NYC did good work revising their discipline policy. I, of course, will be mildly critical but there are major policy points that can be emulated by school districts.
The discipline policy opens with a description and discussion regarding the purpose of discipline. This is an often overlooked topic, not only in district policy discussions but also in the wider debates around zero-tolerance policies. I particularly like the outline of multiple disciplinary tools that were created for administrators. Outlining a whole new category of “guidance interventions” that lay outside the traditional discipline paradigm.
The following statement makes it clear that NYC Education Dept is serious about changing the paradigm of discipline. This clear directive language facilitates a change in approach.
Every reasonable effort should be made to correct student misbehavior through guidance interventions and other school-based resources and the least severe disciplinary responses. Guidance interventions are essential because inappropriate behavior or violations of the Discipline Code may be symptomatic of more serious problems that students are experiencing. It is, therefore, important that school personnel be sensitive to issues that may influence the behavior of students and respond in a manner that is most supportive of their needs.
Beyond the strong language encouraging progressive discipline and guidance interventions, the NYC Discipline Policy names and outlines Restorative Practices as an optional tool. This is a prime example of language used and goals of including Restorative Practices into discipline policy. By naming RJ/RP as an option it legitimizes the use of these tools. As school districts take stronger and stronger stances against using suspensions RJ/RP become necessary tools in the administrators kit.
On the critical side of this blog, the NYC policy isn’t clear in their goal to reduce suspensions. Also, 4 pages of the 16 page document outline the uses of suspensions. While this discussion is at the end of the document, it remains 25% of the pages. If by no other measure than weight it seems to be a necessary tool, according to the NYC Education Dept.
School districts need to move toward eliminating suspensions as a goal.