer discipline policies have been shown to more successfully keep kids in school, improve academic performance and avoid criminal justice involvement. The Keep Kids in School Act helps expand fairness and safety in schools by improving disciplinary practices instead of cutting education short and expanding the school-to-prison pipel...

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Frequently Asked Questions
Will this help improve school performance?
School discipline policies based on existing research and best practices will support the creation of positive school climates, assist schools to reduce unnecessary and costly suspensions and expulsions, and keeps kids learning instead of being arrested. By collecting data on school discipline incidents, this policy helps inform future improvements in school climate and provides a path to measure the impact of this policy.
Who does this help?
This helps students, families, and communities by helping kids stay in school so that they can thrive in and out of the classroom. Moreover, this policy helps ensure that law enforcement is not involved in routine student discipline matters. Fair discipline policies also particularly benefit students of color, LGBTQ students, and students with disabilities who are disproportionately impacted by policies that over-rely on disciplinary suspensions, expulsions, and the criminal justice system.
Is this high cost to the state?
No. Research shows that fair discipline policies help keep kids in school, improving performance and long-term earnings and returns to the state, and reducing criminal justice involvement and associated costs. Collecting data on disciplinary practices can be accomplished by leveraging existing school data programs and supports improvement in disciplinary policies and school performance.
Is this a burden to teachers and school districts?
No. Fair discipline policies will help make schools safer, create more supportive environments for students, parents and teachers, and improve educational outcomes.
  • Students and families
  • Education advocates
  • Teachers
  • Criminal justice reform advocates
  • None noted
Model Policy
This act shall be known as the Keep Kids in School Act
To support proven, effective, and fair disciplinary strategies that improve attendance and graduation rates and stop the school to prison pipeline.

(A) It is the goal of STATE to ensure completion of quality preK-12 education for all children. Over-reliance on disciplinary suspensions and expulsions has been shown to reduce graduation rates and increase criminal justice involvement for impacted students.
(B) Research shows that adopting fair discipline policies that encourage disciplinary practices other than suspension and expulsion and promote a positive school climate can help keep kids in school, improve academic performance and reduce criminal justice involvement and the costs associated with such involvement.
(C) Accordingly, within six months of passage of this Act, DEPARTMENT shall issue guidance and recommendations to school districts to foster supportive and safe school climates and promote evidence-based discipline practices to keep kids in school and reduce criminal justice involvement. Such guidance and recommendations shall include guidance and recommendations on meeting these minimum standards:
(i) Fostering positive school climates, by:
-(1) Engaging the school community (including school personnel, students, families and community stakeholders) to identify school- or school-district based goals for a positive school climate, including school discipline, to complement the school’s academic goals;
-(2) Prioritizing the use of evidence-based prevention strategies, such as tiered supports, to promote positive student behavior;
-(3) Promoting social and emotional learning to complement academic skills and encourage positive behavior;
-(4) Providing regular training and supports to all school personnel – including teachers, principals, support staff, and school-based law enforcement officers – on how to engage students and support positive behavior;
-(5) Collaborating with local mental health, child welfare, law enforcement, and juvenile justice agencies and other stakeholders to align resources, prevention strategies, and intervention services;
-(6) Ensuring that any school-based law enforcement officers’ roles focus on improving school safety and reducing inappropriate referrals to law enforcement.
(ii) Providing clear, appropriate, and consistent expectations and consequences, by:
-(1) Adopting a school discipline policy that sets high expectations for behavior and adopts an instructional approach to school discipline;
-(2) Involving families, students, and school personnel in the development and implementation of discipline policies or codes of conduct, and communicating those policies regularly and clearly;
-(3) Ensuring that clear, developmentally appropriate, and proportional consequences apply for misbehavior;
-(4) Ensuring policies include appropriate procedures for students with disabilities and due process for all students;
-(5) Removing students from the classroom only as a last resort, ensuring that any alternative settings provide students with academic instruction and return students to their regular class as soon as possible.
(iii) Promoting equity and continuous improvement, by:
-(1) Training all school staff to apply school discipline policies and practices in a fair and equitable manner so as not to disproportionately impact students of color, students with disabilities, or at-risk students;
-(2) Using proactive, data-driven, and continuous efforts, including gathering feedback from families, students, teachers, and school personnel to prevent, identify, reduce, and eliminate discriminatory discipline and unintended consequences.
(D) With the guidance issued pursuant to Section (c) above, DEPARTMENT shall issue model school discipline policies for elementary, middle [junior high], and high schools that align with the guidance and meet the minimum standards laid out in Section (c).
(E) Within eight months of issuance of the guidance from DEPARTMENT in accordance with Section (c) above, and in no case later than fourteen months after passage of this Act, all schools in STATE shall have adopted a discipline policy that aligns with the guidance and meets the minimum standards laid out in Section (c) above. DEPARTMENT shall establish a process to annually review and approve discipline policies to ensure they fulfill the requirements of this section.
(F) DEPARTMENT shall provide technical assistance and support to schools and school districts to assist them in complying with section (e) above. In lieu of a school or district-specific policy, the model policies from Section (d) may be adopted. If no policy has been submitted for approval by a school or school district as of fourteen months after passage of this Act, or after a submitted policy has been disapproved, the model policies from Section (d) above shall be in effect.
(G) The above guidance and model policies shall be included in statewide training and professional development opportunities.
(H) Research shows that school climate improves, exclusionary measures such as suspensions and expulsions decrease, and student involvement in the criminal justice system may be diminished when states collect and examine data on school discipline. States have executed data collection initiatives while respecting student privacy and by leveraging existing school data collection systems to ensure an efficient data collection process. Accordingly, effective January 1 after passage of this Act, DEPARTMENT shall:
(i) annually collect and examine data regarding in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, school-based arrests, other in-school disciplinary actions, length of suspensions, suspension and expulsion rate, and percentage of students that experienced each type of discipline and to disaggregate such data by school, school district, race, ethnicity, gender, age, grade, students with disabilities, English language learners, and students who are eligible for free or reduced priced lunch, and type of infraction/reason the discipline was imposed;
(ii) annually compare data and trends in STATE to available data from other states if feasible;
(iii) every three years, collect qualitative data on school discipline from district and school officials, teachers, and students from a representative sample of school districts;
(iv) promulgate regulations to direct and allow for the collection of the data described in (i) using existing school data collection systems to minimize any burden on schools and school districts. Such regulations shall include appropriate definitions to allow for standardized collection and reporting of data;
(v) provide an annual opportunity for public comment on the data collection and reporting process, and include a summary of comments received and DEPARTMENT’s response in the annual reports described in (k) below; and
(vi) ensure that all data collection and examination comply with all federal and state student privacy laws and does not allow for public release of personally identifiable information or the identification of students receiving discipline.
(J) Effective January 1 after passage of this Act, DEPARTMENT shall
(i) annually submit a report to the Governor and Legislature that:
-(1) includes the data and analysis described in (j)(i)-(iii);
-(2) highlights high-performing schools and districts, including those that have improved school climate and decreased use of exclusionary measures such as suspensions and expulsions; and
-(3) provides descriptions and analysis of practices that contributed to the improvements described in (2) above.
(ii) make such report available on DEPARTMENT’s website.