MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minneapolis Public School system is reevaluating how they discipline children.
This comes after some alarming numbers got the district some negative attention.
Records show minority students and those with special needs are getting harsher punishments than white students.
Last year, black students were suspended at a rate more than five times that of white students.
Black Students are also out of school as punishment for an average of one day longer than Asian, Latino or white students.
The school board will announce changes to the way Minneapolis Schools discipline children at Tuesday night’s board meeting.
The district says it’s critical not to resort to suspension early on in many cases, but instead help children learn better behavior after a mistake, rather than just being taken out of school.
Children of color have long faced more suspensions than white children in the Minneapolis Public School system.
Even Kindergarteners – 50 of them – were suspended for things like fighting or misbehaving last year.
Shanae Nickson’s three boys go to Lucy Craft Laney Community School.
“That’s awful,” Nickson said. “Very awful.”
Nickson says even though her children know better, they’ve misbehaved from time to time.
“My eight year old in third grade did have a lot of trouble in school, so you know, I’m one of them parents,” she said. “He has been suspended a couple of times.”
Stan Alleyne with the school district says starting next school year, schools will move away from suspension as a first or second option in some cases, in favor of more conversations in the classroom and individualized attention.
“It’s something that we’ve known for long time, but it takes courage to actually change practices,” Alleyne said.
Schools will use alternatives like switching classrooms for students and giving them time to cool off alone or with staff members.
“We are looking at … trying to catch some of that behavior on the front end,” Alleyne said.
He says it will make schools more sensitive to the individual struggles different students face.
“You don’t know what’s going on in their lives,” he said. “You don’t know if they had enough sleep at night. That affects behavior. Had they had enough food?”
Shanae hopes these changes will keep her three boys on the right track.
“They are just coming into school. They really don’t know no better, so that’s awful right there,” Nickson said.
It will take some time to train teachers and administrators on how to handle behavioral problems. The changes will begin in August 2014.
This new policy won’t change the way they deal with problems involving weapons, drugs and sexual assault – which are all still cause for suspension and expulsion, in the most extreme cases.
These new discretionary punishments will deal mostly with minor instances like fighting and acting out verbally.