June 8, 2018

Educators for Excellence-Chicago Hosts Teacher-led Town Hall to Support Federal Discipline Guidance

June 8 (Chicago) — Educators for Excellence-Chicago (E4E-Chicago), a teacher-led organization, yesterday hosted “In Class, Not Cuffs: A Chicago Town Hall,” to show support for federal guidance designed to help teachers address discipline without discriminating that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos may rescind.90 educators attended and shared their stories with Acting Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Jason Botel and Attorney Advisor for the Office of Civil Rights Brittany Bull about how the restorative practices outlined in the guidance have played an important role in improving student discipline and social-emotional wellbeing.

E4E-Chicago members presented Botel and Bull with postcards from teachers requesting that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos keep the guidance that helps educators explore effective alternatives to exclusionary discipline practices, such as suspension and expulsion.

Letrice Beasley, a case manager at Tilton Elementary and an E4E-Chicago member, said, “It’s hard to help my students grow academically and as people when they don’t have the appropriate coping mechanisms to address the traumas they face. Using restorative practices instead of suspensions helps a misbehaving student repair the harm their actions cause to their peers or to me as their teacher. Schools can, and should, embrace restorative justice practices because they allow students to take an active role in changing their behavior. The U.S. Department of Education needs to understand that rescinding the discipline guidance will only aggravate behavior problems in schools, not solve them.”

“I teach my students that if you make a mistake, you fix it. Suspensions and expulsions do the opposite, taking away a student's agency and isolating them from their classroom community,” said DeJernet Farder, E4E-Chicago member and a teacher at Morton School of Excellence. “Restorative practices allow my students to learn from their mistakes, take ownership of their behavior and improve their relationships with their peers and teachers. It is imperative to continue addressing my students’ trauma by using peaceful, non-exclusionary alternatives to suspensions.”

“No one denies the existence of appalling discipline disparities between students of color and white students,” said E4E Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Evan Stone. “Secretary DeVos should listen to these classroom experts and not only maintain the guidance, but use the Department of Education’s platform to help schools learn from the great work happening in states like Illinois, where innovative teachers are using restorative practices to support our most vulnerable students. 

E4E-Chicago educators have been advocating for school climate and culture-related issues since publishing their teacher-written policy paper, Sounding the Alarm, last June. In response to Secretary DeVos announcing she may scrap the discipline guidance, Educators for Excellence launched their In Class, Not Cuffs campaign and brought six educators to Washington, D.C., to meet with the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary DeVos. Locally, E4E-Chicago educators authored and supported House Joint Resolution 115, which passed both the House and Senate last week and urges state legislators to uphold the discipline guidance even if it is rescinded.