Indiana Bill Aims to Cut Unequal School Suspension and Expulsion Rates

Post-Tribune

By Meredith Colias-Pete

A bill looking to address the underlying causes of excessive school discipline passed a House committee on Tuesday.

Following a national trend, it would require school officials to create an “evidence-based” plan to address root causes of bad behavior before resorting to suspensions or expulsions.

The goal is to have school districts — with parental feedback — develop a graduated “positive discipline” system that leads to punitive punishment and lost school time only as a last resort. It would also require schools to factor in the role that formative traumatic stress plays on student behavior.

The bill passed the House Education committee on an 8-5 vote Tuesday.

Its chairman, Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said he was unsure if the bill would ultimately pass the House and expected further changes.

The measure is the latest lawmakers have considered in light of statistics released every two years by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights showing African-American and special education students often are disciplined at disproportionately higher rates.

Multiple proponents cited a 2014 U.S. Department of Education study that found Indiana was one of five states — including Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Rhode Island — that suspended boys across all racial lines at rates that exceeded national averages.

Using data from 2011-12, the federal report found African-American boys received suspensions at far higher rates than white students.

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