Dallas Schools launched a new program this school year to change how the district approaches discipline. School leaders want to eliminate out-of-school suspensions for middle and high school students. Across campuses, they’ve established what’s now known as Reset Centers.
Pierre Fleurinor is a believer in the program. His classroom doesn’t look like a typical detention hall because it’s not. Students come to Fleurinor’s classroom for misbehavior, but the corrective action is different. His classroom is equipped with beanbags and ‘positive affirmation’ stress balls that smell like lavender.
“When the kids come in, we pop a spot on these bean bags together. I get side by side with them,” said Fleurinor. “Our whole focus was restorative practices. We want to attack the real issue that’s bothering kids.”
DISD launched Reset Centers as an alternative to in-school and out-of-school suspensions. District leaders said sending students home doesn’t help change behaviors. Fleurinor is one of the program’s coordinators, and a social and emotional learning instructor. He said this alternative is especially important upon the return of in-person learning.
“I feel like they’ve lost a year and half of social maturity, so communication is huge right now,” he said. “Just giving the kids a chance to be heard and just allowing them time to cool down.”
Dallas Schools said it’s also about addressing historically unequal disciplinary practices. A study by the Government Accountability Office found Black students account for roughly 15% of public-school students nationwide, but nearly 40% of all suspensions.
Data presented at an April 2021 Dallas ISD School Board meeting showed more than 8,500 out-of-school suspensions in the 2019-2020 academic year. Black students accounted for roughly 13% of enrollment and 51% of out-of-school suspensions. The same data showed Hispanic students accounted for nearly 3.5% of enrollment, and 44% of out-of-school suspensions. Fleurinor believes this program is the start of positive change.
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“Everything is about relationships now and building that,” he said. “They just made a mistake and they just need a little time to reset.”
The new policy does allow for contingencies. Serious misconduct could still result in out-of-school suspension or expulsion.