The Hawaii Board of Education is slated to consider a considerably scaled-back student discipline policy on Tuesday, after delaying a vote on the proposal for more than three months while trying to address the concerns of school principals.
The policy, which had been aimed at reducing student suspensions and clarifying the role of law enforcement on school campuses, first came before the full board in May. It was pushed back until June and then deferred again in August after complaints from school principals who felt the BOE did not garner enough input from them.
The suggested revisions, compiled by the new BOE Student Achievement Committee chair and vice chair, include stripping the policy of language that would have made student suspensions an action of last resort and only for “serious infractions.” The new version would also delete the section addressing the presence of law enforcement officers on campuses.
Last year Hawaii suspended less than 4 percent of its students — well below the national average. But a Civil Beat analysis of suspension data showed disparities in who is getting sent home.
In 2013-14, Tongan, Micronesian and Native Hawaiian students were suspended at four times the rate of their Japanese peers and were twice as likely to be suspended as white and Filipino students.
While more than half of Hawaii’s schools suspended fewer than five students over the course of the school year, others suspended as many as one in six.
One concern raised at the May board meeting was that there may be a financial burden for schools when it comes to providing educational services for students with in-school instead of out-of-school suspensions.
The original version of the policy called for schools to provide “meaningful” instruction to students removed from class. The new version says schools have to provide “appropriate” instruction.
The first version of the School Climate and Discipline policy would have required all campuses to create school climate goals. The new version calls for such a document only when school data indicates “significant concerns regarding school climate and discipline.” It does not specify what the threshold for significant concerns would be.
The new version is broader, but still promotes a positive school environment while “giving the discretion to principals to discipline according to what they believe is appropriate,” said HEE Coalition Director Cheri Nakamura.
The changes will be debated at the Student Discipline Committee meeting starting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at 1390 Miller St., and again by the full board at 1:30 p.m. Audio of the meeting will be broadcast online and can be accessed by calling a toll free number.
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