Reclaiming Students

Washington Apple Seed and Team Child released a report that outlines the problem with “exclusionary discipline” practices.  I suspect readers of this blog clearly understand this problem.  This report is essential to clarifying the problem for those that would like more information around the issue.  The report also provides specific information for a policy discussion in Washington State.


The brief take away from the report is that Washington, like other states, has a problem with “exclusionary discipline.”  This problem is summed up in five categories:

  1. Exclusionary discipline contributed to the academic and social disengagement of students.
  2. The vast majority of disciplined student did not receive educational services during exclusionary discipline.
  3. Exclusionary discipline practices disproportionately impacted student of color and youth living in poverty.
  4. Reliance on exclusionary discipline practices varied significantly from district to district, even among districts with similar demographic characteristics.
  5. Discipline data yielded only a partial picture of the number of students impacted by exclusionary practices each year in Washington public schools.

This list doesn’t do the work from the researches justice, I am reticent to even post the above section for the work that was done has a richness and depth that this will never capture.   If these topics peak your interest refer to the whole report.

This report also makes recommendations that are closely tied to the key findings (listed above).  I won’t take the time to recreate the list of recommendations.  I don’t find that many school administrators or teachers are making arguments against these (or similar) findings.  Their problem is we are taking away their only tool.  I see promise in Restorative Justice being a different policy tool that will replace exclusionary discipline.

In this report “school safety” is often reference or insinuated.  Schools are still the safest location a youth can be, period.  Often we confuse this issue of “exclusionary discipline” with safety.  I don’t think these two ideas are related.  When a 7 year old girl turns in her “knife” to her teacher, is the school safer by suspending her?  When a boy is disruptive in class, is the three day suspension about safety?  Very rarely are youth presenting real safety concerns to the school or community.  Removing a student from school is about punishing the student for an offence.  Administrators and Teachers feel that students need to “suffer the consequences of their actions,” or the “need to be held accountable.”  These sentiments have little to do with safety and are largely driven by emotional energy.  Now it is important to note that we all suffer from these feelings and when we work day in and day out in a difficult situation it is not surprising that teachers get frustrated with students, parents, administrators and fellow teachers.  “Just do something!!” is a common sentiment.  We are just beginning to see the beginnings of Restorative Justice in schools, and that “doing something” may begin to be a very healthy and supportive response to youthful indiscretion.

About rjfacilitator

My experience, education, and passion have met in alternative discipline. Through my policy work and my mediation experience I have worked and studied the dynamic components of discipline in many settings. While Restorative Justice is not the only way to approach conflict in communities, it has provided me an effective model in which to examine and engage in conflict. We provide custom programs for schools, colleges, and youth serving agencies seeking to engage with conflict using healthy and sustainable tools.
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1 Response to Reclaiming Students

  1. Pingback: Legislative adventures | Restorative Justice – In the Puget Sound

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