Opinion: School discipline policies are taking the wrong approach
Some school discipline policies can leave the student worse off with learning, racial equity and juvenile justice system involvement.
While I am encouraged by the efforts from local school districts with regards to emotional health of students, there is a continued need to address the policies surrounding behavioral issues and school discipline.
Studies show that extreme external school disciplinary practices lead to decreased school performance in students, racial inequity in offenders and increased involvement with the juvenile justice system.
There is increasing positive evidence that clearly indicates the inclusion of trauma-informed programs to be highly effective. According to HEARTS (Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools), a trauma-informed program, outcomes from schools having implemented the HEARTS program have seen 32% decrease in total disciplinary office referrals and 43% decrease in incidents involving physical aggression after one year. Five-year outcomes show 87% decrease in total incidents, 86% decrease in incidents involving physical aggression and 95% decrease in out-of-school suspensions.
The discipline efforts in our schools need to be addressed to outcomes that are lasting and supportive. The outcomes from trauma-informed programs will aid in the prevention of racial inequity in school behavioral offenses and student involvement with the juvenile justice system. Our school districts would benefit from improved school discipline policies and should consider the implementation of a trauma-informed program.