On Jan. 8, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released guidelines and resources to assist states, districts and schools in establishing discipline practices. The goal of the guidance package is to reduce the number of unnecessary school suspensions and keep students in class where they can learn. In addition, the guidance package will help create safe, positive school climates, which are essential to improve student academic success and close achievement gaps. The guidance package also is designed to empower parents to advocate for change on behalf of students and partner with schools to improve safety and ensure that responses to misbehavior are effective.
Under current discipline policies in many schools, significant numbers of students miss class each year due to suspensions and expulsions. These suspensions often are in response to minor infractions of school rules and result in loss of class time and a disruption in learning for the students impacted. Research also shows an association between student suspensions and academic failure, dropping out and involvement in the juvenile justice system.
The guidance package consists of four components:
- A letter directed to school leaders that describes how schools can meet their legal obligations under federal law to administer student discipline;
- Key principles and related action steps that can help guide state and local efforts to improve school climate and school discipline;
- A directory of federal school climate and discipline resources that are available to districts, schools and parents; and
- A comprehensive online catalogue of the school discipline laws and regulations for each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as well as a comparison of laws across states and jurisdictions.
National PTA supports discipline programs to provide an orderly climate for learning. The Association believes all programs should emphasize the positive behaviors of students and include a strong family engagement component. National PTA applauds the guidelines and resources issued by the Departments of Education and Justice because they incorporate the importance of family engagement and provide effective ways schools can improve behavior and create safe and positive learning environments.
National PTA urges state and local units to utilize the resources in the guidance package and work with school boards and administrators to encourage the adoption of discipline policies and procedures that will result in positive student behavior and help create safe and supportive learning environments for all students.
At the national level, the Association is committed to working with Congress and the Administration to strengthen programs and make meaningful changes to protect all children and improve education.