School Climate & Safety

Seattle Puts a One-Year Pause on Some Suspensions for Elementary Students

By Evie Blad — September 24, 2015 1 min read
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Seattle schools will take a one-year pause from suspending elementary school students for infractions like disruption and disobedience while leaders create a plan to reduce suspensions district wide and to ensure they are administered consistently from school-to-school, the Seattle Times reports.

From the paper:

The resolution originally proposed placing a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions for any offense other than ones that threatened health and safety. It was amended to target suspensions only for disruptive conduct, rule breaking and disobedience. In the 2014-15 school year, 111 elementary students were suspended for disruptive behavior, 10 were suspended for rule breaking and 25 were suspended for disobedience, according to district data. The three offenses make up about a fourth of all elementary-students suspensions. A significant number of the rest of the suspensions were for assault, fighting and threats of violence, which are all considered exceptional misconduct and warrant an immediate suspension."

Schools around the country have taken aim at limiting classroom removal for vague infractions like “defiance” and “disobedience,” citing research that such rules are often subjectively and inconsistently applied, fueling disproportionate discipline rates for some student groups.

As I wrote last year:

In first-of-its-kind civil rights guidance on discipline released this year, the U.S. departments of Education and Justice recommend that districts clearly define broad offenses, such as 'acting in a threatening manner,' to ensure they are applied fairly. In addition, a consensus report released in July by the Council of State Governments, with input from a variety of organizations, recommends clarifying 'ambiguous catch-all terms' in discipline codes as a way of ensuring fairness."

Such recommendations led the California legislature to ban suspensions for willful defiance in kindergarten through 3rd grades and expulsions for willful defiance in older grades. At the district level, many school systems are exploring similar policy changes.

Related reading on suspensions:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.