School District Seeing Fewer Suspensions Amid Disciplinary Reform

This distracts new discipline reform act is making waves, and proving its worth as fewer students are given suspensions.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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discipline reform

Children need discipline, and there is no denying that. But how schools shell that out has come under scrutiny over the last few decades, as many experts question its effectiveness. As a growing concern, students are being given suspensions at record rates – yet behavior doesn’t seem to be changing. To combat this, a Texas school district has completely overhauled its policy for student punishment, and the discipline reform measure seems to be working well this year.

Beginning this school year, Dallas Independent School District did away with most traditional in-school and out-of-school suspensions. The new discipline reform policy implements an alternative to suspensions, placing students in Reset Centers instead. Showing promising results, the numbers show that a significantly fewer amount of students were reprimanded this year.

Last school year, the distinct’s middle schools and high schools gave 4,800 out-of-school suspensions, and 1,100 in school suspensions. By the end of this school year, the new discipline reform measure already proved its worth, with schools shelling out punishment at much lower rates. Only 1,168 referrals were made to the new Reset Centers. Furthermore, only about 100 of those students had to be referred back to the center for a second offense. 

The Reset Centers replaced most out-of-school suspensions, however, K12 Dive made note that the district did not completely do away with suspensions, as are needed for specific cases of high-level offense. As an alternative to in-school suspension, the Reset Centers are said to be a complete overhaul of how ISS used to operate in Dallas schools. Instead of having the feel of jail-like detention centers, the discipline reform act made Reset Centers a place of de-escalation, continued classwork, and an opportunity for students to discuss their behavior with better-trained staff and teachers.

Part of the process of enacting the new discipline reform policy was to put educators through extensive training. Through tiered student behavior support, professional development in mindfulness, social-emotional learning strategies, behavior management, and building positive relationships, teachers and students alike saw the benefits of the new training techniques. Furthermore, the rooms used for the Reset Centers were revamped, making them more welcoming.

When devising the discipline reform plan, district officials also looked at the process in which educators handed out punishments. For example, small offenses like swearing and such beforehand could have landed a student in in-school suspension. Now, teachers are equipped with a list of options to first consider, before sending them straight to Reset Centers. These options include behavior contracts, detention, and meditation. However, the school has made sure to continue reprimanding students for harsh offenses. For example, fighting offenses automatically land students in the Reset Centers for up to three days.

discipline reform

The district made the discipline reform movement possible through funds received through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief act. It proved to be quite the valuable endeavor for those allotted funds, as the $4 million investment has already proven to save the distinct more money. Just this year, the district has reported a savings of over $2 million. This is because fewer students are given out-of-school suspensions. In Texas, budgets are tied to in-person daily average attendances.

It is clear that the new discipline reform policy is making big waves inside Dallas schools. Fewer kids are being punished, and schools are saving money. But what is yet to be seen is whether or not it will have a major impact on student behavior. But still, it’s an innovative notion in a world chock full of unruly behavior being reported in schools, and it might just be the perfect model for other districts to look towards.