School Discipline Policy Update

Last Updated: June 25, 2011

This article appeared in the June 2011 Rural Policy Matters.

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Across the country community groups and others concerned about young people have begun to push back against the growing trend for schools to use severe and punitive discipline in response to non-violent student misbehavior. Addressing school discipline, especially harsh punishments that push students out of school, has been identified as a major concern of many rural community residents. This occasional series highlights some of the most basic issues in the national conversation about school discipline.

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Seclusion and Restraint

Mississippi’s Jackson Public School District is being sued by Southern Poverty Law Center in federal court over the use of restraints in its Capital City Alternative School. The complaint alleges that students were handcuffed for nonviolent offenses such as dress code violations and forced to eat lunch while cuffed. SPLC sent a letter of concern to the district in April. The district responded only by stating that school officials had been reminded of the board policy that physical restraints should be used only when students display "physically violent behavior."

The U.S. Department of Education has promised districts guidance on the use of seclusion and restraint before the opening of the coming school year. There is at present no federal regulation on the practices, although in recent years several states and districts have created their own standards.

Read more:

Recently-released parents’ guide on how to prevent use of seclusion and restraint and how to deal with incidents of seclusion and restraint in schools:

Coverage on Mississippi suit:

Coverage on forthcoming guidance from U.S. Department of Education:

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the Children’s Law Center, and other Kentucky advocacy organizations have filed an Office of Civil Rights complaint against Jefferson County Public Schools (Louisville), arguing that JCPS, through its implementation of zero tolerance policies and vague discipline procedures, is disciplining students with disabilities more harshly and more frequently than students without disabilities. These harsh punishments include school suspensions, juvenile court referrals, and involuntary placement and retention in highly restrictive alternative programs.

Coverage on the Jefferson County lawsuit:

Read more from the June 2011 Rural Policy Matters.

Related Categories: Rural Policy Matters

Related Tags: Discipline