Washington schools work to balance discipline, education

KREM 2's Alexa Block looked into how schools decide to discipline students for breaking rules is a very complicated matter.

SPOKANE, Wash. -- There has been a lot of discussion among parents about how students are disciplined at area schools. It stems in part from a Mead High School parent's outrage over how she said her daughter is being bullied at school.

This got some people wondering why schools shy away from using suspension and expulsion to combat bullying.

KREM 2 found out how schools decide to discipline students for breaking rules is a very complicated matter. Mead School District board members addressed the topic at Monday night's board meeting after hearing from the mother of the bullied teen. Mead School Board President Ron Farley acknowledged there are limitations when it comes to suspensions.

"Our desire to suspend somebody is also guided by what we can actually do, so it is a huge issue and I am not in any respect ever going to down play it,” said Farley.

This is something school districts face throughout the state. Schools have a responsibility to do something to stop a student’s misbehavior, but also make sure the student stays on track in the classroom.

All of the public school districts in Washington State seek guidance on policy from two governing bodies for the most part. The Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA) and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

These organizations work together to lay out what they call 'model policies'. School districts can use them as a template to design their own policies on student conduct. Or they can just use the model policies. This is determined by each individual school board.

According to the Classroom Management, Discipline, and Corrective Action policy, WSSDA recommends schools limit suspensions and expulsions.

The policy says the following: The board encourages the use of alternative forms of correction action when possible and practicable in light of the duty to maintain safe and orderly school environments conducive to student learning. District administrators may consider alternative forms of corrective action—including programs intended to lessen the time of exclusion from class attendance—which have been approved by the board and/or superintendent.


State education leaders ask schools to find other ways to discipline students with exceptions of violent offense, sexual offense, drug offenses, bringing a deadly weapon on campus among other offense listed in the policy.

Nathan Olson, spokesperson for OSPI, said the idea behind this to make sure the student is held accountable for their actions, while at the same time keeping them on track academically.

The policy says students who are denied attendance at school are denied the opportunity to learn.

A WSSDA spokesperson wanted to note the policy and procedure referred to in this story is under revision.

The spokesperson said they are waiting for OSPI to adopt new discipline rules before they issue a policy and procedure that fully reflects the significant changes made by lawmakers in 2016.

OSPI just issued proposed rules in September. They are in the public comment phase right now. WSSDA will issue an updated policy and procedure as soon as possible after OSPI finishes the rulemaking process.

State education officials in Idaho said they have a similar process for how school policies are designed.

© 2017 KREM-TV


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