Jeff Spitzer-Resnick

Jeff Spitzer-Resnick

When is the Madison Metropolitan School District going to invite public comment on a new Student Conduct and Discipline Plan, now in the drafting stages, wonders Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, a Madison civil rights attorney and founder of Systems Change Consulting.

He’s not waiting to weigh in, Spitzer-Resnick writes on his blog, because systems change rarely happens for those who wait. He also is urging education advocates who want to end Madison’s schools-to-prison pipeline and eliminate longstanding racial disparities to get involved now.

School district officials are talking about how to revamp discipline policy to help students develop positive behaviors rather than just punish them. So, Spitzer-Resnick suggests, rename the policy the Student Conduct and Education Plan. He also advises the district to adopt the mission that no students ever be denied an education, especially students with such challenging behavior that they need a special setting to learn.

The discipline plan also should commit to identifying and providing special education support, if appropriate, for students with repeated behavior problems, he says.

Sptizer-Resnick wants the plan to state specific goals for reducing the number of, and race and disability disparities in, suspensions and expulsions, as well as increasing graduation and college acceptance rates.

The plan also needs built-in review and accountability measures for school officials in meeting the goals of the plan, he writes.

School officials are soliciting comment on the plan, says a school district spokesperson. The district held focus groups — which included students, staff, families and community members — in the fall and is in the process of setting up focus groups in the first week in March to get more specific feedback, she said.  “We're also in the process of planning what other opportunities there might be for feedback.”

Members of the public also can attend school board committee meetings on the discipline plan, where an opportunity for public input is provided.

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