Dallas ISD Board Examines Suspension Policy for Elementary Students

A group of Dallas area school advocates are calling on the Dallas Independent School District to remove suspensions and other extreme disciplinary measures for students in all grades lower than third grade.

The Texas Organizing Project, which includes groups like Texas Appleseed and the North Texas ACLU, is supporting a policy proposal before the school district board to ban suspensions and expulsions for Pre-K to second-grade students and make such punishments a last resort for third through fifth graders.

The Dallas ISD board was set to hear a briefing on the proposal at its meeting Thursday morning.

Prior to the meeting members of TOP held a press conference outside the district's offices. They applaud the districts current effort, but said it's a policy that has been destructive to minority students.

According to data provided by Texas Appleseed, while black boys represent 6 percent of the Pre-K through fifth-grade students in the district, they make-up 54 percent of the students who received out-of-school suspensions during the 2014-15 school year.

The new policy would eliminate suspensions or Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs for those below third grade. Instead, students would receive what's called Positive Behavior Intervention and Support. The policy calls for more staff training in the area as part of the effort.

Lakashia Wallace knows the current policy all too well. Her son was suspended in his early years of school for being disruptive in the classroom. She said teachers are simply not trained to handle that and teach too much to the test. However, she said her son found positive support and other students like him should find it as well.

"With the help of understanding individuals, teachers who were trained, principals and administrators who wanted him to be successful," Wallace said. "Yes, its possible for a student who is disruptive to get the support and over come all of these obstacles. And I'm proud he will be graduating June 4."

Texas Appleseed said the Houston Independent School District became the first district in the state to ban suspensions for Pre-K to second-grade students in February.

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