Indianapolis
Public Schools is proud to continually improve our efforts to reduce
exclusionary practices. As our school leaders‎ increase positive behavior
supports and ultimately issue fewer suspensions and expulsions
in our schools, it is important
to keep our families and community members informed about
how student discipline and safety are being addressed in IPS.

 

You may have heard our transition to reducing suspensions and
expulsions happened suddenly
, but that’s simply untrue; this transition has been years in the making. Two years ago, a review of district
discipline data showed more attention was
needed on suspension and expulsions, and also on improving
the climate and culture in several schools. Efforts
began immediately to begin laying the groundwork for restorative justice
training across our district. Restorative justice is a practice gaining
popularity nationwide, as it empowers students to take control of issues,
constructively, and apply ‎proven conflict resolution methods before a situation escalates. In Restorative Justice, Peer
Mediation empowers students to help their classmates peacefully resolve
disagreements and promote a positive culture, while Talking Circles provide
students a supportive and structured environment to address conflict and build
relationships within their community. Our district’s
Positive Discipline Coordinator also began working with schools on Positive
Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), which focuses on improving school
climates by proactively setting positive expectations for students and staff.

 

Is
the reduction of suspensions and expulsions reducing safety on school
campuses?
Certainly not. The safety of our students is paramount, and it would be
unconscionable to condone a threat to others for the purpose of
avoiding disciplinary action. Our schools are implementing a variety of
in-house options for students whose actions unfortunately require removal from
class; often these students are served elsewhere in the school with a
trained staff member. As you would expect, students who exhibit highly
inappropriate behaviors are sent home when that is the most appropriate solution.
Keeping our students in the classroom when appropriate increases the valuable
instruction time our students receive. Missing just two days a month adds up to
more than an entire year of lost instruction by the time a student begins their
senior year of high school. Suspensions and expulsions also increase a
student’s likelihood of dropping out later in his or her school career.

 

Perhaps you’ve heard the IPS Code of
Conduct
is a totally new set of expectations administered rapidly in our
schools.
That’s not the case; our first year of focus on reducing
exclusionary practices (2014-2015) resulted in an 83% drop in expulsions and a
41% drop in suspensions – that equals 83,000 hours of
instruction our students and teachers gained over the previous school year. We are also addressing racial disproportionality
in our disciplinary practices; in 2013, 79% of our suspensions were
African-American students, while only 52% of our student population was
African-American. Continuing efforts through our disciplinary philosophy and
training with the Racial Equity Institute are equipping staff members with the
tools and knowledge to promote increased equity in our practices. Our Code of
Conduct is an important document transparently outlining the rights
and expectations of all students and staff
members in IPS; this is a
written version of the practices implemented in the last two years to ensure
consistency around discipline and safety in our schools.‎

 

Implementing
a new Code of Conduct and disciplinary philosophy is a lengthy process – our
research shows it takes three to five years before full support is reached and
the implementation is complete. As we wrap up our first year with the Code of
Conduct in place, our leadership team will examine a variety of data to
determine what is working well and where we have opportunities for growth.
Along with our students and staff, we regard our parents/guardians as critical
partners. This spring, students, staff and parents participated in a perception
survey to share how they feel discipline and safety are handled in our schools.
The results of this survey, along with disciplinary records from all schools,
will be assessed to inform our planning efforts for the coming school year.

 

Our philosophy is to prevent situations which
could
previously resulted in suspension or expulsion, whenever
possible, and provide students valuable interpersonal skills needed for future
success. Additional positive behavior supports training over the summer break
will increase the capacity of each school building’s core staff to provide
ongoing training for their colleagues. We look forward
to continued growth in climate and culture for all
IPS schools!