HISD proposal calls for ban on suspensions, expulsions for youngest students

Houston Independent School District students in second grade and below will no longer be sent home for disciplinary issues, according to a proposed policy update going before the Board of Education on Thursday.

Under the proposal, campus administrators would not be allowed to suspend or expel pre-kindergarten through second-grade students in response to behavioral or disciplinary issues — except as required by state law. The policy revision further explains that students in third through fifth grades should only be removed from the school setting as a last resort.

In coordination with the proposed change in policy, HISD will begin offering additional classroom management training to all elementary school teachers. The goal of the training is to help teachers better manage disruptive students so they don’t have to be removed from class, which ultimately benefits all students. HISD also is developing a teacher mentoring system to provide additional support to teachers.

The change is in response to research that shows young students — particularly those who are considered to be at-risk — often display challenging classroom behaviors as a result of outside trauma. Stressful situations outside of school, administrators say, often manifest in the form of unacceptable behaviors in the classroom.

“We understand better now than we ever have before how exposure to early adversity affects the developing brains and bodies of children,” HISD Superintendent Terry Grier said. “We must take a hard look at how we are handling these issues to ensure we’re not contributing to an already stressful situation for these students.”

The proposed policy revision is designed to ensure discipline is administered equitably throughout the district.

During the 2014-2015 school year, 2,673 disciplinary incidents were reported for elementary school students in pre-kindergarten through second grades. Of those, the vast majority of incidents — 87 percent — involved students who were considered to be economically disadvantaged, at-risk, or both.

Though African American students make up just 25 percent of the district population, they were involved in 70 percent of disciplines incidents for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade. Hispanic students, who make up 62 percent of the district population, were involved in 26 percent of the discipline incidents. White students, who make up 8 percent of the district population, were involved in just 3 percent of discipline incidents.

Male students make up just over half of the district population, but were involved in 84 percent of the discipline incidents reported for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade.

Under the proposed policy, administrators also would be prevented from placing pre-kindergarten through second-grade students in alternative education programs. School officials instead would be required to address the situation without physically sending the child home.

The policy change is in line with similar school districts around the country. Districts in Miami, Los Angeles and Seattle all are in the process of implementing similar policies, with some districts even going so far as to expand the plan to include all elementary grades.

Research shows that students who are exposed to high doses of adversity are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors. HISD’s proposed policy revision is designed to help students overcome adversity in their home lives, rather than be continually punished for it.

Research has also shown that schools with lower suspension rates also have higher achievement rates and narrowed achievement gaps, while schools with higher suspension rates see the opposite effect.


2 thoughts on “HISD proposal calls for ban on suspensions, expulsions for youngest students

  1. L. Murph

    In regards to the proposed plan to eliminate suspensions for grades pre-k, first, and second, all I have to say is before you vote “yes” please think about the other 22 kids in the class whose behavior is not impeding learning yet one student’s behavior is so destructive it is impeding learning for ALL the students in that class.
    Implementing extra training for teachers is not the answer if you are not going to suspend students then you better be ready to have a para for each class.
    Did anyone bother to have a round table to discussion with the teachers who are in the situations daily ? If you speak to them personally you might inform yourself with enough information to make an educated vote.

  2. The one

    I wonder if teachers were included in the research. We are in the classrooms. One child can be the cause of all the chaos in the room. What about the other 27 students?

    I have been teaching for mor than 25 years, across all grade levels in an elementary setting. Within the 25 years, I’ve taught in 4 district school districts in Texas and on the East coast.

    Training teachers to handle adverse behavior is a start but will not solve the problem if the proposal doesn’t mandate each school in HISD to adopt and pay for school wide discipline plan. A plan I am familiar with is PBIS. It is a 3 tier system designed to shape behavior positively. The entire school uses the same common language. Everyone is accountable, teachers, parents administrator and students. It a freezes most behaviors but targets extreme behaviors that may need extreme interventions outside of the classroom. RtI is also apart of the system. With PBIS there exist in school detention, depending on the level of offense the student could receive 1 hour, half a day, ancillary, lunch time in a room with study carols, white walls books, and a monitor to maintain the discipline. If student is there lunch time, lunch is brought in to them. I taught at a school last year and was hit repeatedly by a first grader. I received bruises. It is not okay for a student to strike a teacher. The administrator at the school did nothing so the student’s behavior escalated. He struck another teacher.
    The proposal should a budget for a discipline plan package.
    The proposal should also include administrators to be accountable to create a safe environment for all students.

    There are some schools in HISD with classes in peek through second grade with 28 or more students. Administrators simply complete a checklist form for a request to exceed the 22:1 ratio and poof permission granted. Administrators again are not asked to justify with meaningful documentation why such waiver is necessary.
    Does the proposal consider children who demonstrate mental health issues? While diagnosticians are available and resouceful the process is lengthy and time consuming. It can take from 6 to 8 months for troubled children to get the necessary placement. In the meantime the other 26 students have lived in a classroom with a student throwing desks, books, kids getting attacked and furniture being tossed every day.

    I have taught students who suffered many types of mental illnesses, bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, oppositional defiance, emotionally disturbed, ADHD, severe anger management issues and it was hell with every single one . I am sure those who are proponents of this proposal would not have lasted 3 days.

    Finally, let’s do what makes sense, table the proposal for a year. Allow the schools to research a discipline plan that fits with their campus, roll out the new rules. HISD do things that are systematically correct for all individuals. That is how you run a business.

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