After seeing that out-of-school suspensions were not impacting a student’s conduct, Emmett J. Conrad High School Principal Temesghen Asmerom rethought how his school could more effectively respond to student misbehavior.
Asmerom and his school leadership team diligently worked with teachers on ways to intervene and respond to incidents that could lead to out-of-school suspensions, while emphasizing social and emotional learning throughout the day. Due to the change in perspective, Conrad reduced the number of out-of-school suspensions, while still holding students accountable for their actions.
“Sending students home to an environment that might have shaped their behavior and where they are isolated and disconnected is just not the best approach in many cases,” Asmerom said. “We rarely suspend students. It’s not because we don’t have incidents, it’s just a change in perspective and trying to get the right processes in place.”
Dallas ISD officials have been meeting with principals, teachers, parents and students to rethink out-of-school suspensions, while still having any serious infraction go through the disciplinary alternative education program. The Dallas ISD Board of Trustees in 2017 eliminated out-of-school suspensions for the district’s younger learners who commit low-level infractions.
Based on the feedback, the district is looking to fund a teacher allotment so every comprehensive middle and high school has a dedicated educator who would work with students who might, in the past, behave in a way that would lead to an out-of-school suspension. Each comprehensive middle and high school would have a dedicated center to intervene and work with these students, while still keeping them engaged in their schoolwork and learning.
The district is also looking to train teachers and staff on best social and emotional learning practices and conflict resolution, while increasing access to counseling and mental health services.
“The idea is that if the student misbehaves and acts in a way that is not correct, we can bring in supports to find out why that student is acting this way,” Assistant Superintendent Vince Reyes said. “We want to create a system of support and accountability around the student instead of just sending them home.”
A different approach
While working with a school, Dallas ISD Executive Director Melody Paschall encountered a student who refused to follow dress code. Instead of sending the kid home, Paschall talked with the student and learned they were feeling isolated and having personal issues. The school paired the student with a mental health clinician, and today the student is doing noticeably better and following dress code.
“We aren’t saying that kids won’t face consequences,” Paschall said. “What we’re saying is that the focus is more on figuring out and addressing the root of the problem.”