Three school districts in the St. Louis area say they will end out-of-school suspensions for preschoolers through third-graders and instead use social workers, behavioral health specialists and other services to reduce the need to discipline students.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Maplewood-Richmond Heights district has promised to ban suspensions for young students in the next school year. Normandy and Ladue promise to ban them by the 2018-2019 school year.
The announcement was made at a Break the Pipeline campaign, an effort to eliminate what the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
Even elementary school students are suspended for infractions that can range from failing to follow instructions to throwing chairs. Some experts say that out-of-school suspensions are not effective discipline in that they punish, but do not remedy the cause of the misbehavior, which often comes from trauma or poverty endured by students.
In addition, a UCLA study released last year showed that Missouri has the biggest racial disparity when it comes to suspensions.
Some experts say that out-of-school suspensions cause students to lose instruction time, fall behind further in their academic careers and become more likely to become incarcerated at some point in their lives.
St. Louis Public Schools is the only district in the metropolitan area that has banned suspensions for a certain section of students. The district is three months into its ban on suspensions for preschoolers through second-graders.
But the ban has been difficult to carry out, says Stacy Clay, a deputy superintendent.
“We have certainly tried to address some of the broader issues of poverty and trauma,” Clay said. “But the reality of the school structure does not make it particularly easy to offer these additional services.”