This was a big week for school discipline nerds in NYC. The city released the second part of its recommendations for changes to city schools’ disciplinary practices.
I will probably write about each of the task force’s recommendations, but the main takeaway is that DOE schools will no longer suspend students in grades K-2. Suspensions in these grades were down from 1,454 to 801, but they’ll apparently go down to 0 now.
Any move away from a policy that excludes and isolates very young children for maladaptive behaviors is a good one. Here are some questions I still have though:
What will school leaders do in lieu of out-of-school suspensions?
You can just imagine the conversations happening right now in elementary schools with high populations of students with challenging behaviors:
What are we going to do now? The kids will know we can’t punish them no matter what they do.
How am I supposed to provide a safe environment when kids can’t be removed for any reason?
How are we going to teach kids a lesson when their behavior is unacceptable?
I don’t blame anyone for these sentiments; if you’ve only worked in an environment in which retributory consequences are the primary means for “correcting” maladaptive behaviors, of course you’re going to be upset when your biggest tool is taken out of your toolbox (even if, when you step back, you probably realize that tool–suspensions–isn’t actually working).
If central administration doesn’t support school leaders in teaching staff members in challenging schools how to engage in proactive, collaborative problem-solving, the promise of this initiative will dry up and trust between schools and central will be further undermined.
Why stop at 2nd grade?
What possible reason is there to end suspensions only for grades K-2, especially when almost all NYC elementary schools are K-5. Seems to me you are creating a two-tier discipline system within schools, wherein half the teachers understand suspension is not an option and look for other solutions (ideally) and half don’t. How do you lead a school in professional development around discipline issues with a system like that?
How will we know if it’s working?
What system is the city going to use to measure the effectiveness of this change?