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More than two thirds of all disciplinary actions in Arkansas public schools last school year consisted of in- and out-of-school suspensions, a practice that can exacerbate academic problems for students already struggling to learn, a new report says.

There were 109,133 in-school suspensions and 54,091 out-of-school suspensions, making up 69 percent of disciplinary sanctions levied in the state that has 478,318 public school students. Corporal punishment, or paddling -- 15,453 incidences -- made up 6 percent of disciplinary actions in Arkansas, which is one of 19 states in the nation that permits the use of corporal punishment in public schools.

That's all according to "School Discipline That Works: Better Options for Helping All Kids Learn and Thrive," released last week by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and Arkansas Opportunity to Learn Campaign.

Additional disciplinary measures include assignment of students to alternative learning environments and expulsions.

Ginny Blankenship, education policy director for the nonprofit Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and author of the report, wrote that there is growing evidence that the "outdated school discipline policies are doing more harm than good" and that suspensions and spanking "are not only ineffective at improving student behavior and school culture but also have negative long-term effects on mental health, graduation rates and preparation for college and careers."

Misbehaving students are often those who struggle the most with academic achievement. Suspending them from their classrooms has the effect of exacerbating the academic problems, Blankenship said. She also wrote that black students and students who have disabilities are punished more frequently and more severely than their classmates for the same behaviors.

"Regardless of whether you have kids, we should all care about how school discipline is used, because it affects the quality of neighborhood schools, community safety and costs to taxpayers," Blankenship wrote, adding that student discipline is also a factor in recruitment and retention of teachers.

The report, issued at a time when the Arkansas General Assembly is in session, is complimentary of legislative Acts 1329 of 2013, a discipline reporting act, and 1059 of 2017 that banned out-of-school expulsions for elementary pupils except in cases of physical risks.

The report offers discipline alternatives, such as the nationally used Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support system, restorative justice in which students can take responsibility and make amends for their actions, community partnerships that provide students with a healthy place to serve their suspension, and the use of calming practices such as yoga and breathing exercises.

Blankenship in the report recommends that the state provide additional resources to the Arkansas Department of Education to better support it and the school systems in complying with the 2013 discipline reporting law -- including reporting on ties between discipline sanctions and academic achievement.

Also proposed is the elimination of corporal punishment in schools, an expanded ban on suspensions to include sixth through eighth grade students, more school counselors, and more high-quality after-school and summer programs for students.

Another recommendation calls for partial use of state aid earmarked for low-income students to support community organizations that provide student mentoring and tutoring.

Still another proposal calls for including student discipline as a measure of school climate in each school's federal Every Student Succeeds Act calculation, which leads to a letter grade of A to F. The report says efforts also should be made to determine reading levels of students who are suspended or expelled, and provide them with dyslexia screening and any needed reading interventions.

The report, which includes 11/2 pages of references to state and national discipline research, is available on the Arkansas Advocates website: aradvocates.org.

Metro on 02/04/2019

Print Headline: Arkansas schools urged to reconsider punishments

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Comments

  • Vickie55
    February 4, 2019 at 8:49 a.m.

    Corporal punishment is bad, now suspensions are bad, are we letting the inmates run the prison? What about the education the rest of the class is not getting because one or two are disrupting the classroom?

  • GeneralMac
    February 4, 2019 at 8:56 a.m.

    VICKIE55

    BINGO !

    Seems there is so much concern for the kid who can't follow RULES and is a distraction but no concern for the rest of the kids in the class who have their learning disrupted.

    If you want to "coddle" the distractor don't do it at the expense of the TRUE victims.......the other students.

  • titleist10
    February 4, 2019 at 8:57 a.m.

    Vickie55 I agree 100 per cent our teachers are forced to do what the family used to do all goes back to breakdown of the family unit schools are just day care centers

  • GeneralMac
    February 4, 2019 at 8:59 a.m.

    My WWII Vet high school principal wasn't much for "coddling" kids who distracted or disrupted.

    He would say........."I can't force you to behave but I sure can make you wish you would have "

  • Foghorn
    February 4, 2019 at 12:18 p.m.

    Rather than suspending kids, I think parents - at least one parent - of repeat offenders, should be made to attend school - all day, every day - until the behavior is corrected. If your job is put at risk because your kid is a problem, you’re going to fix the problem much more quickly.

  • susan918crosbygmailcom
    February 4, 2019 at 12:50 p.m.

    Sadly the generation of kids that are in charge now are the children of baby boomers who wanted a better way to discipline. We have taken consequence out of punishment and made it easy for children (i.e. inmates) to run the prison. Until someone sees that only when there are consequences for your actions, regardless of your age, you are not going to be concerned about your attitude in school. I have seen this going on for 30 years or longer. It saddens me that we are in this position. Ah the progressive way of thinking...

  • 0boxerssuddenlinknet
    February 4, 2019 at 2:01 p.m.

    ask the legislature to consider a bill to fine the parents if the children misbehave.

  • crasher1
    February 4, 2019 at 2:44 p.m.

    Most if not all the recommenders are not in the classroom. Easy to play Monday Morning QB or sit in the stands and wonder how the game actually feels on the field.

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