Saturday, November 11, 2017

Action is not the same as discipline

Comments submitted to OSPI on proposed discipline rules:

November 11, 2017

Dierk Meierbachtol, Chief Legal Officer
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
Re: Proposed Student Discipline Rules, Chapter 392-400 WAC

Dear Mr. Meierbachtol,
At The Arc of King County, we are concerned that language used in 4SHB 1541 was changed during the rules making process, with “alternative action” being replaced by “discipline.” Discipline, as commonly defined in dictionaries and understood by students and families, means “punishment.” “Punishment” is also a likely translation that non-English proficient families would arrive at. 

The language used in session law alerted families that there are options to punishment that can be considered. Given the disproportionate punishment of students receiving special education services, and the impact alternative action such as de-escalation or positive behavior intervention and support can have in preventing avoidable behavior situations, we think this distinction is important and that language in rules should adhere to the language legislators chose for session law. 

Using the term “discipline” as a catchall for any district response to behavioral violations is confusing and inadequate. “Action” is broader and clarifies that schools choose how they will interact with students who may not act or communicate in ways that educators expect, such as students with adaptive or behavior differences due to disability or trauma. 

We are concerned that families will not be aware of optional, preventive actions, and will assume the practice of removing students to isolated learning environments is the only option to suspension, thus exacerbating the segregation students with developmental disabilities already face. 

Source citation:
4SHB 1541, Section 105
(7) Except as provided in RCW 28A.600.420, school districts are not required to impose long-term suspension or expulsion for behavior that constitutes a violation or offense listed under subsection (6)(a) through (d) of this section and should first consider alternative actions.

Thank you for your consideration,

Ramona Hattendorf
Director of Advocacy, The Arc of King County