Q13 FOX Season of Giving

State schools chief says new student discipline rules should reduce suspensions, expulsions

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The state schools superintendent’s office has adopted new rules for student discipline that officials say should reduce the use of suspensions and expulsions in Washington.

“The state discipline rules were created four decades ago,” Chris Reykdal, the state superintendent of public instruction, said Monday. “Our students and schools are vastly different today. The new rules provide more clarity and they allow for student, family and community input in developing local discipline policies.

“While some students do occasionally need discipline, our approach must be different,” he said. “We should do what we can to make suspensions and expulsions the last option while ensuring our schools are safe. The numbers are clear: This is an equity issue, and some groups of students are impacted much more than others.”

Reykdal said that in the 2016-17 school year, 3.5% of all students in the state were suspended or expelled. However, he said, the rates were much higher than the average for certain groups — the rate for special education students was 7.1%; for black students, 7.4%; for Hispanic students, 4.1%.

In general, the new rules:

  • encourage schools to use best practices while minimizing the use of suspensions and expulsions;
  • prohibit schools from excluding students from school for absences or tardiness;
  • further limit the use of exclusionary discipline for behaviors that do not present a threat to school safety;
  • prohibit the use of expulsion for students in kindergarten through grade four; and
  • clarify expectations for how school districts must provide students the opportunity to receive educational services during a suspension or expulsion.