DCPS limits out-of-school suspensions with new policy

Mattias Rolett

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The DC Council is setting limits on out-of-school suspension for the coming school year. The policy, which was spearheaded by DC Councilmember David Grosso, encourages more suspensions to be held in-school where educational guidance is available.

The policy stipulates that suspensions exceeding 10 days in a row must be served in school, and a student cannot have more than 20 out-of-school suspension days in a single school year. 

“One of the points of the legislation was to increase the number of in-school days for students who are most at risk for not matriculating from one grade to the next or graduating,” said Principal Kimberly Martin. “This legislation will stop students who get multiple day suspensions [from getting an out-of-school suspension] where there could be another form of restitution.” 

Furthermore, out-of-school suspensions can have damaging psychological effects on children. Many students feel demoralized as a result of such suspensions, according to studies by the University of Virginia. 

According to the Government Accountability Office in a study from 2013-2014, despite a student body percentage of just above 50 percent for white children and just below 50 percent for minority students, minority students were found to account for over two-thirds of all suspensions in that school year.

 Principal Martin has similar concerns. “The school-yard to prison-yard pipeline has been researched for about 15 years as far as school management and suspension policies that exacerbate the criminalization of students of color and coerce and encourage them into the criminal justice system,” she said. The new policy aims to address these concerns.

The policy follows DCPS legislation mandating how long a student has to be at school and in class in order to be marked as present for the day. It is also an attempt to give struggling students more assistance in the classroom. 

Many students receive help on their schoolwork during in-school suspension. Instead of sitting in a teacher’s room unproductively, students can complete their homework or ask the supervising teacher questions about the content. When a student is not physically in school, they might opt to not complete any work or might not be able to. At least during an in-school suspension, a teacher can encourage their student to get work done, and the student has that possibility.

This suspension policy will not go into effect until next school year and current suspension policies still apply.