Media Contact

Ariana Schechter, ACLU of New Hampshire, 603-227-6679, ariana@aclu-nh.org

January 28, 2019

Calls for change in the use of exclusionary discipline in NH public schools

U.S. Dept. of Education statistics report that exclusionary discipline is disproportionately used in NH against students of color and students with disabilities

CONCORD, N.H. - Today, the Juvenile Reform Project released the report Keeping Kids in School, which details the disparities in out-of-school suspension rates on the basis of race and disability in New Hampshire and calls for comprehensive reform in how exclusionary discipline is used by state public schools.

Students subjected to out-of-school suspensions are more likely to fall behind academically, drop out of school, and enter the school to prison pipeline. This is particularly concerning considering that out-of-school discipline is not reserved for the most egregious misconduct, but rather can be and is administered for minor offenses.

The Juvenile Reform Project is advocating for school discipline reform this legislative session, supporting House Bill 677-FN-A, and a similar Senate bill LSR 2019-0883.

Michelle Wangerin, Youth Law Project Director at New Hampshire Legal Assistance, said, “All children do better when students are engaged in their education. By substituting exclusionary discipline with a prevention framework and restorative justice approaches, students have the opportunity to grow from their mistakes and learn valuable life skills. We hope this report sparks legislators and schools to make common sense reforms to New Hampshire's school discipline law that prioritize education, while ensuring the fair and dispassionate administration of school discipline.”

Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, said, “The ACLU is committed to ending the school to prison pipeline and its disproportionate harm on certain students. Exclusionary discipline is the first step in the school to prison pipeline, and too often it is students of color, students with disabilities, and low-income students who are subjected to such exclusion.”

Rebecca Whitley, Policy Director of the NH Children’s Behavior Health Collaborative, said, “The report recognizes the challenges New Hampshire schools face on a daily basis and calls for expansion and state- wide implementation of the evidence-based prevention framework, Multi-Tiered System of Supports for Behavioral Health and Wellness (MTSS-B) proven successful in many New Hampshire schools to support the behavioral health needs of students while also promoting academic achievement for all students. This framework is an important tool for school to manage these challenges in a coordinated and strategic way. Expansion of MTSS-B was also recommended in the 10 Year Mental Health Plan, the Governor’s School Safety Task Force report and is an integral part of building a coordinated and comprehensive System of Care under RSA 135-F.”

Michael Skibbie, Policy Director for the Disability Rights Center, said, “This report confirms what families of children with disabilities and the advocacy community have known for quite some time -- children with disabilities are often disciplined for behaviors related to their conditions.  It should come as no surprise, as these children are frequently frustrated by academic difficulties, isolated due to problems with peer relationships, and misunderstood when they struggle with social interactions.  We must provide schools with the tools they need to address behaviors in a positive way so that we only exclude children when it is absolutely necessary for health or safety or to maintain order. It has been shown time and again that when we do that, all students benefit, not just those with disabilities.”

John DeJoie, Policy Advocate at Waypoint, said, “Our job as a society is to educate all children; properly educating children requires them being in school. Excluding children from school, denies them support and direction at the very moment they need it most. Exclusionary discipline increases the likelihood that children will become involved in destructive activities or drop out of school. We must find a better way to address these issues. Waypoint supports creative efforts to limit the use of exclusionary discipline.  We stand ready to support our schools as they employ these methods to educate all students.”

 

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