But statistics showing African-American students in the district were eight times more likely to get an out-of-school suspension than white students last year raises questions about whether the discipline code works against efforts to close the achievement gap.
Among big school districts reconsidering such measures is Broward County in Florida, where a zero-tolerance policy led to arrests for such infractions as possessing marijuana or spraying graffiti, the New York Times reports. That district, which had more than 1,000 arrests in the 2011 school year, entered into an agreement last month with community organizations to overhaul its policies to de-emphasize punishment. School districts in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago and Denver are undertaking similar reviews of get-tough policies.
“Everybody knows that suspensions don’t always achieve a change in behavior,” says Tim Ritchie, dean of students at Madison Memorial High School. “When we send some kids out of school (on suspension) they don’t have anywhere appropriate to go — their homes can be very chaotic environments.”
Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum.