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Think Again: Is this the end for discipline gap watch?


Today we're starting a new, recurring featured called, "Think Again." There's a lot of information out there. We're using this space to bring to your attention stories you might have missed.

In today's Think Again, we're taking advantage of the recent joint U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice initiative to improve the climate in schools by making them more equitable. 

We hate to say, "I told you so." Actually, not true: we love it. But only in the most honorable, educational sense. On that note, we've been reporting on the discipline gap in schools for more than a year now. There's a measurable difference between the rates of suspension for students based on race and, often, undiagnosed learning disabilities play a role in behavioral issues.

And now, the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice have taken on the discipline gap. They issued guidelines for educators, administrators, and lawmakers meant to improve the climate in schools by not singling out students---consciously or not---by race. Here's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on what's driving this initiative: 

State of Opportunity has been covering this gap in who's suspended and who's not. There are a lot of angles on the discipline gap: preschool expulsions; how the discipline gap contributes to overreactions in the juvenile justicesystem; and students' efforts to break the schools-to-prisons pipeline; and the impact of zero tolerance. Here are a couple of stories from our coverage of the discipline gap for you to revisit:

As part of her documentary on race, Jennifer Guerra, looked at the discipline gap in Ann Arbor Public Schools. When the documentary aired, in May 2013, Ann Arbor Pioneer High School's principal Cynthia Leaman was well aware that if you have a discipline gap, you also have an achievement gap. Jennifer also visited Ypsilanti High School where they were exploring ways of dealing with discipline other than suspension, such as restorative justice and conflict resolution. 

For our Whiteboard feature, a discussion space for teachers and students, Zak Rosen profiled the Kyle Thompson case as an example of the impact of zero tolerance policies in schools. Kyle was suspended from Farmington Harrison High School after a tussle with a teacher; he thought they were joking around, the teacher concluded they were not. 

What do you think of the new guidelines? Do you think federal intervention was needed?