Describing the current disciplinary practices in Indiana school as creating “a crisis” that is disproportionately impacting African-American students, a new report is offering a framework for involving parents, educators, law enforcement and legislators to improve learning and reduce suspensions and expulsions in classrooms across the state.
The report, “Leaders Collaborating to Advance Positive School Discipline in Indiana Summit Report and Recommendation,” is a summation of ideas and solutions developed during a daylong meeting hosted by the Children’s Policy and Law Initiative of Indiana in October 2015. Professionals from a cross-section of education, government and legal sectors gathered in Indianapolis to discuss and brainstorm ways to prevent students from being kicked out of class.
“We’re very happy with the report,” said attorney and CPLI president JauNae Hanger. “I think it fairly reflects what was discussed by the different teams.”
The 16-page document contains nine recommendations aimed at fostering a learning environment in schools that will help more students to be successful. Noting that 22 percent of Hoosiers between the ages of 18 to 24 do not have a high school diploma or high school equivalency, the report asserts the state’s economic future is being impaired.
“Zero-tolerance practices are creating young adults who are uneducated and unemployable and feeding the school-to-prison pipeline at an alarming rate,” the report contends.
It cited stats showing 87,000 Indiana students lost 751,366 instructional days after being subjected to exclusionary discipline practices which included suspensions and expulsions. African-American students were disproportionately suspended or expelled at a rate of more than one in every five students compared to the overall rate of almost one in 10 Hoosier school children.
“High rates of exclusion result in poor learning environments, lost instructional time, student disengagement, academic failure, and increased risk of delinquency and juvenile justice involvement,” the report states. “This data coincides with a growing concern across the nation about how educational disciplinary practices are increasing the criminalization of children and contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline.”
The report emphasizes that bringing change will require a systemic approach rather than just two or three actions. As Hanger explained, the onus cannot be on a single group to do the work. A broad array of stakeholders from the home to school and in the Statehouse will have to take part.
“There is not one solution,” she said.
Likewise, the corresponding recommendations call for engaging the student and family along with collecting and analyzing disaggregated data from all school districts to expose practices that need to be changed and ensure transparency as well as accountability.
Also, the recommendations advocate using evidence-based best practices to create positive learning environments and providing regular training and professional development opportunities for school staff, faculty and administrators.
Vital to that training is state support. The final recommendation appeals for the state and the Legislature to provide resources and funding to support school discipline reform efforts. Hanger said the goal is to prevent youngsters and teenagers from going into the juvenile justice system, but schools need resources to help the teachers and law enforcement utilize alternative methods of discipline.
The report has been released to CPLI members and those who attended the summit. It will be sent to state legislators on education committee in both the Indiana House of Representatives and Senate as well as to the Indiana Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative and the Indiana Commission on Improving the Status of Children. It will also be given to professional associations, nonprofits, and child advocates.
CPLI is hosting meetings in August and October, Hanger said, to explore ways to determine the next steps to take to build on the momentum of the report.