Olympia’s new discipline plans say schools must be fairer and work with parents

Got thoughts about school discipline? Olympia wants you to weigh in on a set of new proposed rules. Foremost among them: more connection between families, students and educators.

For the first time, education leaders in Olympia are officially stating that school discipline must be “culturally responsive” and families and communities must be part of efforts to address student misbehavior.

In a series of proposed new policies to make school discipline fairer, the state’s education department has spelled out several guiding values. Parents, students and teachers will have a chance to weigh in at four public hearings over the next two months.

The new language heartened Vanessa Hernandez, education equity director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, who often fields complaints from parents reporting that their perspectives are ignored when schools send disruptive students home.

Hearings on discipline rules:

Oct. 17, 1:30-4:30 p.m.

Educational Service District 101, Classroom 1, 4202 S. Regal St., Spokane

Oct. 30, 3-6 p.m.

Educational Service District 105, Klickitat Room, 33 S. Second Ave., Yakima

Nov. 7, 1-5 p.m.

Educational Service District 121, Cedar/Duwamish Room, 800 Oakesdale Ave., Renton

Nov. 13, 1-4 p.m.

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Brouillet Room, 600 Washington St. S.E., Olympia

Source: OSPI

“Parents want to be treated as at least equal partners in their children’s education,” said Hernandez, offering cautious optimism at the gist of the new rules. “They lay out the purpose of discipline as something to help students achieve personal and academic success. And also to keep students in the classroom as much as possible. That’s a good thing and completely new,” she said.

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The proposed updates come in response to a new state law and mounting evidence that black students and those with disabilities are suspended and expelled at rates that far outstrip any other group — even for similar infractions.

Among the new rules:

• No student can be suspended for being late or skipping classes.

• No child younger than fifth grade can be expelled (except for those who bring firearms to school).

• Any student who is suspended, even short-term, must receive schoolwork, a chance to make up assignments and academic help, if needed, while at home.

• During any long-term suspension or expulsion, schools must…

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