This school year, the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District plans to lead the way regionally in abolishing out-of-school suspensions for younger students, according to a press release.
Acting last spring, the MRH board voted to scrap the suspensions for kindergarteners through third graders. The ban takes effect for the 2017-18 school year. MRH is the first district in the St. Louis area to halt such suspensions. Normandy and Ladue plan to enact similar bans but not until the 2018-19 school year.
“The policy changes mirror the ongoing work implemented by administration and staff for the past four years,” said MRH Superintendent of Schools Karen Hall.
“Educational equity is the cornerstone of all the work we do for students and families. We have been on this journey for several years. The Board of Education continues to be supportive of the innovative practices put in place to wrap around students. Formalizing our process through Board policy was a natural next step for MRH,” Hall said.
“We believe deeply in restorative practices and the principles of Conscious Discipline… actions that build healthy relationships and a sense of community to address conflict,” she said. “Restorative practices are increasingly being applied in individual schools and districts to address youth behavior and rules violations. They also allow students to take full responsibility by addressing those affected by the behavior. We wanted to be at the forefront of this movement.”
Critics say out-of-school suspensions merely punish students without providing a fix for the underlying cause of the undesirable behavior. What’s more, students lose valuable instructional time and can fall behind in their studies.
The new MRH policy shifts the restorative emphasis to highly experienced behavioral health specialists and social workers.