The new school discipline rules will guide discipline policies to ensure rules are applied fairly across the state and will be enforced over the next two school years. Courtesy photo

The new school discipline rules will guide discipline policies to ensure rules are applied fairly across the state and will be enforced over the next two school years. Courtesy photo

Washington schools update student discipline rules

The new rules will minimize suspension and expulsions for minor offenses.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) recently adopted updated rules for student discipline in Washington State.

Last established in the 1970s, the new rules encourage schools to use best practices when addressing student behavior with the intent to decrease the use of suspensions and expulsions.

Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction, said today’s students and schools are greatly different than they were nearly 40 years ago and thus require updated rules.

“The new rules provide more clarity and they allow for student, family, and community input in developing local discipline policies,” Reykdal said in a press release. “While some students do occasionally need discipline, our approach must be different…We should do what we can to make suspensions and expulsions the last option while ensuring our schools are safe.”

In 2016, the Washington State Legislature passed a law designed to close opportunity gaps in learning, and thus the OSPI updated its student discipline rules. Three public comment periods and eight public hearings were held to gain feedback from families, students, educators, and community members during the process of rewriting the rules.

The new rules will guide school discipline policies to ensure rules are applied fairly across the state and will be enforced over the next two school years. This will give school districts time to apply new procedures, train staff and communicate with parents, families, and the community.

In general, the rules will:Encourage schools to use best practices while minimizing the use of suspensions and expulsions;

Prohibit schools from excluding students from school for absences or tardiness;

Further limit the use of exclusionary discipline for behaviors that do not present a threat to school safety;

Prohibit the use of expulsion for students in kindergarten through grade four; and

Clarify expectations for how school districts must provide students the opportunity to receive educational services during a suspension or expulsion.

Several Washington school districts say they have already applied changes in student discipline before the updated rules were formally adopted.

Jeff Hogan, Snoqualmie Valley School District’s assistant superintendent, said he fully supports the amended rules and that the district has been updating its policies in regard to student discipline for the past few years. He said it’s more important to find ways to keep students in school and engaged than enforcing outdated discipline that is counterproductive.

“We started changing our policies to keep students in school and engaged rather than stunt their education over more minor offenses,” Hogan said. “Back in the day if a student skipped school, it was the policy to suspend them. Seems kind of counterproductive, don’t you think?”

For the 2018-2019 school year, the new rules will not allow schools to suspend or expel a student from school for absences or tardiness. For the 2019–2020 school year, additional conditions and limitations on the use of suspension, expulsion, and emergency expulsion will go into effect.

Students who are suspended or expelled will have the opportunity to receive educational services. They will also be allowed to participate in the general education curriculum, meet educational standards, and to complete subject, grade-level, and graduation requirements. Students expelled or suspended for longer than 10 days will have a required reengagement plan in place before they return to school.

For SVSD, student discipline will include more community service, restitution and in-school suspension if necessary.

“Our goals are to give appropriate discipline to students and to shorten suspension and get kids reengaged as quickly as possible for when they are suspended for serious offenses,” Hogan said.

For more information on the updated student discipline rules and how they will be enforced throughout the next two school years, visit https://tinyurl.com/yczfkk2k.

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