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Challenging Assumptions Regarding School Discipline

It’s only August, but already many families’ minds are turning to back-to-school issues. Certainly this is true for many of the families we see and work to support, given that the stresses of school often contribute greatly to behavioral challenges.  Furthermore, many families contend with ongoing worries about how their school’s discipline practices may impact their child.

A recent story in the Washington Post caught our eye in this regard.  It discusses a large study of Texas schoolchildren showing that nearly identical schools—in terms of student demographics, teacher experience, and a host of other variables—suspended and expelled students at
very different rates.  The article talks about how this “discipline gap” isn’t reflective of, for instance, one school having tougher kids than another, or anything else for that matter, but rather “it’s a choice that schools make.”

Of course, it’s a choice that is not without significant consequences, as the data from this and many other studies indicate that “suspension or expulsion greatly increases a student’s risk of being held back a grade, dropping out, or landing in a juvenile justice system.”

We know that, increasingly, many schools are making a very different choice about how to handle students with behavioral challenges—the audience at our recent Tier 1 Advanced Training was made up predominantly of educators—but much work remains to be done. This fall, as your own child returns to school, do what you can to educate staff at your child’s school about our approach, and see if you can’t help them rethink school discipline practices. And if we can, let us know how we can help!

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