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October 12, 2017

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MRH Board Leading Effort to Fight "School to Prison" Pipeline

Maplewood Richmond Heights School Board President Katie Kaufman told assembled reporters Thursday morning that MRH is leading by example in the fight against disciplinary disparities in Missouri schools.  

The American Civil Liberties Union held a downtown St. Louis news conference to release findings of a study on inequities in the way discipline is administered to minority and disabled students.  The ACLU found that black students or students with disabilties are punished more severely and more frequently than their peers in schools across Missouri. 

Among the findings:

-  Black students in Missouri schools are 4.5 times more likely to be suspended than white students. 

- Corporal punishment is used twice as often on black students as whites.  (MIssouri is one of 19 states which still allow corporal punishment.)

- Between 2011 and 2014, the rate of students expelled from school in Missouri doubled. 

- Black students with disabilities were more than three times more likely to be suspended than white students with disabilities.

- Black boys are almost four times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than white boys. 

“The long-term effects of out-of-school suspension on a child’s future can be devastating, including an increased likelihood of dropping out of school and fewer employment opportunities,” said MRH's Katie Kaufmann, who is also director of Ready By 21 St. Louis. “It is important that the community as a whole – school districts, administrators, teachers, parents and advocates – work together to reform school discipline policies and implement supportive practices so all students can experience future success.”

As of the beginning of the current school year, MRH abolished out-of-school suspensions for kindergarten through 2nd grade.  At its elementary school and early childhood center, counselors and instructors are trained to get to the root of a student's undesirable behavior in an on-campus setting, with an eye toward re-engaging the student back into the academic environment.   

Also attending the ACLU news conference was University City Schools Superintendent Sharonica Hardin-Bartley.

"We must think differently about student discipline. As schools and learning organizations become more trauma informed, our practices should be more restorative in nature.  Punitive measures simply don't work.  Schools, teachers, administrators, parents need the appropriate training, policies, and support to effectively create a learning environment that is safe, nurturing, and most importantly one that humanizes the educational process for adults and students. Schools can't do this work alone," said Hardin-Bartley.

The ACLU issued an extensive list of recommendations.  

For parents:

- Learn your rights and your child’s rights at school. Ask educators to clearly explain disciplinary procedures. • Carefully review your school’s written disciplinary policies. • Learn more about your school’s use of school resource officers (SROs). • Use available resources, such as data from the federal Office for Civil Rights, to learn about disparities in discipline at your child’s school. • Learn how to appeal a school’s disciplinary action. • Parents of students with disabilities should make sure their child’s Individual Education Program (IEP) is correct, available to all educators, and implemented.

For students:

- Require information be provided about students’ rights while in schools. Communication should be clear about behavior expectations and punishments. • Learn what rights apply when students interact with law enforcement and with school administration. • Speak to parent or guardian about any perceived disciplinary inequalities in your school.

For students with disabilities:

- Make sure your school has clear policies on restraint and seclusion. • Know how the disciplinary hearing process is unique for students with disabilities. • Learn how the appeal process works at school, in case a student with a disability is subjected to disproportionate discipline.

The ACLU announcement can be viewed here. 

For more information, contact MRH School District at (314) 644-4400.