Instead of booting kids from school for serious disruptions, a move that often leads to troubled students finding more trouble, Miami-Dade public schools are aiming to become one of the nation’s largest districts to end out-of-school suspensions, reports the Miami Herald. With growing evidence that tough discipline policies don't work, the district is instead turning to more counselors, character development and an overhaul of the student code of conduct to address misbehavior. The approaches will include keeping kids in class or in-school programs.
“We often deal with the behavior at the expense of the kid, and this is a way of flipping the approach,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the Herald. The shift will take extensive re-training and a massive culture change in a school district that suspended 36,000 students in 2013-2014. A disproportionate number of those students were black. One notorious example of what can happen: Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old from the Miami area, was serving out a suspension from school in 2012 when he was killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, a case that prompted a national debate about self-defense and racial profiling. A new analysis of federal data from the University of Pennsylvania identifies districts in 13 Southern states where black students are suspended or expelled at rates overwhelmingly higher than white children. While black students represented just under a quarter of public school students in these states, they made up nearly half of all suspensions and expulsions, the New York Times reports.