Dallas ISD has established an aggressive timeline to complete conversations toward a goal and support plan to eliminate suspensions in the 2021–2022 school year, while still having any serious infraction go through the disciplinary alternative education program.
At the April 8 board briefing, district leaders told trustees that local and national data shows that Black and Hispanic students are disproportionately suspended. Acting Chief of School Leadership Orlando Riddick said it’s a moral imperative to rethink school discipline.
“This is a different mindset,” Riddick said. “But we need to work to resolve the underlying issues students face instead of watching them go through an ongoing cycle of behavior issues again and again.“
District officials have been meeting with principals, teachers, parents and students to rethink out-of-school suspensions. 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 employee 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.
For Emmett J. Conrad High School Principal Temesghen Asmerom, rethinking out of school suspensions could have a powerful impact on his school community.
“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.”