Letter to the Editor

Taking a positive approach to student discipline

Donna St. George’s July 20 news story on school discipline research [“Study challenges assumptions on school discipline”] reminded us that suspension and expulsion don’t positively change student behavior and may contribute to failing and dropping out. Compounding the problem is the study’s reported disproportionately higher suspension rate and lower graduation rate of African American students who were suspended, also cited in Russell Skiba’s seminal research.

Early intervention with behavioral counseling combined with social-emotional and instructional support can reduce the chances of a young person cycling from student to dropout to delinquent. Cleveland schools have successfully instituted systemwide interventions, including supportive centers  to replace in-school suspension for “discretionary offenses.” Miami-Dade County has rewritten its discipline code to stress positive behaviors. 

Many school systems are helping teachers connect with students to better address student strengths and problem-solving skills. Surveys have begun to show that students feel safer and more connected to school. 

Kevin P. Dwyer, Bethesda

The writer is a consultant to Cleveland public schools for the American Institutes of Research.

 
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