Minneapolis Superintendent Bernadeia
Photo via Star Tribune
In a victory for the youngest students in Minneapolis, MN, and an important step for the city in ending harsh school discipline, the district has banned suspensions for students in prekindergarten, kindergarten and first grade for nonviolent misbehaviors.
Across the country, students of color and students with disabilities are more likely to be suspended and expelled than their white and non-disabled peers for minor misbehaviors. The disparities exists even at the pre-k level: a U.S. Department of Education report released in March shows that nationally, Black preschools make up just 18 percent of the school population but receive half of all suspensions.
When a student is suspended, they may fall behind in their school work or become disengaged from class, increasing the likelihood that they will drop out, which in turn increases their chances of winding up in the criminal justice system.
Today, more districts across the country are recognizing the link between harsh discipline and school dropout rates and are making changes to their discipline codes.
But banning suspensions is only a first step. The next crucial step is for districts to invest in and ensure that schools can afford counselors and other resources to support students who many need a bit of extra help focusing or behaving in class.
To that end, check out the OTL Campaign's Restorative Justice toolkit for positive discipline strategies that teachers can use in their classrooms.