AASA Issues Statement on School Discipline Guidance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
James Minichello
703-875-0723
703-774-6953 (cell)
jminichello@aasa.org

Alexandria, Va. – April 4, 2018 – AASA, The School Superintendents Association, shared a statement reflecting the organization’s views of the 2014 Dear Colleague Letter on the Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline at the School Safety and Climate Summit meeting held today at the U.S. Department of Education.

“AASA is committed to ensuring every child has an equitable opportunity to succeed. The recent focus on school discipline in the media and by the U.S. Department of Education in the last few years is nothing new for school leaders, who have always had a responsibility to craft appropriate discipline policies and execute fair discipline practices.

“After surveying more than 850 school leaders in 47 states over the past two weeks, it is clear the 2014 discipline guidance has not been transformative in changing discipline policies and practices for districts. The claims that it, alone, has transformed districts from safe school environments to unsafe ones is hard to justify. Similarly, our data demonstrate that the guidance has not had a significant effect in reducing out-of-school-time for students or improving racial disproportionality in discipline.

“What we do know is that the 16 percent of districts that have executed more progressive and evidence-based discipline practices because of the guidance have struggled. Pushback from teachers and parents was identified as one of the major challenges for school leaders in conforming school discipline policies and practices to the guidance. Inadequate funding levels hindered districts from providing necessary supports that both teachers and students need, which leads districts to experience real academic and behavioral problems they’re unable to address.

“However, the vast majority of school leaders who indicated they have changed their discipline practices have said their hard work is paying off. More frequent reviews of discipline data, the adoption of restorative justice practices, more positive behavioral supports, the additional staff working to meet the mental health needs of students and increased professional development of school personnel is a net positive for students and the school community.

“Whether the guidance stays on the books as-is or is modified, we know that school leaders will continue to look for ways to provide equitable educational opportunities for students in all contexts, including discipline.
 
“While our members have deep concerns with how the Office of Civil Rights has investigated districts for discipline discrimination, our members are not taking their cues from Washington. They are engaging or have already engaged in this hard work because of what they know is best, and what their community wants and needs them to do. Discipline is the most local of local control issues and while the federal government has a responsibility to ensure intentional discrimination is not occurring, we would caution anyone from putting too much weight into the power of this guidance.”

*The preliminary data referenced above comes from a survey jointly administered by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, the Association of Educational Service Agencies, and the Association of School Business Officials International in late March/early April 2018 and is part of ongoing federal advocacy efforts.

For additional questions, please contact Sasha Pudelski, AASA advocacy director, at spudelski@aasa.org.

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About AASA
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.