April 25, 2019

E4E-Minnesota Joins the Solutions Not Suspension Coalition and Signs Joint Letter on Non-Exclusionary Discipline

E4E-Minnesota educators have consistently prioritized the issue of racial disparities in school discipline as a top advocacy issue. Non-exclusionary discipline practices help to increase student learning time by keeping them in the classroom. For this reason, E4E-Minnesota joined the Solutions not Suspensions coalition to fight for non-exclusionary discipline measures at the legislature. Read what they're fighting for, and join them in taking action.

Dear Members of the House of Representative,

Students need to be in school to learn, but Minnesota’s current approach to school discipline relies heavily on suspensions and expulsions, taking students away from their education and missing critical opportunities to improve behavior long-term. We are grateful that HF 2400 contains provisions that would change this by requiring schools to use non-exclusionary discipline before a suspension or expulsion, except in cases where the student poses an immediate threat to themselves or others. This represents an important first step, and we are grateful to see progress on this issue after many years of discussion.

We hope that as the Legislature considers HF 2400 on April 23, you will work to protect provisions that allow for evidence-based approaches to improving student behavior and learning in the long-term. We also ask that you oppose any amendments that would take us in the wrong direction. We are particularly concerned with two amendments:

  • Amendment A65 (Rep. Bennett) would eliminate mention of evidence-based approaches to non-exclusionary discipline policies, and reinforces current law allowing classroom removals despite best practices;

  • Amendment A88 (Rep. Kresha) would require schools not only to suspend students, but also refer students to law enforcement for an “assault” of a teacher. For the only time in Minnesota statute, the Legislature, not school administrators, teachers, or parents, would be determining the mandatory minimum punishment for students without ever considering any other relevant facts such as the child’s age, disability, intentions, or any other circumstance that should be considered before a dismissal. Minnesota’s definition of assault is also very broad, even including “the cause of fear” that would require police involvement. As such, this provision could have harmful unintended consequences, further criminalizing students and exacerbating our already notoriously high school pushout rates.

We also know that black students in Minnesota are eight times more likely to be suspended than their white peers. Students in pre-k are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than K-12 students. We believe in investing in safe and inclusive school cultures that affirm the rights and identities of all students.

We know students need supportive environments to help them grow academically and develop their social-emotional skills, and punitive discipline policies can keep students from reaching their full potential. Not only does a punitive approach not address the reasons students act out, but it can break their trust with their school and teachers, place them on a negative trajectory, and set them behind academically. We have seen it in the data and firsthand in our own school communities, and we cannot allow it to continue.

We hope that the legislature advances provisions which would improve the way students are disciplined, including:

  • Requiring the use of non-exclusionary discipline prior to nonviolent dismissals;
  • Promoting learning when suspensions occur by requiring districts to provide alternative learning services after five or more days of suspensions;
  • Improving reporting on pupil withdrawal agreements at the state level;

  • Ensuring our youngest learners are not systematically pushed out and denied access to learning environments; and,

  • Investing in trauma-informed best practices in our schools, which is proven to reduce dismissal rates and increase overall student engagement.

Thank you for your work to advance discipline approaches that keep kids in school. We look forward to continue working with you on these and other issues that have a direct impact on our most underserved students.

In partnership,

The Solutions Not Suspensions (SNS) Coalition

SNS is a coalition comprised of organizations, parents, teachers and community members dedicated to addressing and ending racial disparities in discipline and promoting alternative to exclusionary discipline. Organizations making up the coalition include, but are not limited to:

EdAllies
Educators for Excellence - Minnesota
Legal Rights Center
Minnesota Alliance with Youth
Midwest Center for School Transformation
Legal Rights Center
Students For Education Reform - Minnesota
Voices for Racial Justice