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Orange County (Fla.) district seeks to reduce use of out-of-school suspensions

Jan. 5, 2017
New policy calls for principals to consult with supervisors before removing students from the classroom.

The Orange County (Fla.) district is taking steps to limit the use of out-of-school suspensions to discipline students.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that, except for the most serious offenses, principals in Orange County schools are now required to consult with a supervisor before imposing out-of-school suspensions.

"The purpose is really to have information and to make sure we are doing all we can to really change the behavior of the students," says Deputy Superintendent Jesus Jara said.

Less serious infractions that could result in out-of-school suspensions in Orange include promoting gangs, fighting, smoking cigarettes at school and bullying. Principals now have to consult with their supervisors before imposing out-of-school suspensions for these types of offenses.

Wendy Doromal, president of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, says she supports approaches that focus on fixing bad behavior. But she notes that some teachers are concerned that other students may suffer if misbehaving classmates aren't removed from campus.

Orange students are slightly more likely to serve out-of-school suspensions than their peers in other Florida districts. About 1 in 15 Orange County students served out-of-school suspensions during the 2014-2015 school year, according to the Florida Department of Education, compared with 1 in 16 statewide.

Black students in Orange County schools were suspended more often—about 1 in 8, compared with 1 in 21 Hispanic students and 1 in 35 white students.

The change in the suspension policy comes as the U.S. Department of Education, teachers unions, and civil rights organizations have urged schools to keep students in school, citing research that shows out-of-school suspensions aren't effective and hurt students academically.

A few Florida districts have decided to eliminate out-of-school suspensions, including Miami-Dade County, which said in 2015 that students will attend "success centers" instead of being sent home.

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