Detroit school district revises code to reduce suspensions

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DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Public Schools Community District revised its student code of conduct in order to keep more students in school after recording 16,000 suspensions last year.

The initiative aims to be less punitive and more focused on teaching positive behavior and conflict resolution, the Detroit Free Press reported . The new code changes punishment guidance to address behavior through parent conferences or restorative practices.

"All children, all human beings, make mistakes and we have to create a culture where students learn from their mistakes, yet they know there are clear consequences," Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said at a recent meeting.

Vitti said the district is also considering out-of-school suspension centers so students who must be removed from campus can keep up with schoolwork with certified teachers. The centers won't be open in time for the upcoming school year but will be part of future planning, he said.

It wouldn't be mandatory for students to attend the centers, but the district would provide transportation.

"A certified teacher or a group of certified teachers would work with the student and you would have the wraparound services there as well to start addressing some of the issues that aren't being addressed that led to the negative behavior," Vitti said.

Detroit Board of Education member Misha Stallworth said revamping the student conduct code is an important step toward "disrupting the school to prison pipeline."

Infractions will now be categorized by four levels. The old code allowed for a student who committed an infraction determined to be the least serious, such as insubordination or loitering, to receive a short-term suspension.

The new code doesn't suggest suspension until repeated referrals for discipline.

Stallworth said, "Student codes of conduct are often one of the first places we start to over-criminalize our kids, by being extremely punitive."

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com


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