Dayton Public to limit suspensions

Dayton’s school board unanimously agreed Tuesday night to begin limiting out-of-school suspensions, after a months-long review of the district’s code of conduct and a public campaign by Racial Justice Now.

The board approved a resolution saying Dayton Public Schools “will make every effort to reduce out-of-school suspensions and alternative placements for all students.”

The resolution also says teachers will be trained next year in “cultural competency skills that can prevent problems from arising.” The district plans to teach “self-regulation” to preschool students rather than suspend them when the issue involves nonviolent behavior.

Racial Justice Now is a local organization upset that Dayton Public Schools’ out-of-school suspension rate is four times higher than the state average, despite research saying those suspensions are not effective. They asked Dayton’s school board to end all out-of-school suspensions for preschool through third-graders next year, and ban all suspensions for nonviolent offenses the following year.

RJN’s co-founders – University of Dayton law professor emeritus Vernellia Randall and Maria Holt, mother of a DPS student – said Tuesday’s board action was a step in the right direction, but didn’t go far enough.

“Right now it’s just a resolution,” Randall said. “To make long-term change that is not subject to who the administrators are at the time, you need a policy-level change.”

Holt said their group will keep working to make that happen, adding that they plan to attend upcoming DPS policy committee meetings.

School board President Robert Walker said there was agreement on the board that out-of-school suspensions are not the most effective discipline measure.

“This is pushing us to look at more creative and innovative ways to embrace children who are challenged in the classroom,” Walker said. “Is it going to be easy? Absolutely not.”

Dayton teachers union president David Romick said the training that teachers will receive is still being developed, but he was generally happy with the language the board approved.

“The policy is structured around the new code of conduct, which was revised this year,” Romick said. “We were pleased that as usual, teachers were involved in that process. … We are pleased with the way this is written.”

The changes to the code of conduct included removing dress code violations, insubordination, profanity and truancy from the list of suspendable offenses. Language on the zero tolerance policy was removed from the code of conduct, and prevention and intervention strategies were clarified.

“This issue is sweeping our country, and we think Dayton is moving in the right direction to ensure that all students, even disruptive students, can have the right to an education,” Holt said.

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