Amid the calls to redress racial disparities in institutions nationwide, the Dallas Independent School District (“DISD”) is leading the charge to re-imagine school suspensions.
Nationally, across all grades, 23 days of instruction are lost for every 100 students due to suspensions. Black students disproportionately face suspension. In Dallas specifically, though Black students only make up 21.6% of student enrollment, they represent roughly 52% of out-of-school suspensions. Statistics show that students who experience suspension are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, and end up in jail.
Because of this, Dallas educators recently proposed a new student code of conduct that removes both in-school and out-of-school suspensions as a potential consequence for non-severe misconduct allegations. However, students accused of severe violations like drug possession or terroristic threats may still face suspension or expulsion.
Dallas' New Disciplinary Procedures
Under the new disciplinary protocols, teachers would rely on a menu of other repercussions as an alternative to suspension. These alternative consequences include sending students to Reset Centers or classrooms where students may complete their classwork remotely while addressing their behavioral issues.
The Reset Centers incorporate intervention strategies designed to teach students more appropriate ways to handle their behavior. These strategies include self-control, social and emotional learning, restorative practices, problem-solving skills, and replacement behavior support. DISD plans to house these Reset Centers in more than 50 middle and high schools.
Traditional School Suspension Protocols
Students at all public schools have a constitutional right to due process in disciplinary matters. This means that when a school accuses a student of wrongdoing, it must follow specific procedures to protect student rights. Though the disciplinary process isn't the same at every school, those procedures generally include the following:
- The school must notify the student and their parents or guardians in a language they understand of the misconduct allegations;
- The school must then investigate the alleged wrongdoing;
- School authorities, the students, and their parents or guardians must discuss the outcome of that investigation and may schedule a formal hearing, if necessary;
- After the discussion or hearing, school authorities must determine whether the student violated the school's code of conduct and decide on any penalties; and
- Finally, the student usually has an opportunity to appeal the school's decision before it becomes finalized.
The Legal Concerns With DISD's New Code Of Conduct
Though DISD's attempt to redress racial disparities when it comes to suspension is noble, what hasn't been reported is how the new protocols will affect students' rights to due process. Even if the penalties no longer involve formal removal from the classroom, students still have a right to defend themselves against misconduct accusations, particularly if those accusations can affect their access to future opportunities.
What To Do If Your Child Is Facing Misconduct Allegations
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have extensive experience helping high school and college students defend themselves against misconduct allegations. The Lento Law Firm provides compassionate counsel to students and their parents nationwide and works tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome in each case. Don't leave your future to chance; call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.