Boston Takes the Lead in MA Discipline Reform

Just over one year ago, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed the Chapter 222 legislation, a school discipline reform law requiring districts to revise their Codes of Conduct to issue suspensions and expulsions only as a last resort. Last week, Boston Public Schools (BPS) became the first district in the state to adopt a new Ch. 222-aligned Code of Conduct, a full year in advance of the 2014 deadline set by the state legislation. It's thanks to advocates and organizers across the city (many of the OTL allies!) that Boston has taken the lead on this issue.

The new Code of Conduct, which was passed unanimously by the BPS School Committee, is aimed at ending the school-to-prison pipeline by permitting school exclusion only as a last resort. Instead, the law "requires alternatives to exclusion, such as restorative justice practices, and it requires services for any students excluded from school," said Tom Mela, Senior Project Director with Massachusetts Advocates for Children and member of the Chapter 222 Coalition.

"The new Code of Conduct, issued a year earlier than requied by Chapter 222, demonstrates educator support for its school discipline reforms. It paves the way for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to issue broad implementing regulations and for other school districts to adopt comprehensive code revisions," Mela said.

Youth leaders with the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) and other student groups were instrumental in pushing for the new discipline policy. Last year, participants in BSAC's Listening Project spoke with hundreds of youth at train stations, in schools and at forums about their experiences with school discipline. 

From the BPS press release:

“Our schools are safer than ever and it’s because we have students, parents and teachers who care about stopping problems before they begin. The fact that these changes were developed by students and parents, who know our families best, means it is yet another thing our public schools are doing right.” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

You can read the new Code of Conduct here, and learn more about Chapter 222 by reading this summary (PDF) of the legislation by Massachusetts Advocates. 

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