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Education: Resolution EDU-13-34

FACILITATING SAFE AND SUPPORTIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

WHEREAS, a safe and supportive school climate is a necessary precursor for effective teaching and learning;

WHEREAS, excellence in academic achievement and an effective school discipline system that promotes positive and pro-social behavior go hand-in-hand;

WHEREAS, effective instruction requires school and classroom practices that ensure students are engaged in behaviors conducive to learning;

WHEREAS, there is a direct correlation between student behavior and student engagement in the classroom, and in order to sufficiently address issues of behavior, schools must ensure that classroom instructional practices are culturally responsive;

WHEREAS, exclusionary discipline approaches, such as out-of-school suspension and expulsion as a first resort, have been shown to be ineffective approaches for addressing problems of student discipline and behavior;

WHEREAS, national reports by the American Psychological Association, the Council of State Governments, the National Association of School Psychologists, and several other organizations have found little evidence to suggest that the use of suspension and expulsion improves student behavior or school climate;

WHEREAS, disciplinary strategies that exclude students from school are associated with decreased student engagement, lower academic achievement, and an increased likelihood of lower graduation rates, school dropout and involvement with the juvenile justice system;

WHEREAS, students suspended or expelled from school are five times more likely to repeat a grade and/or drop out; a single suspension or expulsion nearly doubles the likelihood that a student will come into contact with the juvenile justice system by the end of the following school year;

WHEREAS, students of color, especially African-American and Latino students, are disproportionally exposed to these negative effects by being consistently over-represented in the use of out-of-school suspension and expulsion;

WHEREAS, data released by the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, showed that Black students were three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their White classmates; in districts that reported expulsions under zero-tolerance policies, Latino and African-American students represent 45 percent of the student body, but 56 percent of the students expelled under such policies, with 20 percent of Latinos receiving out-of-school suspensions;

WHEREAS, this over-representation is not caused simply by an association with the effects of poverty, nor does the data show that disciplinary disparities are due to higher rates of disruption on the part of students of color;

WHEREAS, schools should replace disciplinary practices that criminalize student misbehavior with models that have proven to be effective in nurturing positive social behaviors that are desired in the classroom;

WHEREAS, an emerging model system of school-wide discipline is Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), which guides the selection and integration of the best evidence-based academic and behavior practices for improving academic and social outcomes;

WHEREAS, the U.S. Department of Education has funded the implementation of PBIS because it has been successful in reducing disciplinary incidents, increasing school safety, and improving academic outcomes;

WHEREAS, another model system of school-wide discipline is restorative justice, which identifies and takes steps to repair harm, involves all stakeholders, and transforms the traditional relationship between communities and their governments in responding to crime, having been found highly promising in reducing rates of disciplinary referrals and increasing rates of positive and pro-social student behavior, thereby improving school climate and student mental health, and reducing teacher burnout; and

WHEREAS, it cannot be assumed that a universal intervention approach to improving school discipline will necessarily reduce long-standing racial and ethnic achievement and discipline gaps; rather, all effective discipline approaches must infuse principles of cultural responsiveness in order to specifically address achievement and discipline gaps.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) supports efforts aimed at reducing school discipline policies that push students out of school and into the juvenile justice system;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NBCSL encourages legislators to examine effective strategies, such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, restorative justice practices, and other effective measures for promoting improved school discipline and a safe and supportive school environment, and, in particular, reducing ubiquitous racial and ethnic disparities in school discipline outcomes;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that such systems should be built upon the following principles and components:

  • clearly defined behavioral expectations;
  • data-based decision-making;
  • disaggregation of data and application of culturally responsive principles;
  • strength-based approaches;
  • attention to issues of school climate and the increased use of school-based mental health services; and
  • procedures for resolution of conflict;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NBCSL is committed to identifying and sharing various effective models of culturally responsive instruction and discipline that have been developed throughout the country;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NBCSL applauds the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, a combined effort on the part of the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to reduce school discipline policies that push children out of school and into the juvenile justice system;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NBCSL supports the increased use of a range of positive behavioral strategies in schools so students are not simply punished for misbehavior, but shaped towards positive and pro-social behavior;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NBCSL supports replacing models of zero-tolerance discipline with a graduated system of discipline that carefully defines infractions and their relationship to consequences, in order to avoid applying serious consequences to non-threatening misbehaviors (e.g. non-compliance);

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NBCSL recognizes student safety is paramount to a constructive learning environment, and, as such, NBCSL acknowledges at certain times it is necessary to remove a student from a learning environment due to safety concerns the student may pose to other students, school personnel, or him or herself;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NBCSL advocates for schools to establish a set of expectations at the school and classroom level that are clear for school staff, students, and families;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NBCSL promotes a data-based approach that includes the collection and regular review of disciplinary data to identify particular areas of behavioral difficulty, and to develop and implement solutions;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NBCSL advocates for particular attention to the longstanding and unresolved issue of racial and ethnic disparities in discipline, including the disaggregation by race/ethnicity of all discipline and instructional data, and the use of that data to promote culturally responsive instruction and classroom management; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be transmitted to the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, and other federal and state government officials as appropriate.

SPONSOR: Representative Gregory W. Porter (IN)
Committee of Jurisdiction: Education Policy Committee
Certified by Committee Chair: Representative Gregory W. Porter (IN)
Ratified in Plenary Session: Ratification Date is December 7, 2012
Ratification is certified by: Representative Barbara W. Ballard (KS), President


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