Students, Parents, Teachers To Protest School District’s Strict Discipline Code

These people must really want to see some changes, because they have kids thinking about school during the summertime: Students, teachers, and parents will be protesting the School District of Philadelphia‘s approach to discipline tomorrow at the school district building on North Broad Street. The call is for Philadelphia to follow other cities’ leads and lessen suspensions while focusing of fixing the problems and their root causes rather than just handing down punishments, to which we imagine school district employees said, “Wait, we have to fix things? Isn’t it summer?”

The Campaign for Nonviolent Schools claims that they were in contact with the School Reform Commission about changes to the discipline code, and the district just ignored them and made the code what they wanted it to be. In a letter drafted by students and presented to school district staff, the students have asked for, “restorative practices and/or other preventative discipline measures that focus on addressing root causes of issues rather than merely doling out punishment … [use of] exclusionary discipline (suspensions, expulsions, disciplinary transfers) as a last resort, and only for serious or repeated offenses … [and] a graduated discipline matrix one that allows for discretion on the part of teachers and principals and that emphasizes addressing misconduct at the lowest level of intervention possible.” You can read the whole letter after the jump, where students also ask for clearer guidelines on what can lead to an arrest.

For years, students, parents, teachers, and community advocates have been pushing the District to reform its disciplinary practices and end the overuse of suspensions, expulsions, and disciplinary transfers. The District has continually ignored community input and chosen to maintain a policy that doesn’t work. There is a plethora of research that now proves zero tolerance practices to be ineffective and many other large, urban school districts have made progressive changes to their codes of conduct. For example, in Chicago the School District has now voted to end out-of-school suspensions for minor offenses*. And in Denver, the state just passed a Smart School Discipline Law. ** This law is based on the Denver School District’s discipline policy that saw a 44% reduction in suspensions following its implementation.

We want the same thing for Philadelphia. We demand a smart school discipline policy that:

•Uses restorative practices and/ or other preventative discipline measures that focus on addressing root causes of issues rather than merely doling out punishment.
•Only uses exclusionary discipline (suspensions, expulsions, disciplinary transfers) as a last resort, and only for serious or repeated offenses.
•Includes a graduated discipline matrix one that allows for discretion on the part of teachers and principals and that emphasizes addressing misconduct at the lowest
level of intervention possible
•Provides clarity on the relationship between police and the school district so that students know what offenses could lead to arrest and that uses referral to law enforcement only as a last resort
•Includes accountability for teachers and administrators in following and implementing the code of conduct, specifically making their commitment by signing the code of conduct along with students and parents

We are calling on you to make these changes to the code of conduct. In addition, we specifically want the graduated discipline matrix (one that was crafted by years of work from students and community members) and all the language changes presented by David Lapp to the Safety & Engagement Committee to be included in the new code of conduct.

By signing below, you are committing that the School District of Philadelphia will implement the above-listed changes to the code of conduct that will begin in the 2012-2013 school year.

  • won226

    I find it hard to take this request seriously.  It’s not the school district’s responsibility to teach children right from wrong.  If kids have learned violence and disrespect from their parents what hope is there that a sternly worded reprimand from a teacher is going to stick when the child is just going right back home to violence and disrespect.

    Also, here’s some clarity on “what offenses lead to arrest”…breaking laws, that’s what.  If you happen to get away with softer punishment the first few times you break laws within a school building consider it a lucky break. Not an excuse to call foul when you get arrested for doing the same illegal thing again.

  • pftteacher1

    Philadelphia public schools students have no discipline  because the rules on the books are not enforced. Students are let into school out of uniform. They are allowed to bring electronic devices that disrupt classes. They constantly curse at teachers and each other. Threats to school personnel are ignored. Parents don’t want their kids at home for out of school suspension because they are afraid of what they might do unsupervised at home. If they raised their child to show some respect for themselves and others, the child would not get suspended for fighting, bullying or some other antisocial behavior. The solution is restorative practices, peer mediation, counseling and in school suspension as a last resort.  These things cost money. It’s more important to spend public money on charter schools and their profit making owners with friends in City Hall. The neighborhood schools are the repository of special needs students and discipline problems. What do you expect when you put all the problem kids in one place? Higher test scores? How do you privatize that?