Keep Your Ducks in a Row and Document Everything!
In July 2014, when MSDE adopted guidelines that prohibit zero tolerance policies for responses to student discipline, it also put in place provisions for continuous education services to suspended and expelled students to maintain a connection to the school program. MSEA and NEA are active in a nationwide movement supporting the use of restorative practices that bring alternatives to traditional student discipline measures and offer opportunities for positive confrontation and relationship building, not isolating, punitive discipline. But as innovations to suspension and expulsion continue to be adopted, it’s important that educators understand their options and responsibilities when student behavior becomes disruptive. MSDE’s guidelines—which counties have conformed to—require an explanation of why and how long-term suspensions or expulsions are last-resort options. Principals may still authorize suspensions for not more than 10 school days, including in-school suspensions, but now there is more restriction around their options. What can you do when these new rules make it difficult to get the support you need to maintain a healthy and productive classroom environment?
- Establish and maintain a safe learning environment through classroom management and active individual interventions.
- Write referrals when the behavior disrupts the learning environment and other interventions aren’t working.
- Remember that guidelines include provisions for low-level disciplinary action for disrespect and disruption, but your documentation of prior interventions will be necessary to warrant administrative action.
If you are having problems that aren’t being addressed, call your local association UniServ Director for advice and guidance.