School Discipline System Reforms Coming Next Year

Apr 21, 2021

The Virginia Board of Education is moving forward with reforms to its discipline system, with the goal of new system can reduce the degree that Black students are punished more than white students.

In a presentation before the Board of Education’s Special Committee to Review the Standards of Accreditation, Department of Education staff outlined the new system.

Credit U.S. Department of Education

Next school year schools will implement a data collection method known as “Student Behavior and Administrative Response.” The new method will measure how schools respond to student behavior, not just the behavior itself. The idea is that the data will help reveal ways to reduce disproportionality.

“This allows us to study equity in responses beyond just exclusionary discipline and view equity through access to support,” said Brittney Kanard, an Education Data Specialist with VDOE.

Black students in Virginia are disciplined more than white students. They make up 22% of students but 55% of suspensions. Black girls are particularly disproportionately punished. Exclusionary discipline can be more than just suspensions though: removing students from class is another example.

“Exclusionary discipline is part of a constellation of educational inequalities that black students in particular experience,” said Genevive Siegel-Hawley, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Education. “It's disruptive to the students experiencing it...And it also sends signals to the students who may not have been subjected to the unfair and exclusionary discipline, but who see it and make meaning of it just the same.”

Disproportionate discipline was also raised as a issue by the African American Superintendents Advisory Council.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.