Minneapolis Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson has placed an immediate moratorium on suspending students in prekindergarten through 1st grade for nonviolent behaviors, the district announced Friday.
“For some of our youngest scholars, this is their first time in a structured learning environment,” Johnson said in an announcement posted on the district’s website. “Understanding and navigating the new rules and environment simply takes longer for some students than for others. This moratorium is part of our overall strategy to reduce suspensions at all grade levels.”
As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune notes, the district is under investigation by officials at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for “inconsistent suspension practices.”
The district will review data and may consider banning suspensions for nonviolent behavior in other grade levels, the announcement said.
In re-examining discipline policies, particularly for its youngest students, Minneapolis joins districts around the country that have revised discipline codes and kept a closer watch on data to watch for disparate discipline rates for students who belong to certain racial and ethnic groups. National data released by the Office for Civil rights in the spring showed continued discipline disparities and included new data about suspensions and expulsions of prekindergarten students. And, in August, the Star-Tribune reported significant increases in suspension rates for Minneapolis elementary school students.
That data release followed the issuance of new federal guidance on how districts should structure and implement discipline policies to avoid running afoul of civil rights laws.
Some have complained that broad changes in discipline policies may limit options for teachers and lead to more disruption in the classroom.
“Leaders with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers said there are better options than deciding ‘by rote how a student will or will not be disciplined,’” the Star-Tribune reported. “Rather than a blanket edict from the administration, the union continues to press for ‘counselors and mental health providers to be available in schools for students who may need them,’ said Lynn Nordgren, the union’s president.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.