The Obama administration says too many kids are being sent home from school for minor disciplinary reasons.
“Thanks to the Montgomery County, MD schools for moving their discipline policy away from out-of-school suspensions,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said on Twitter on Monday, praising the suburban Washington school system for revising its rules for the punishment.
Duncan’s endorsement of treating out-of-school suspensions as a last resort comes as no surprise. The Obama administration has repeatedly called on schools to move away from out-of-school suspensions whenever possible.
“Too many schools resort too quickly to exclusionary discipline, even for minor misbehaviors,” Duncan said in a speech in Baltimore earlier this year.
“Exclusionary discipline is so common that in some cases, pre-K students as young as 3- and 4-years old are getting suspended,” he added. “Here in Maryland, 91 pre-K students were suspended or expelled during the 2011-12 school year.”
Critics contend that minorities tend to be expelled at a much higher rate than their peers, a reason Duncan cited as cause to revise the codes of conduct at schools nationwide.
“Our department’s Civil Rights Data Collection shows that African-American students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be expelled or suspended,” Duncan said in January. “And we know that discipline policy and practices matter tremendously — there is nothing inevitable about high rates of suspension and expulsion. We can, and must, do much better.”
Those who defend the use of out-of-school suspensions argue that they are an effective deterrent.
Under Montgomery County’s new policy, a student possessing a small amount of marijuana, for example, could be required to do community service rather than miss time at school.