On Tuesdays around here we like to highlight The Toolbox. This is an all day training program focused on the disciplinary options with students with disabilities. Does the new federal law speak to this? No—certainly not directly. The details about the discipline of special education students are contained in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Congress has not amended IDEA since 2004, and we don’t hear much rumbling about that happening this year.
However, there is one provision in the new federal law that we think is important and relevant with regard to your student discipline program. The new federal law is The Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act. So it’s out with NCLB and in with ESSA. ESSA, like its predecessors, makes federal money available to states and local districts that meet certain requirements. One major requirement is that the state must submit a plan outlining how it will serve students, and how it will implement the components of the law. That’s where we found the one little nugget that addresses student discipline.
Section 20 U.S.C. 6311(g)(1)(C) now states:
Each State plan shall describe…how the State educational agency will support local educational agencies receiving assistance under this part to improve school conditions for student learning, including through reducing—
(i) incidences of bullying and harassment;
(ii) the overuse of discipline practices that remove students from the classroom; and
(iii) the use of aversive behavioral interventions that compromise student health and safety.
The law also requires a “State Report Card” that will disclose how much the state and each district is using suspension (both out of school and in-school), expulsion and contact with law enforcement.
Notice the law speaks of the “overuse” of practices that remove students from the classroom. There is nothing in this law that prohibits the use of the traditional tools of student discipline. But the law seeks to move us away from an “overuse” of these tactics, toward practices that focus on inclusion and the restoration of a healthy school climate.
This new law provides your district a great opportunity to explore the use of Restorative Practices. Restorative Practices focus on inclusion, rather than separation; relationship building, rather than crime and punishment. So if you have not yet looked into Restorative Practices, please do. It’s the wave of the future and the future starts right now.
DAWG BONE: ESSA WILL NUDGE US TOWARD RESTORATIVE PRACTICES WITH STUDENTS.