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For Immediate Release
Monday, June 13, 2016
Contact:Jacqueline Reis, 781-338-3115

Massachusetts School Districts Team Up to Address Suspensions and Expulsions

MALDEN - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) announced plans today to work with more than three dozen schools and districts to reduce the inappropriate or excessive use of long-term suspensions and expulsions, including disproportional rates of suspensions and expulsions for students with disabilities and/or of students of color.

The initial group includes 25 schools in 18 districts, some of which are participating at the school level only and some of which are participating at both the district and school level. An additional three districts will participate at the district level only, and 10 charter schools (which are technically regarded as districts under both state and federal classifications) will also participate.

Some of the schools and districts, which are from varied settings and include alternative schools, were identified on the basis of previously submitted 2014-15 student discipline data. The data was from the first school year after a state law and associated regulations took effect that were aimed at increasing district reporting on discipline practices in order to inform state efforts to reduce the number of unnecessary or inappropriate suspensions. Overall, Massachusetts reported approximately 10,000 fewer students were suspended or expelled in 2014-15 than in the prior year.

The state law and regulations that took effect in 2014 required ESE to identify schools that suspend or expel a significant percentage of students for more than 10 cumulative days in a school year as well as schools and districts with significant disparities in suspension and expulsion rates among different racial and ethnic groups or among students with and without disabilities. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires a similar analysis of up to three years of data on disciplinary actions taken against students with disabilities, and districts identified under that analysis also are included in the group.

The state law and regulations also require ESE to recommend models that can help districts reduce the use of suspension or expulsion when appropriate and help improve school climate. That work will come as ESE and teams from each participating school and districts convene as a professional learning network in the fall. The convening will occur after additional school and district discipline data is available from the 2015-16 school year and will both extend and formalize ESE's efforts to better understand what is behind the local statistics. The network will be a forum in which educators and administrators can learn with and from each other as they discuss their ongoing efforts, reflect on the challenges they face and draw up plans to continue effective efforts and adjust practices as necessary. Those plans will include approaches that encourage positive school climates and intermediate options that schools can employ before resorting to suspensions and expulsions. The network will also be an opportunity for ESE to understand the various reasons that schools and districts suspend and expel students as well as how the agency can be helpful to and learn from schools and districts statewide.

The new reporting and data analysis has resulted in a heightened level of awareness and a critical examination of the use of suspensions that is not unique to Massachusetts. National and Massachusetts data shows that black students, Hispanic students and students with disabilities are suspended at greater rates than students overall, and research has found that suspended students are more likely to drop out. School leaders in Massachusetts and across the country have found that supports and strategies that reinforce positive behavior, include conflict resolution and improve classroom management not only reduce suspensions but also promote school safety, decrease the need for out-of-class discipline referrals and improve academic success.

"The Department looks forward to learning with these districts and implementing practices that will reduce reliance on suspension and expulsion while at the same time ensuring that schools are a safe and orderly learning environment," said Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "In many cases, the participating districts and schools already have taken steps to reduce suspensions and expulsions at their schools, and their experiences will be valuable to the group." "Educators and administrators continue to think carefully about discipline and look for ways to improve our practices," said Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. "This work is an important piece of serving all students."

"Public charters schools promote student success in safe and supportive learning environments," said Marc Kenen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association. "Public charter schools have been implementing new supports and strategies that focus on restorative justice and emphasize social emotional learning to maintain school safety and promote positive behavior. These strategies have already led to a dramatic reduction in overall suspension rates at public charters. The Department's new collaborative is a continuation of that work."

The participating schools and districts are:

DistrictSchool (if applicable)
Argosy Collegiate Charter School (Fall River)Argosy Collegiate Charter School (Fall River)
BostonLyon Upper 9-12
ChicopeeChicopee (district)
Chicopee Academy
Chicopee High
City on a Hill Charter Public School Dudley SquareCity on a Hill Charter Public School Dudley Square
City on a Hill Charter School New BedfordCity on a Hill Charter School New Bedford
ClintonClinton Senior High
Community Charter School of CambridgeCommunity Charter School of Cambridge
EverettEverett High
Fall RiverFall River (district)
Resiliency Preparatory School
FitchburgArthur M Longsjo Middle School
Fitchburg High
GardnerGardner (district)
LawrencePhoenix Academy Lawrence
LowellLowell High
New BedfordKeith Middle School
Whaling City Junior/Senior High School
Phoenix Charter Academy (Chelsea)Phoenix Charter Academy (Chelsea)
PittsfieldPittsfield (district)
PlymouthPlymouth (district)
Plymouth North High
Plymouth South High
Quaboag RegionalQuaboag Regional High (Warren)
QuincyReay E. Sterling Middle School
Point Webster Middle School
RevereSeacoast School
Roxbury Preparatory Charter SchoolRoxbury Preparatory Charter School
Sizer School: North Central Charter EssentialSizer School: North Central Charter Essential (Fitchburg)
SpringfieldChestnut Accelerated Middle School (North)
Chestnut Accelerated Middle School (South)
SwanseaSwansea (district)
UP Academy Charter School of BostonUP Academy Charter School of Boston
UP Academy Charter School of DorchesterUP Academy Charter School of Dorchester
Veritas Preparatory Charter School (Springfield)Veritas Preparatory Charter School (Springfield)
WarehamWareham (district)
Wareham Middle School
Wareham Senior High
WebsterBartlett High School
WestfieldWestfield High
WeymouthMaria Weston Chapman Middle School

For more information and resources related to student discipline, see Student Discipline Resources and Information webpage.


Last Updated: June 13, 2016

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