School districts with high or disparate rates of student suspensions will be required by the state to develop plans to address the issue within the next several years.
The ACLU is working with the Red Clay Consolidated School District in a pilot program to prepare for that planning effort.
The State’s School Discipline Improvement Program aims to address disparate rates of disciplinary actions — particularly against black students and students with disabilities.
The ACLU of Delaware, along with Network Delaware and the Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow, are providing training to Red Clay parents and educators on fair discipline, ahead of state requirements.
Schools that will be required to revamp their student discipline systems have not been identified yet, but Red Clay officials say they want to give educators the tools to reduce suspension rates now.
“Some things that they proposed to us were doing some training on things like restorative practices, trauma-informed care, implicit bias, cultural competency— all best practices on ways in which to reflect on ourselves before we do discipline,” said District Equity Officer Tawanda Bond.
Shannon Griffin of the ACLU of Delaware says the trainings focus in part on shifting toward a more restorative model of school discipline.
“So it’s not like, you did X, and our code of conduct says you get this,” she said. “It’s about, you did X— why did you do X? … Do you know that when you did X you impact this person this way and this person this way? And that you caused harm to yourself? So it’s having those kind of opportunities to get to root causes of the situation, so that students really have an opportunity to think about what they did, and then … come back to the community in ways that are positive.”
Griffin says suspensions affect a student’s ability to graduate or graduate on time, and may make a student more likely to become involved with the criminal justice system.
Data from the 2017-2018 school year show statewide out-of-school suspension rates sat at roughly 8 percent for all students, 14 percent for black students, and 16 percent for students with disabilities.
During the 2017-2018 school year, twenty schools state-wide were identified as exceeding a 20 percent threshold of suspension rates for one student subgroup, such as students with disabilities, with three of these schools in the Red Clay Consolidated School District. Thirty-nine schools statewide exceeded the threshold in two or more student subgroups, with six of these schools in Red Clay.
State Department of Education officials say suspension rates during the 2018-2019 school year will be the first of three years used to determine which schools are required to form student discipline plans.
Brian Moore, program manager for the school climate and discipline program at the Delaware Department of Education, says Red Clay is among several districts taking a proactive approach to school discipline reform under the State’s School Discipline Improvement Program.