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.