You helped pass a school discipline law.
Now kids need your help to make sure the law works.
Every year, thousands of Washington students are excluded from school. Students of color, low-income students, and special education students are disciplined at higher rates than other students, which contribute to Washington's opportunity and achievement gaps. Higher rates of suspensions and expulsions lead to higher dropout rates, increases in grade repetition, and a rise in incarceration rates.
During the 2013 legislative session, you helped us pass a law (ESSB 5946) that makes discipline data public and limits the number of days that students can be removed from class.
That was the first step in transforming school discipline policies. Now it's time to take another.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) recently proposed rules for implementation of the new law and is inviting public comment on those rules.
Their proposed rules are a good start, but there's room for improvement. The intent of the law was that students who are suspended or expelled should be readmitted to class as soon as possible, with overarching goals to decrease the number of students being suspended and expelled, decrease the disproportionality in how discipline is administered, and decrease the length of time that students spend outside of school.
To that end, three changes to the proposed rules would make the law's implementation more effective:
- Prohibit suspensions or expulsions for unexcused absences. Students can currently be suspended or expelled for an unexcused absence. This makes no sense!
- Require reengagement meetings for students. Reengagement meetings help students keep up with their school work and get students back on track when they come back to the classroom. It is not clear in the proposed rules if these meetings are required.
- Apply the law to all students. Students should have access to the supports provided by this law regardless of when or how they were disciplined. The law should be applied equally to all students, not just to students who were disciplined after the law's effective date.