IPS adopts code of conduct following high rate of suspensions, explusions

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Public Schools spent months crafting a code of conduct aimed at reducing the number of suspensions and expulsions.

The 40-page code of conduct, which was presented to the school board last Thursday, comes five months after an I-Team 8 investigation found more than 6,000 students were kicked out of class in the 2013-2014 school year, according to the most recent state data available. That’s one out of every five IPS students being suspended, a rate which administrators acknowledged at the time was “unacceptable.”

The district has never had a comprehensive, integrated code of conduct, according to Dr. Cindy Jackson, the district’s Positive Discipline Coordinator.

“The goal of this is to be more transparent and to provide more guidance and instruction to parents, students, teachers and administrators regarding the use of discipline and behavior supports,” Jackson said.

When asked if the end game was meant to reduce suspensions and expulsions, she said: “That’s going to be in my mind one outcome… one of our major things that we need to do. The end game should be increased behavior supports in our buildings so that students have the skills they need to be successful and as a result of that we should be able to reduce suspensions and expulsions.”

The new code of conduct states that the “use of consequences should be carefully planned with well-defined outcomes in order to provide the greatest benefit to the student.”

Among the changes that will take place under the new code of conduct:

  • Students will be prohibited from recording cell phone videos of violence of fights in school.
  • Students may be disciplined for serious inappropriate behavior off school property and during non-school hours if the behavior will interfere with teaching and learning at the school.
  • No student shall be restrained and/or placed in seclusion by school staff unless the student’s behavior poses an imminent risk of injury to him/herself or others. Previously, teachers had been encouraged not to involve themselves physically if students were fighting.
  • Talking back can get a student kicked out of class, but the out-of-school suspension is capped at two days.

The changes, Jackson said, were assembled to not only reduce the exclusionary discipline practices in the school district, but use student misbehavior as “opportunities” to teach them the right way to behave.

Indiana has been chided nationally by education experts for its large racial disparity when it comes to punishing black male students. Indiana and Missouri suspended more black students than any other states in the country, according to national data shared with Indiana lawmakers last fall.

Jackson said the sea change within IPS is “because I think most of us would believe that certain types of punishments really don’t change behavior,” Jackson said. “That’s our job as educators, to teach the appropriate behavior so that children need to be successful.”

The plan also includes the use of a philosophy known as “restorative justice,” a practice which involves students, teachers and administrators discussing the root causes of their behaviors and guiding them on what might be a better way to behave and address how to fix any underlying issues.

To view I-Team 8’s previous report, click here.

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